Chris Spencer: Charting the Course for Underwriting Innovation

Blog -- 13 December 2023

Author: Marketing

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With a career that spans the gamut from hands-on underwriting to the strategic deployment of innovative technology, Chris Spencer, Director of Underwriting Solutions at Verisk Specialty Business Solutions' story is one of foresight, agility, and the pursuit of innovation.

Chris's entry into the insurance sector was marked by an immersive experience in the underwriting field, and where he also cultivated an in depth understanding of the industry's core operations, opportunities & challenges. He started off his career as an underwriter, a role that provided him with the market intelligence that would later prove invaluable. His tenure at Zurich as a senior underwriter in the property team was a formative chapter that laid the groundwork for his future career.

The shift from traditional underwriting to a data-centric approach caught Spencer's attention, prompting a pivotal career move. "The role of the underwriter is changing... to a much more portfolio-driven, data-driven user," he observed. This insight led him to seize an opportunity with Verisk, where he could be at the forefront of technological change reshaping the insurance landscape.


Navigating the Technology Terrain

At Verisk Specialty Business Solutions, Spencer's career path took a sharp upward turn as he moved into product development with Augmented Underwriting. His transition from a business analyst to product owner highlighted his commitment to innovation and a desire to push the boundaries of what technology could achieve in underwriting. "I wanted to get into the technology side of the business," he explains, driven by a belief that technology was the key to advancing the industry as a whole.

His work on Augmented Underwriting, a product developed from the ground up, was particularly innovative. It was a foray into the nascent world of AI, a space that, at the time, was just beginning to explore the potential of large language models, machine learning and their applicability in insurance. "We're still talking machine learning... although we weren’t talking about the same complexity of the large language models we are seeing now," Spencer notes, reflecting on the early stages of AI development in underwriting.

Spencer's journey took a slight and intriguing detour when he accepted a position with the Lloyd's syndicate IQUW. This move allowed him to step back into the market, reconnect with the day-to-day challenges facing underwriters, and gain fresh insights. "It was a great opportunity to see the market again... the shop floor," he says, acknowledging the value of this hands-on experience. This period marked a strategic expansion of his expertise, equipping him with a richer understanding of the client's perspective—a perspective he would bring back to Verisk Specialty with his new role.


Creating the Future

Returning to Verisk, Spencer embraced the role of Director of Underwriting Solutions, a position that tasked him with charting the strategic direction for the company's suite of underwriting solutions. "My role is one of strategic vision and thought leadership," he states, emphasising the dual focus on current product enhancement and future solution development.

His vision for Verisk's underwriting solutions is ambitious and clear-cut: to transition from a product-centric approach to one that offers holistic, problem-solving capabilities. "We've got the full ecosystem... from cradle to grave," Spencer explains, highlighting Verisk's comprehensive range of services. His goal is to ensure that Verisk's offerings are not just tools but solutions that fit seamlessly into the client's operations and workflow, addressing their needs & pains at every stage.

With AI, Spencer’s strategy is pragmatic and focused. Verisk is not merely adopting AI for its own sake but is strategically deploying it where it can deliver genuine value. “AI is definitely one of those advances where everybody’s rushing to embrace but without actually thinking of the problem they’re trying to solve,” he cautions. Under his leadership, Verisk is identifying the ‘low-hanging fruits’—areas where AI can make an immediate and significant impact.

The company's AI initiatives are not just about leveraging the latest technologies but also about ensuring that these technologies are integrated into a cohesive, solution-oriented framework. “"We’re not going to go out and build a large language model per se, but what we can certainly do is leverage that by capitalising on our ability to orchestrate and domain expertise," Spencer explains, outlining a strategy that combines Verisk's strengths with the best that AI has to offer.


The Road Ahead: Componentised Solutions and User Experience

Looking to the future, Spencer envisions a modular, componentised insurance market where clients can tailor solutions to their specific needs. "Imagine you're a new start-up... you can come to Verisk and go through a list of needs... and say, ‘Alright, I want that, and that please!'" he illustrates, painting a picture of flexibility and customisation that could redefine the industry.

This vision is underpinned by a commitment to enhancing the user experience, bridging the gap between professional and personal software interactions. "The expectations now are higher... for business software as they are when you're a public consumer," Spencer acknowledges.

He foresees a market that is more dynamic and receptive to innovative solutions, driven by a user experience that meets the heightened expectations of today's professionals.

Christopher Spencer's story is a testament to the transformative power of combining deep market expertise with a forward-looking embrace of technology. His leadership at Verisk is not just about stewarding a range of products but about driving a paradigm shift in underwriting itself. "It's very much about providing a solution to a client's problem at the end of the day," he concludes, encapsulating the ethos that guides his approach.

In Spencer's vision and Verisk's trajectory, we see the contours of an industry on the cusp of a new era—an era where the synthesis of knowledge and innovation delivers solutions that are as intuitive as they are powerful, as customisable as they are comprehensive.

With leaders like Chris Spencer at the helm, the journey towards this future is not just a possibility but unfolding rapidly.


Beyond Underwriting

While Chris' professional journey is a testament to his dedication to the insurance industry, his personal life is equally vibrant. Spencer, a self-proclaimed sports aficionado, finds joy and relaxation in a variety of athletic pursuits.
"I'm absolutely passionate about sports," Chris says. "I seize every opportunity to play any sport under the sun, but skiing holds a special place in my heart." His love for skiing is not just a pastime; it's a pursuit that sees him eagerly hitting the slopes whenever possible, embracing the thrill and challenge that come with the sport.