The job of an insurance underwriter is complex on many levels and requires a highly skilled workforce. Underwriters must possess a combination of actuarial, risk management and people skills to assess complicated policies or claims in a highly collaborative and customer-centric environment. Given that underwriting decisions involve huge cost implications, training on the job is not a viable option; these professionals must gain their experience somehow in a safe training environment, where mistakes don’t have real-world financial consequences.
Adding to the challenge are the significant technical skills needed to work with smart systems that aid in the underwriting process, and a tight talent pool generally in financial services for highly skilled employees. These combined pressures have put the lens on workforce training as a way to quickly onboard and close knowledge gaps for highly skilled employees, while keeping them engaged and invested in the job to minimize turnover.
These considerations were top of mind for the chief underwriting officer and HR managers at the Hiscox Group, a Bermuda-based global insurer with a workforce of nearly 4,000 staff across 14 countries. The company sought to hire and retain junior underwriters to help manage policies within a balanced portfolio of catastrophe-exposed, globally traded risks and less volatile retail insurance business.
Hiscox’s novel approach in addressing this need was to engage strategic partner Attensi to create the first-ever “underwriter simulator” program of gamified learning and 3D interactive scenarios – a new approach to learning that is helping redefine what is possible for workforce training in the insurance industry.
Solving a Unique Training Need
Like other companies weighing training investment, Hiscox did not need to look far for data points to demonstrate the value: Research from LinkedIn shows 94% of employees say they would stay at a company longer if it invested in their learning and development. Furthermore, people working at companies that prioritize learning investments are 83% more likely to feel happier at their jobs.
Though Hiscox was sold on the why, the bigger question was exactly how to train this niche cohort of newly onboarded junior underwriters on the demanding skills needed to apply technical concepts throughout the underwriting cycle. This was needed to free experienced underwriters for more complex tasks as the company pursued aggressive growth targets. Hiscox set some specific educational goals that were ambitious enough to require a new approach to training that went beyond traditional online or classroom models.
To begin with, junior employees needed to be brought up to speed quickly with an engaging curriculum that could teach a combination of skills needed to balance the judgment of a risk analyst and the interpersonal skills of a customer-facing financial representative. The training also had to be online and mobile – both due to COVID-19 work-from home restrictions and because many junior underwriters are digital natives with high expectations around mobile and online options.
These factors helped shape requirements around three core characteristics to guide development of the training. Hiscox and Attensi agreed that the training solution would have to be:
- Engaging through gamification and real-world scenarios. The curriculum should ideally leverage knowledge of what fascinates people about video games and incorporate those dynamics into a remote learning and training approach. And the solution should use real dialogue and lifelike office scenarios to simulate the work experience as closely as possible;
- Immersive through the use of 3D graphics and competitive challenges to drive staff to not only complete trainings but continue playing to quickly build expertise and close knowledge gaps; and
- Measurable, to reap advanced insights on the training process that go beyond a checkbox approach, allowing enhanced evaluation of employee performance and improved program efficacy.
With these requirements in mind, Hiscox and Attensi set about crafting a bespoke training solution that could fit the bill.
Creating the “Underwriter Simulator”
Attensi and Hiscox collaborated on a 3D insurance training simulator for underwriters that teaches key skills by challenging users to compete in a series of realistic and gamified scenarios via an app.
Learners were given simulated data sets for digital case studies to train around skills like account analysis, segmentation and profit improvement planning. Each case study allowed the learner to manipulate the data sets to solve the case and then deliver a custom analysis to demonstrate understanding. Multiple modules were designed to cover key areas, including equity capital, profit after tax, return on equity and net asset value per share.
Great care was taken to customize the curriculum with cross-disciplinary domain expertise from pros in game design, insurance, risk analysis, education and behavioral psychology.
To add to the realism, the simulator allows in-platform use of tools needed on the job, such as MS Excel. And, in a feature that proved highly engaging and effective, learners interacted with 3D avatars of office colleagues and stakeholders – such as brokers, chief underwriting officers and product leads – to replicate the real-world collaboration needed to conduct the underwriting process.
The results speak for themselves: Hiscox is on track to have more than 90% of the junior underwriters in the program fully trained by the end of the year, and some 85% of the participants say the training has helped them understand their jobs better by practicing in a virtual “safe” environment before working with real financial data, colleagues and customers.
In addition, many staff continue to be engaged in the competitive elements of the game – eager to repeat the training modules up to 10 times to achieve better scores and higher placements on the leaderboard. Hiscox has already used these positive outcomes as inspiration to expand the gamified, 3D simulation approach to new use cases such as sales development and internal onboarding.
See also: Underwriting in the Digital Age
It took aggressive growth targets and the challenge of training a unique demographic of junior underwriters as forcing functions to break new ground in workforce training for the insurance industry. In doing so, Hiscox and Attensi are helping redefine what’s possible in talent development around some of the most demanding work in financial services.