Innovation in Underwriting

Background and Purpose

Underwriting is constantly evolving, driven, in part, by:

  • demands from consumers and distribution, such as the need for immediate issue and online distribution,
  • new medical tests, such as epigenetic based tests, that give more relevant health information, and
  • new sources of data and advanced algorithms designed to make sense of these.

Actuaries need to make sense of this and consider the impacts across all areas of actuarial work, including setting assumptions, product design and anywhere advice may be provided.

Research Objective

The Actuarial Innovation & Technology Program Steering Committee (AITPSC) is seeking a researcher to prepare a white paper that examines innovation in underwriting.

The report should include examples of where the innovations are in use and existing tools and techniques they replace. Scope should be limited to individual life and health insurance but can include experience from other business lines where applicable.

The report should consider the breadth of the underwriting process, the impact of new innovations and the pros and cons of each. Potential impacts should broadly cover the implications to actuarial work, including risk, cost and any other factors that may impact product design or assumptions.

Innovation areas to be covered should include:

  • Medical tests, epigenetics, alternative blood tests, etc.
  • External big data and supporting algorithms, and
  • Use of behavioural science

Discussion should include:

  • Purpose of the underwriting technique, i.e. simply avoiding anti-selection or improved segmentation.
  • Whether new solutions are designed to benefit consumers, insurance companies, or a primarily focused on cost savings?
  • Distribution implications: if you can get underwritten quicker, or with less interaction, will more people get insurance? How much quicker makes a difference? If testing is “less invasive” will more people get insurance?  Does innovation in underwriting help open up the ‘direct to consumer’ marketplace? Are direct to consumer products targeting the right audience?
  • Regulatory issues: Are regulations keeping pace with the innovation in this space? What are potential issues if regulators take issue with some of this innovation? 
  • Risk implications: Do new tools result in misclassification? Fraud and disclosure.
  • Legal implications: fairness, bias and ethical issues. Does an accelerated process confer an advantage to one group over another? Does the use of certain external data confer less legal protection than a signed disclosure form?
  • Overlap of tools and techniques: How are new solutions evaluated and incorporated alongside the existing stack?


To facilitate the evaluation of proposals, the following information should be submitted:

  1. Resumes of the researcher(s), including any graduate student(s) expected to participate, indicating how their background, education and experience bear on their qualifications to undertake the research. If more than one researcher is involved, a single individual should be designated as the lead researcher and primary contact. The person submitting the proposal must be authorized to speak on behalf of all the researchers as well as for the firm or institution on whose behalf the proposal is submitted.
  2. An outline of the approach to be used (e.g. literature search, model, etc.), emphasizing issues that require special consideration. Details should be given regarding the techniques to be used, collateral material to be consulted, and possible limitations of the analysis.
  3. A description of the expected deliverables and any supporting data, tools or other resources.
  4. Cost estimates for the research, including computer time, salaries, report preparation, material costs, etc. Such estimates can be in the form of hourly rates, but in such cases, time estimates should also be included. Any guarantees as to total cost should be given and will be considered in the evaluation of the proposal. While cost will be a factor in the evaluation of the proposal, it will not necessarily be the decisive factor.
  5. A schedule for completion of the research, identifying key dates or time frames for research completion and report submissions. The AITPSC is interested in completing this project in a timely manner. Suggestions in the proposal for ensuring timely delivery, such as fee adjustments, are encouraged.
  6. Other related factors that give evidence of a proposer's capabilities to perform in a superior fashion should be detailed.

Selection Process

The AITPSC will appoint a Project Oversight Group (POG) to oversee the project. The AITPSC is responsible for recommending the proposal to be funded. Input from other knowledgeable individuals also may be sought, but the AITPSC or POG will make the final recommendation, subject to SOA leadership approval. SOA will provide staff actuarial support to develop and publish the final material.


Any questions regarding this RFP should be directed to David Schraub, SOA Senior Research Actuary (phone: 847-706-3560; email:

Notification of Intent To Submit Proposal

If you intend to submit a proposal, please e-mail written notification by June 15, 2021 to Korrel Crawford (

Submission of Proposal

Final proposals for the project should be sent via e-mail by June 30, 2021 to Korrel Crawford at 

Note: Proposals are considered confidential and proprietary.


The selection of a proposal is conditioned upon and not considered final until a Letter of Agreement is executed by both the Society of Actuaries and the researcher.

The SOA and AITPSC reserve the right to not award a contract for this research. Reasons for not awarding a contract could include, but are not limited to, a lack of acceptable proposals or a finding that insufficient funds are available. The SOA and AITPSC also reserve the right to redirect the project as is deemed advisable.

The SOA and AITPSC plan to hold the copyright to the research and to publish the results with appropriate credit given to the researcher(s).

The SOA and AITPSC may choose to seek public exposure or media attention for the research. By submitting a proposal, you agree to cooperate with the SOA and AITPSC in publicizing or promoting the research and responding to media requests.

The SOA and AITPSC may also choose to market and promote the research to members, candidates and other interested parties. You agree to perform promotional communication requested by the SOA and AITPSC, which may include, but is not limited to, leading a webcast on the research, presenting the research at an SOA meeting, and/or writing an article on the research for an SOA newsletter.