Ward Group/FirstBest Survey: P&C Insurers See Strategic Value of Technology to Beat Soft Market; Forward-Thinking Carriers Will Increase Investments

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Research firm The Ward Group and insurance software provider FirstBest Systems surveyed 75 property and casualty (P&C) insurance carriers. They found that carriers understand the value of strategic technology investments to improve underwriting and beat the soft market, but only 6% of the survey respondents indicated their companies would spend significantly more, i.e., increase spending more than 10% on technology for underwriting and related activities.

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P&C executives are savvy about the value of technology as a competitive weapon. However, cost control is a major concern, as expense ratios edge upward. Fortunately, new Web-based technologies make it possible and even affordable to leverage new underwriting capabilities without having to replace existing system investments, or to invest significant staff time or resources

Property and casualty (P&C) insurance carriers understand the value of strategic technology investments to improve underwriting and beat the soft market, but only the more forward-looking carriers are planning to significantly increase their investments in new technology. This was the finding of a July 2008 survey by FirstBest® Systems, Inc., developer of advanced Underwriting Management Systems™ (UMS) that enable property and casualty insurance carriers to profit from better underwriting; and Ward Group, a leading insurance industry benchmarking and consulting firm.

Underwriters want the right systems and tools, and they understand the strategic value of technology as a competitive weapon, according to the 75 P&C carriers surveyed. More than 85% of executives polled said technology can play a "more than average" or "significant" role in their companies' ability to compete. A full 100% said technology played at least some role in their companies' competitive performance.

Carriers seek technology to deliver underwriting quality, precision and discipline, and more consistent enforcement of business rules. However, in a sluggish market, most carriers are hesitant to invest in new technology, focusing on cost‐cutting rather than true underwriting transformation, according to the survey. A mere 1% of respondents described themselves as technology leaders.

Only the most forward-thinking carriers - 6% of the survey respondents - indicated their companies would spend significantly more, i.e., increase spending more than 10% on technology for underwriting and related activities. About a third said their IT spending would be "about the same," and the largest number - 38% - said they would spend "a little more," or increase investment by 2‐10%.

"P&C executives are savvy about the value of technology as a competitive weapon. However, cost control is a major concern, as expense ratios edge upward. Fortunately, new Web-based technologies make it possible and even affordable to leverage new underwriting capabilities without having to replace existing system investments, or to invest significant staff time or resources," said Jeffrey J. Rieder, CPA, CPCU, President, Ward Group.

"With premium rates declining, commercial carriers are seeking ways to handle more business, grow and scale their businesses profitably, and free their most seasoned underwriters for more complex risks. Forward-thinking companies that are investing in new technologies will be uniquely positioned to leapfrog their competitors and become the carrier of choice to their agents - and the employer of choice for top underwriting talent," said John Belizaire, CEO, FirstBest Systems.

For more information or to request a copy of the survey results, please contact marketing@firstbest.com.

About Ward Group

Ward Group® is a consulting firm specializing in the insurance industry and the leading provider of industry benchmarking and best practices services. The firm provides comprehensive peer group intelligence for core company operations, as well as drill down analysis for underwriting and servicing, claims, technology and finance operations. These benchmarks help decision-makers manage operating costs, improve operations and define strategy. The firm's consulting capabilities help insurance companies to investigate solutions, establish improvement goals and define a clear course of action for improving profitability and efficiency. More information is available at http://www.wardinc.com.

About FirstBest

FirstBest® Systems, Inc. delivers advanced Underwriting Management Systems™ (UMS) that enable commercial insurance carriers to write more business and write better business. The UMS™ combines a rich agency portal with next-generation underwriting capabilities for commercial lines carriers. Insurers can achieve greater speed and business agility, provide real-time collaboration to make it easy for agents to do business with them, promote enhanced underwriting discipline and consistency, scale their book of business profitably, and empower management with greater visibility into the business.

For more information, please visit http://www.firstbest.com or call 1.888.863.6095.

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