April 14, 2021
James Tait: Underwriting, Covid and Disclosures
I read the other day that among the most common feelings of worry about starting a new job is whether you will build strong office relationships with colleagues quickly enough to build trust. You’ll have to ask my team as to whether I’ve been successful in that, but I was certainly not expecting to have to send everyone home 6-days into my new role as CEO of UnderwriteMe! As I sit here 12 months on, I’m trying hard to remember what the office looks like, how quickly we’ll get back to seeing it and hearing those unmistakable, highly important words “the coffee machine needs re-filling”.
The “it’s been a tough 12 months line” feels a little overused, so instead, I’m looking forward to 2021 with positivity and optimism, in spite of the Pandemic.
Being part of an Underwriting Technology business puts us in a somewhat unique position to be able to see trends which, in the main back up what we hear about in the UK daily briefings (are they still even daily?)
Our latest Coronavirus report for February 2021 reflects a similar story to that of the population as a whole. The Health and Lifestyle question set on the Protection Platform includes a specific option for Coronavirus and at the peak of the first wave last year (April 2020) we saw 9.25% positive disclosures on the COVID question against applications through the Protection Platform.
In January 2021 this was nearly 17% –a near doubling of disclosures and reflective of the tough times we’ve experienced over the winter. But encouragingly February has seen a drop back to nearer to 10% disclosures, suggesting a positive impact from this Lockdown.
One of the themes of the last 12 months for the country has been the dedication and support we’ve received from our key workers, be they, health professionals, teaching staff or the many other occupations that have kept the country going. Interestingly, we’ve also started to see an increased number of applications from those groups, perhaps suggesting increased awareness of their own health and mortality. Is that something others have seen as well? Do advisers sense that has been happening too? We’d love to hear feedback to help us keep a firm eye on underwriting in 2021.
Looking back over the last 12 months one of the achievements we are most proud of is that we’ve been able to keep the Protection Platform open to help ensure that Protection remains as accessible to as many people as possible. We’ll continue to work with all our partners to ensure we remain “on”.
Our focus at UnderwriteMe isn’t just in the UK. We have strong partnerships in Ireland and Australia, with massive potential for growth across Asia.
Working remotely has provided the ability to spend more time with colleagues in different time zones and it’s been interesting seeing how other countries have dealt with more remote working. Both our Singapore and Sydney offices have re-opened in a COVID secure manner, giving some light at the end of the full-time home working tunnel. Homeworking has had many benefits but being able to mix with colleagues again when we go back is something most of us are looking forward to.
Our main focus for Asia will be to continue to help existing and new partners achieve their goals with our Underwriting Engine. We’re proud of our tech, which is rated highest in the NMG customer satisfaction surveys in the regions we operate. But as with all InsurTech businesses we need to be continually investing in our products to stay ahead of the game.
Looking to the future
Speaking of which, the next phase in our product strategy focuses on automating manual underwriting. We’ve seen huge strides in automating decisions at the point of sale but inevitably some cases need medical evidence or review by an underwriter. Our goal is to make this as seamless and quick a process as possible and allow the underwriters to focus on the most complex rather than routine cases. That means customers and advisers will be able to get cover quicker, without compromising on price.
This is massively exciting work using the latest Artificial Intelligence and Machine learning techniques to further improve the life insurance journey. We’ll be sharing more of this progress with the market in the coming months but suffice to say there’s no resting on laurels in UnderwriteMe.
UnderwriteMe has prided itself on collaboration and partnership since its inception and 2021 will see more of this. Whether it’s the work with insurers and distributors on the Protection Platform or our development work on our Underwriting technology, we’re striving to make life insurance accessible to all.
For now, in the UK, I’m relying on my own barista skills and Microsoft Teams, but am hoping I can feel the benefit of seeing the whole team in person and enjoying the 5-star coffee our office machine produces.