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  • October 2022
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Evolution of Automated Underwriting Points to Accelerated, Personalized Future

  • Smitha Ramgopal
  • Paul Okeefe
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In Brief
After helping insurers convert from manual to automated underwriting, AURA NEXT is helping lead the transition from traditional underwriting practices to accelerated, simplified underwriting and customized life insurance products.  

Curious? Ask AURA NEXT.

 As AURA NEXT, RGA’s proprietary life insurance e-underwriting software solution, celebrates its 20th anniversary, the product’s continuous evolution parallels that of the life industry and points to a future of widespread accelerated underwriting and personalized life insurance products and services. 

Underwriting’s Journey to the Cloud and Beyond

AURA NEXT was originally introduced as AURA, an acronym for Automated Underwriting and Risk Analysis. AURA NEXT’s pioneering past began in 2002 when USB drives were starting to replace CDs and DVDs for storage and the world’s total digitized information exceeded analog data for the first time. By the end of that year, AURA offered thousands of underwriting rules in six languages.

As insurers’ needs evolved throughout its first decade, AURA expanded its applications beyond life insurance to embrace other coverages, including disability income, critical illness, waiver of premium, accelerated death benefits, annuities, cancer, and hospital cash products. After a second decade of anticipating and responding to client requests, the platform now comes equipped with extensive rulesets for multiple insurance products and the ability to support application interviews in 14 languages, spanning more than 20 countries across four continents.

In 2007, changes in the U.K. annuities market created a new opportunity for impaired life annuities. This presented a challenge to insurers because underwriting impaired annuities was cumbersome and entirely manual. AURA responded by launching its annuity underwriting platform in 2008. The change  attracted new clients in the independent financial advisor market, leading to the software’s first bulk annuity contract and facilitating millions of annuity quotes in the years to come.

After analyzing more than one million insurance applicants and 50,000 prescriptions, RGA published groundbreaking research in the Journal of the Academy of Life Underwriting in 2008 demonstrating the link between mortality risk and prescription drug use. The study’s results became the basis of new medically based underwriting rules featuring risk assessment variations by gender, age, mode of delivery, and drug filling frequency, giving RGA clients a significant competitive underwriting edge. These rules were soon incorporated into AURA and offered as a standalone platform.

Four years later in 2012, RGA launched its Automatic Selection and Assessment Program (ASAP), powered by AURA. ASAP enables near-instantaneous facultative quotes for cases with up to two covered physical impairments or co-morbidities.

Fast forward to 2016, RGA introduced the life insurance industry’s first cloud-based underwriting platform with Software as a Service (SaaS) technology. The initiative transformed AURA into AURA NEXT, giving insurers an advanced and adaptive new way to foster near-instantaneous, accurate, and consistent underwriting decisions. AURA NEXT was made available in the cloud through Amazon Web Services, uniquely architected to separate questions and answers from rules, and equipped with the ability to ingest external data to make complex decisions.

AURA NEXT also ushered in instant point-of-sale decisions through easy integration with call centers, agents, and brokers, or directly to the public through e-applications, portals, and workflow solutions. By the end of the 2010s, AURA NEXT was recognized several times for underwriting software innovation in the life insurance industry.

Recognition for AURA NEXT

  • 2013 - CIO 100 Award Winner, CIO Magazine

    First-to-market automated underwriting solution for impaired annuities

  • 2014 - Best’s Review Innovation Showcase

    First-to-market AURA rules set for annuities

  • 2020 - XCelent Award, Customer Case Category

    AURA NEXT’s software as a service (SaaS) model

  • 2021 - ‘Leader’ in The Forrester Wave™
    Highest possible scores in automated decisioning, use of machine learning and AI

From COVID-19 to Personalized Life Insurance

The year 2020 introduced unprecedented challenges to the life insurance industry – and new ways for AURA NEXT to help insurers serve consumers. The growing death toll from COVID-19 with no remedies in sight propelled consumers to seek financial protection through life insurance. At the same time, pandemic-related lockdowns made it nearly impossible to conduct traditional onsite medical examinations and collect urine and blood specimens.

In response, life insurers began deploying proxy data to accelerate fluidless underwriting. By introducing various alternative evidence sources, such as prescription history, lab test, healthcare billing, and individual consumer behavioral data, insurers began readjusting underwriting requirements, product offerings, and pricing.

The quick and responsive transition was made possible by the continual evolution of automated underwriting. During this challenging time, AURA NEXT helped insurers deploy millions of data sets to guide policy applications through the underwriting process. Facilitating digital transactions and enabling agents to complete applications through the product’s automated underwriting capabilities provided underwriters working remotely the tools necessary to address workloads of complex cases while simultaneously compiling disclosures and new evidence.

Today, automated underwriting continues to help insurers efficiently process newly introduced alternative evidence by feeding relevant material into multivariate models, providing underwriters with greater pricing flexibility. As the present transitions into the future, the pandemic-accelerated evolution in underwriting will continue to gain momentum. New data sources and a greater ability to analyze them through more sophisticated modeling will expand the number of cases that qualify for accelerated underwriting, thus freeing up underwriters to focus on the most complex, high-value applications and research. Additional third-party data will also support more personalized products and services. 

The future will also include converting unstructured information into usable data for analytical applications and applying data science to translate data into meaningful risk insights for the automation process. The winners in the life insurance industry will be harnessing techniques, including artificial intelligence, to identify risk trends, optimize business algorithms, and simulate assumptions to maintain bottom-line efficiency.

AURA NEXT is well positioned to drive this innovation due to its unique architecture combined with its customizable evidence framework. Sophisticated enough to adjust the data sequence from various sources, the platform expands underwriting capabilities by making them configurable to a carrier’s underwriting goals and workflow. As a result, insurers can be cost-effective and efficient when procuring the most influential evidence on a given insurance application.

Introducing efficiency in customer onboarding will allow insurers to observe consumer behavior and streamline the customer acquisition process. The future’s underwriting tools will provide assistive workflow with chatbots and virtual assistants to help consumers with complex questions. Thus, underwriters will be empowered to make better-informed decisions and to also detect fraud if someone is misrepresenting data on the front end.


Moving from manual to automated underwriting revolutionized the life insurance industry. The ongoing transition from automated to accelerated underwriting – propelled further by the need for new underwriting practices during peak coverage demand during the COVID-19 pandemic – is leading the industry into its next chapter. Thanks to new data sources and technological innovation, accelerated underwriting and more customized life insurance products and services will become the new norm. Just as AURA NEXT has played a critical role in moving the life insurance industry forward for the past 20 years, it will continue to do so in the years to come.

We welcome the opportunity to discuss how AURA NEXT can help evolve your processes to support digital transformation. Curious? Ask AURA NEXT.

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Meet the Authors & Experts

Smitha Ramgopal
Smitha Ramgopal
Vice President,  Product Management and Strategy, AURA Technologies
Paul Okeefe
Paul Okeefe
Vice President Global Business Development, AURA Technologies