Underwriting transformation coming to Legal & General America: Q&A

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Seeking to advance its digital and automated underwriting capabilities, life insurer Legal & General America (LGA) recently appointed Dawn Boitnott to the new position of Chief Underwriter & Underwriting Transformation Officer, where she leads a team of approximately a dozen. She spoke with DI in August 2020.

Digital Insurance: Can you give us some details on what your new role involves?
Dawn Boitnott, Chief Underwriter & Underwriting Transformation Officer: Although created to focus on automation and accelerating underwriting processes at LGA, including the integration of new data sources and analytics, my role is envisioned as being a catalyst for innovation by establishing our strategic underwriting vision and ensuring we carry it forward.

DI: What are your primary goals for fulfilling your charge?
DB: I have two: First, facilitating our move beyond invasive sample collection by building out a comprehensive, optimized and flexible automated rules engine within our digital underwriting platform. This involves determining what data sources provide appropriate predictive information and which risks are suited to using the rules engine for making instant underwriting decisions.

Second, being a transparent and innovative change agent. For successful rules engine adoption by our 80-person production underwriting team, it’s vital to get our underwriters excited about automation and view it as an essential tool.

DI: Has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted your ability to move the automation needle?
DB: Across our industry, the pandemic is accelerating the transition exponentially. Agents want to limit their personal contacts and no one wants to have their blood drawn, unless it’s for a medical emergency. Despite moving toward digital for over a decade, many have dug in their heels about giving up paper. That’s changed almost overnight.

DI: How about your previous experiences with SCOR’s Velogica and on the Association of Home Office Underwriters (AHOU) Executive Council, have they helped prepare you for your new role?
DB: SCOR exposed me to a broad range of analytics initiatives and the disparity in carrier digitalization maturity. Among other things, I learned the decisions derived from an automated rules engine are only good as the data’s integrity and, regardless, that data has limitations. This makes it critical to determine where a specific data set can be predictive and where it cannot.

I also gained empathy for traditional underwriters asked to embrace digital, as I moved from 15 years at AIG in production underwriting directly to SCOR’s automated rules engine team – at first, I was a deer in the headlights.

Serving on the AHOU council taught me how quickly our industry can change. In 2015, AHOU’s educational focus was health conditions, financial education, claims and fraud. By 2019, it was automation, analytics and behavioral science.

DI: What key attributes make a strong leader and who has been your most important mentor for developing same?
DB: It’s vital to listen genuinely and intentionally, to really hear what others our saying, which builds trust in others as well as your own emotional intelligence. Transparency, humility and integrity are also critical. I’ve learned to value each of these by interacting with an industry peer who is a close friend, as she carries herself with the utmost integrity along with a strong sense of responsibility for her team, her role and the company she works for.

DI: Given your 20+ years in underwriting, what excites you most about the future?
DB: As an industry, we’ve collected millions of data points based on non-personal aggregated information. Now that we’ve started farming this goldmine using iterative methods, data science and AI-enabled technologies, over the coming years we’ll innovate in ways that we can’t even imagine yet.

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