Discussing the underwriting sector at a time of significant change
Every insurance professional knows that each new year brings with it both new opportunities and challenges, but at the dawn of a new decade, no section of the profession may see as big a change in their day-to-day role as underwriters in the next 10 years.
Mandy Hunt, Chartered insurer and advisory board member of the newly launched Society of Underwriting Professionals (SOUP), says it is vital that the industry evolves, but feels that fundamental skills, temperament and judgement will be as crucial as ever.
"Automation, artificial intelligence and data are all beginning to have an influence on the sector in different ways. It is transformational and we are only at the start of that journey. We have to embrace it," says Ms Hunt.
"The reality is that technology can complement what we do, and we have to find ways to work with it for everyone's benefit.
"Spaces are now appearing where we can use automation and data to make decisions. But it is important we use it in the right way and keep customers at the heart of those decisions," she says.
Ms Hunt is chief underwriting officer at RSA Commercial, encompassing all lines of business including property, casualty, motor, marine, construction and engineering. She brings 30 years of experience to the board of the SOUP -- the new professional body dedicated to those working within the underwriting sector, aiming to support members at every stage of their career.
"For someone entering the profession now, data analytical skills are undoubtedly going to be important," says Ms Hunt. "But for me, there are other attributes that are critical.
"The first is curiosity. In almost every role we have across the profession, asking questions, listening to customers' needs and analysing situations will get us a hell of a long way in resolving some of the issues we face.
"Secondly, we should never lose sight of soft skills and, certainly in the commercial sector, insurance is still very much a people business. When you consider how complicated our processes and data can be, our challenge is to explain it clearly to a customer at the end of that process, which is vital."
I hope insurance is somewhere people can have a long and fulfilling career and a profession that continues to be a truly valuable part of society
For Ms Hunt, the launch of the new Society came at a perfect time in her career after she had returned from three years as managing director (MD) of the Insurance Corporation of the Channel Islands.
"I had an amazing experience in the Channel Islands. I was very lucky to be MD of a subsidiary insurance corporation, during which time we achieved Chartered insurer status -- something I am still incredibly proud of.
"Seeing once again how committed people are to the profession first-hand, it focused me on how I could influence the next wave of talent and I felt it was time for me to think about giving back," she says.
The CII has recently announced the launch of the new Chartered insurance underwriting agent title, which will be awarded to qualifying individual members and firms, something Ms Hunt is particularly positive about.
"We are very excited about the new Chartered underwriting title -- it is really powerful. We are a big provider of delegators in the managing general agents' space and have been for a number of years, so I am really keen to support that.
"The Society wants to speak to the masses, so people at the start of their career and more advanced in their profession can equally engage with us in a valuable way.
"Different professionals collaborating, bringing ideas together and offering guidance will bring great benefit to the sector," says Ms Hunt.
The core purpose of the CII is to build public trust, something Ms Hunt feels is vital to the profession.
"Public trust is something we have to have at the heart of what we do, to make sure our customers are well served. We need it, ultimately," she says.
"Look at the recent UK floods -- people are in their hour of need and the industry has a massive role to play. We need to help customers understand the value of what we are offering and give them the confidence that we will support them when the time comes."
And in 2020 and beyond, what does Ms Hunt hope for the future of insurance?
"I hope we continue to be a powerful force for good," she says. "We have products and services that the public needs and we must offer them in the most professional way possible.
"I want ours to be a profession that people value. In insurance, the opportunities are immense -- you can go places and see things that you would never otherwise see. I hope insurance is somewhere people can have a long and fulfilling career and a profession that continues to be a truly valuable part of society."
Ms Hunt began her insurance career at Willis as an account handler in 1990, before moving to Lambert Fenchurch to become a claims manager
She joined RSA in 1998 as senior development underwriter, progressing through liability and property roles before becoming regional manager
Ms Hunt was chairperson of the Surrey Ladies Hockey League, helping it grow from three leagues to 12 and encouraging more women into the sport
Luke Holloway is editor of the CII