Ed Challis, co-founder and chief executive of Re:infer, explores the intellectual waste created by emails and the value communications mining could therefore hold for underwriters

Years of experience go into training an underwriter. Their specialist knowledge of complex underwriting criteria is hard to replicate. That’s why simply ‘hiring more’ staff isn’t a solution to growing case volumes.

To increase capacity, insurers must help their existing underwriters to do more work - or more precisely, to undertake more valuable work, like risk assessments.


Ed Challis, Re:Infer

Reducing manual, repetitive tasks is the best way to improve productivity.

Automation has been used to great effect in driving faster and smarter underwriting through automated responses and data-driven decision making. Yet its true potential remains untapped.

A new approach is needed to drive worthwhile automation at the greatest source of process inefficiency - email.

The intellectual waste of email

An underwriter’s work is based in communications. Across high volume, high complexity lines like commercial and claims, underwriters spend much of their time in emails.

They’re constantly exchanging information between parties and conversing with brokers and claimants. It’s essential work, but what often isn’t realised is just how inefficient it is.

On taking action to improve process efficiency, Hiscox discovered that 97% of emails sent by brokers were routed to the wrong person on its underwriting team.

Indeed, simple tasks like email triage and requesting more information take up an unsustainable amount of underwriters’ time. Considering 30% to 40% of their day already consists of administrative tasks, this leaves little time for valuable work that really makes use of their skills and training.

Manual email processing is generally low-skilled and repetitive. It represents true intellectual waste for skilled underwriters, increasing latency, handling times and costs. Yet automation has been of little value here.

Email communication depends on the processing of conversational, natural language. There’s simply a lack of structured, machine-readable data that can be used to automate processes.

Giving back time

Email is an unavoidable cost of doing business. But insurers can greatly reduce that cost and give precious time back to underwriters through communications mining.

Communications mining is an emerging class of enterprise software that extracts value from unstructured conversational data - including emails.


It uses natural language processing and machine learning to understand masses of business conversations at scale and converts them into structured data that can then be used for automation.

Communications mining gives underwriting teams unprecedented, real-time insight into their email-based processes. Furthermore, it enables straight through processing in workflows that were once impossible to automate.

With minimal training, today’s machine learning models can rapidly learn when key information is missing from an email or understand when the wrong recipient has been chosen. Automated workflows can easily be set up to resolve these issues, freeing underwriters to focus on their most complex and valuable work.

An underwriter’s time is precious. Communications mining helps to save time and extends the scope of automation to the greatest source of intellectual waste.