Subscription in commercial lines with Mahima Agarwal and Susanne Ebert

McKinsey spoke with Mahima Agarwal, associate partner in the London office, and Susanne Ebert, partner in the Frankfurt office, to learn more about the future of commercial insurance underwriting.

McKinsey: What challenges affect business insurance underwriting today?

Mahima Agarwal: In commercial insurance, market conditions are changing; for example, the economy is becoming increasingly interconnected and catastrophic events have become more frequent. This puts increased pressure and demand on underwriting in commercial lines.

At the same time, advances in technology have increased the pressure on insurers to develop efficient processes that support human underwriting talent. Currently, processes are still rather manual, and addressing these trends will require a wholesale change to the traditional underwriting function. And the subscription feature has not proven to be quick to change in the past.

McKinsey: How does underwriting talent contribute to the success of insurers in this segment?

Suzanne Ebert: Attracting, developing and retaining the best underwriters with the right skills will be the key to winning business insurance. It is important to find competent underwriters who can bring together and interpret information from very different areas as risks become more complex. And the underwriters of the future will likely not focus on a single task, but work across multiple functions in a multifocal and interconnected manner, both internally and within external ecosystems. Winning insurance companies will revise their talent strategies to include a new focus on skills development, introducing tools and techniques to empower underwriters in their day-to-day work, providing alternative career paths ( for example, expert in relation to management). , and a combination of remote and in-person work to adapt to the new normal environment. This will require substantial management attention and investment, but mastering the challenges ahead in this segment is crucial.

Attracting, developing and retaining top underwriting talent with the right skills will be the key to winning in the business lines.

Susanne Ebert

McKinsey: How will data and analytics transform the industry in the next few years?

Mahima Agarwal: Best-in-class insurers are already differentiating themselves from their competitors by creating advanced data underwriting and analytics capabilities that increase value for brokers as well as talent.

Distinct broker experiences, through digitized portals and processes, and improvements to the claims experience are driving increased business volumes.

Internally, an improved risk assessment process not only improves efficiency and decision-making, but provides a distinct experience for employees. For example, better use of data throughout the underwriting process can help insurers prioritize leads, validate risk information, structure policies, and develop more accurate pricing.

Data-driven insights can significantly change how underwriters interact with insights before applying their judgment by providing greater precision and control.

Mahima Agarwal

This data-driven insights can significantly change the way underwriters interact with information before applying their judgment by providing greater precision and control.

McKinsey: What does it take to put it all together? What are the most successful companies that are doing better than the others?

Suzanne Ebert: Underwriting excellence remains of the utmost importance to business performance. Insurers need to stay focused on the essential building blocks: steering the portfolio to the right place at the right time, striving for excellence in pricing, using human judgment and data-driven analysis to select the right risks, and optimize capacity and coverage based on the market. conditions, while fostering essential enablers around people, technology, delivery and strategy. In commercial lines, in particular, insurance companies must strike the right balance between art and science to be successful.


Mahima Agarwal is an associate partner in the London office of McKinsey, and Susanne Ebert is a partner in the Frankfurt office.

To learn more about subscription, see:

From art to science: the future of commercial property and casualty insurance underwriting

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