Focusing on the reasons behind decision-making has prompted some insurers to question whether certain judgments affect underwriting decisions in a negative way.

Executive Summary

How much should an underwriter trust his or her instinct versus data and models? Insurers and reinsurers like The Hartford and Gen Re are starting to look into the question of how unconscious biases factor into decisions as they try to find the right balance between gut answers based on experience and objective input from data-driven models.

Morris “Mo” Tooker, head of Middle Market for The Hartford, has examined how emotions can subconsciously lead underwriters to judgments that they might not have made if they relied strictly on data and computer models.

While working at a prior position at Gen Re, Tooker was part of a group that worked with external consultants to identify unconscious bias in the underwriting process.

“There were many places where the brain was jumping to an automatic conclusion based on the emotion, based on a preconceived notion, based on any number of things where, ultimately, if we had an underwriter who had the time or at least some awareness of the unconscious bias they were having at that point, [that underwriter] might make a slightly different decision,” he explained.

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