Member underwriting in minutes
Web-based technology can transform how traditional processes are handled, explains Tim Creamer, Chief Underwriter at Ellipse.
The guiding principle behind Ellipse is to bring the transformative power of technology to group risk business. While other companies offer an e-option, as a new insurer - we started trading in September 2009 - we have made the internet integral to all our processes. And rather than just asking the question ’How can this process be e-enabled?’ we went right back to first principles to ask ’Is this process the right one at all?’
An example of how this approach benefits clients and advisers alike is in how the underwriting of members with benefits above free cover limits is carried out. Consider the ’traditional’ method first. Forms are sent out for the members to complete, but rather than go direct they typically pass first through the hands of the adviser and the employer, which slows the process down from the start.
Once completed, the form usually goes back in the post direct to the insurers’ underwriters. They will look at it as soon as they can, but that depends on their workload - the same day is great, but not usual. Depending on the amount of benefit and/or the intricacies of each case, some will be referred up to more senior underwriters for a decision. If medical evidence, such as a report from the member’s GP is needed, a request will be sent off.
Even where no information is required beyond what the member declares, the traditional system is working very well if an underwriting decision is given within a week of the blank declaration form leaving the insurer. Actually, turning it around in a week would probably lead to wild celebrations - normally it runs to several weeks or even months. In fact, so drawn out is the process that many members who start it give up and have their benefits restricted to the free cover level.
By contrast, Ellipse sends an email direct to the members concerned. The member is asked to complete the online assessment that the email points them to. So far the quickest time for completing the online assessment and getting a decision is nine minutes. And yes, that’s not a
printing error - it really is nine minutes. On average, of course, it takes a little longer - around twenty minutes is typical - but it’s in a different league to the old norm.
In most cases, members get their decision as soon as they have completed the online assessment process. The rules that sit behind the system are designed to obtain a good general view of the member’s health and to delve into more detail when a disclosure requires it. As long as the member answers the questions honestly, we will pay any claims that arise - if we haven’t obtained information because we haven’t asked for it, that’s our problem, not anybody else’s.
Apart from this certainty of cover and speeding up the process by several factors, other benefits accrue from handling member underwriting this way.
The personal information disclosed by members remains absolutely confidential and there is no danger that it can go astray in the post. We have gone to great lengths to ensure our website is secure; having put all the security measures in place, we invited a team of professional hackers to break into the site to see if they could access the test data we had loaded up…they couldn’t.
Advisers are also spared the task of acting as a postbox and chasing outstanding information, freeing time for more productive work. We keep them up to speed with how underwriting is progressing via regular reports that they can download from their own webspace within our secure site. Our aim in dealing direct with members is purely because it’s more efficient - we have no intention of looking for business direct.
On top of everything else, once the system has been set up, it is far cheaper to underwrite members this way and means we can even offer new services - for example we can offer schemes with members who have been declined or postponed by another insurer the chance to see if we can offer terms - at no charge and with no commitment to switch the scheme to us first.
The arguments for making full use of technology to handle member underwriting - and indeed many other aspects of group risk business - are
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