Debbie Bolton on underwriting, simpler protection and trust – MAF158m


This week we dive back into the world of financial services and protection. My guest is Debbie Bolton.

We talk about underwriting, protection product development and whether products and processes are getting simpler for customers.

Welcome to episode 158 of the Marketing and Finance Podcast.

Debbie Bolton on underwriting, simpler protection and trust - MAF158

What you’ll hear about in this episode

  • A simple definition of underwriting anyone can understand
  • The role of an underwriting development team in an insurance company
  • How AIG Life is speeding up the application process for protection products
  • Why the industry is trying to simplify insurance products
  • How AIG Life works with financial advisers
  • Why trust is a three-way process

Who is Debbie Bolton?

Debbie works for AIG Life. She’s responsible for claims and underwriting strategy. She’s been in the insurance industry for 20 years. 17 in underwriting. The role was completely different when she started, for example, paper-based with stacks of case files.

Starting off in smaller companies, Debbie progressed in her career, moving to Ageas (as AIG was then) as manager for the underwriting development team. The company represented innovation, technology and automation. It was an exciting place. And she says it still does. Debbie says the work is fast-paced, and she loves her job.

Summary of our chat

Underwriting is the combination of science and maths to work out a price for a customer. It looks at an individual’s health, their hobbies, occupational risks and where they travel. Healthy office-workers will pay a lower price than unhealthy people in dangerous jobs.  But the aim is to charge as little as they can so everyone benefits.

Debbie’s team differs from typical underwriters. They set the philosophy of the company.  They’re involved in all AIG Life’s developments. From products to technology. They manage the rules engine, to incrementally and continuously improve the processes for assessing, simplifying and pricing risk.

AIG Life is aiming its “Instant” product at younger, healthier customers who want to take out protection at speed. The application process has no interruptions. So after completing a form, a person knows straight away whether or not they’ve got cover. AIG Life came up with a shorter list of questions people can complete quickly. It offers a favourable price.

Debbie says companies are simplifying products and the processes. She explains that AIG Life customers want instant results. They want their insurance policy as quickly as possible. The shorter quiz has specific questions for identifying risks that would increase premiums. It often cuts out the need for medical evidence.

The response to the “Instant” product has been overwhelmingly positive from financial advisers. AIG Life has a team of underwriters who speak to advisers every day. Their feedback gives the strategy team a better understanding of the issues they face and helps product development.

There needs to be trust between the customers, the advisers and the underwriters in insurance companies. Being available to the advisers builds trust with them, particularly those writing complex cases, so they know they’re getting the best rates. AIG Life want the public to have confidence in their automated service, and to trust the information they offer.

The one thing she’d like listeners to take away

Underwriters and claims assessors are the technicians of the whole case. They decide if a case can be underwritten or a claim paid. As a rule, underwriters start from yes; they want to get a case on the books or pay a claim, as quickly as possible. They don’t want to say no to people.

A marketing campaign or product Debbie loves

Debbie’s recently been impressed with parcel delivery. Wanting to send something to New Zealand at Christmas, she researched a quick and simple solution to get it there in time. She found a company online which gave her a competitive quote, collected her parcel and shipped it six hours after she started looking.

Links and contact details

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