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If It Were Easy...

Madhu Tadikonda

Co-Founder and Advisor, Archipelago

When I was appointed Global Chief Underwriting Officer for AIG, it was an eye-opening experience. In all my previous roles, as a venture investor, as a partner at Oliver Wyman, and then as Chief Data Science Officer for commercial lines at AIG, I had drunk the Kool-aid and had become an evangelist for ‘data, data, data’. Of course, data-driven practices are de-rigueur across industries and use cases, and data unquestionably unlocks value in insurance as well. But as CUO, I developed a healthy appreciation for the real-world challenges that underwriters face.

Underwriters, particularly those in large account commercial lines, are in a difficult position. It’s where the ideology of The Data meets the reality of The Business. It’s where the aspirations of sophisticated data-driven modeling, analytics and rating crash into the reality that each and every submission comes in from the wild as a package of spreadsheets and documentation, sent by email, each and every one different from the prior. The data is typically incomplete, sometimes confusing, often out of date, and at times of dubious quality.  Underwriters are expected, backed by metastasizing teams of analysts and modelers, to perform heroic acts to comprehend the data, compare it to prior years’ submissions, assess the quality of the data, interpret its meaning, reconcile the modeling... all in Excel pivot tables.  There is hardly any time left for thoughtful underwriting and risk analysis.

I came to reason that the industry’s approach, taking repeated stabs at addressing the challenges from the inside-out, wasn’t going to work, and certainly wasn’t an efficient way to address the problem given that each of these submissions is underwritten by dozens of markets all struggling with similar variations of the same theme. The only way to fundamentally change this situation is to go “upstream”: to the insureds themselves, and empower them to take control of their risk, deliver high quality data, in consistent and standardized formats, and to do so not via emails and spreadsheets, but through modern SaaS technology to share and permission dynamic data to their partners across the industry. Ergo, Archipelago.

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"But, as CUO, I developed a healthy appreciation for the real-world challenges that underwriters face. Underwriters, particularly those in large account commercial lines, are in a difficult position. It’s where the ideology of The Data meets the reality of The Business."

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