If Gail McGiffin is correct, underwriting decisions don't have to swing so dramatically with market cycles. "There's an awful lot of focus now on: 'We're in a hard market. What do we need to do to catch up to compensate for the last 10 years of price erosion and the breakdown of underwriting decisions?'" says McGiffin, associate partner at Bermuda-based Accenture.But "it's not about preparing for the next market cycle," she says. "It's about preparing to transcend cycles long-term, because that's what winners do: They produce consistent results."

C-level executives at insurance companies appreciate this message, according to McGiffin. And, in an effort to establish underwriting consistency, reduce the time it takes to issue policies, improve underwriting efficiency, and produce better results, insurers are implementing tools and technologies to improve their underwriting practices-tools ranging from underwriting knowledge databases to automated rules-based systems.

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