The Changing Role of Underwriting


1st Mar 2017

The role of underwriting is synonymous with the insurance business, the industry would just not exist without the ability to evaluate and accept risk, and price and issue policies. Of recent years it’s a function which has been influenced by profound technological advancements, resulting in automated underwriting which has more robust analysis and sophisticated risk-profiling techniques. This means that underwriters now have more freedom to take on higher-value analytical work and concentrate on relationship building. For Financial Brokers the changing role of underwriting means quicker turnaround times, less onerous requirements due to data insights and increased engagement directly with those making underwriting decisions. Providers like market leading protection specialist Royal London are committed to continuing to modernise their operations when it comes to underwriting to better meet rising Financial Broker and customer demands.

Underwriting has changed

The focus of underwriting as a function has moved away from being an internal process and specific transactions and more towards in-depth analysis and market-facing relationships. Reflecting on her more than 24 years’ experience in the industry Colette Houton, Royal London’s recently appointed Underwriting and Claims Lead said:

Underwriting has certainly changed dynamically since I began my career, many will remember those large paper manuals and when every case was required to be reviewed individually. It’s an automated process to a large extent now. Stronger rules and predictive modelling over the last decade has meant that the question has been posed by some; will human underwriters be replaced entirely in the future? In which case, I’d suggest that claims might be the more secure career path! Joking aside – I have no fear for the underwriting role, but the role has and will certainly change.

“There will always be the need for underwriters to assess complex cases. And the advent of online systems means that vast quantities of data are now at our disposal. As I see it the role of the underwriter has moved towards data analysis and being able to interpret large amounts of data into key insights. For instance, we used to get Personal Medical Attendant Reports (PMAR) on all clients with blood pressure issues, but not anymore. Data insight has allowed underwriters to review long held opinions on health conditions and validate the need for medical evidence. Now blood pressure is assessed via questionnaire, reducing the need for medical evidence and resulting in a speedier turnaround time for Financial Brokers and their clients.”

Underwriting at Royal London

Since starting with Royal London, Colette has set strategies in place to strengthen the firm’s position in relation to underwriting and claims payment. She has also had the opportunity to meet with some Financial Brokers already to discuss the plans afoot.

Colette continued, “Since taking on my role at Royal London, I’ve been impressed with the agile and service driven people here. My hope is to continue to improve every aspect of the journey from new business to claims. One way in which we aim to do this is through our plans to overhaul our claims procedure and determine quicker ways of paying out claims to your clients. Royal London already has one of the best automated underwriting systems available to Financial Brokers and we plan to continue to review and improve our online system capabilities. We also actively want to reduce medical evidence based on data analytics, which will result in even quicker turnaround on applications.

When it comes to providing any insight or advice around underwriting to Financial Brokers Colette remarked:

Encourage Disclosure

“Encourage your clients to disclose their full medical history. You can assure them that in the majority of cases people will still get cover while the main reason for non-payment of valid claims is due to non-disclosure. In 2016, 88% of policies were accepted at ordinary rates by Royal London. Overall in 2015 the Royal London Group paid 98% of Life claims and 93% of Specified Serious Illness claims.*

Collect all the information from the outset

“Whether it is cholesterol readings, blood pressure readings or histology reports, get it all from your client at the beginning. Cases can be delayed by up to a period of six weeks in some circumstances if waiting on information from a GP.”

Colette finished by saying, “I’m looking forward to meeting with Financial Brokers throughout the year and towards the launch of many exciting developments that will help improve our underwriting and claims services. I’d also like to encourage Financial Brokers to get in touch and share your feedback on our improvements and on what you’d like to see in the future.”

Colette Houton has 24 years’ experience in the insurance sector in Ireland. She has a B.A. in Insurance Studies from the University of Limerick, ACII Diploma in Life & Disability Underwriting (DLDU), Diploma in Life and Disability Claims (DLDC) and has completed the Professional Diploma in Financial Advice (QFA).

If you have any questions or queries around underwriting feel free to email Colette at

*Group protection figures from Royal London UK Intermediary protection business and Royal London Ireland claims paid (1 January 2015–31 December 2015).

Royal London

a diagram with pen about manageing risk in a flow chart