Although an insurance underwriter is not as visible as an insurance agent, the role they play within insurance carriers is a critical one. They are the ones, after all, who calculate the risk that an individual or company represents to the carrier. They then suggest a premium based upon that calculated risk and often write the policies themselves. Should they suggest a premium that’s too high, the insurance client will take his or her business elsewhere. Should they suggest a premium that’s too low, the insurance client can cost the company a significant amount of money when he or she files a claim.
Understanding these points, it’s easy to see why good underwriting is crucially important to insurance carriers. Particularly when they are skilled and knowledgeable, they make the life of the insurance agent or insurance broker easy.
Managing General Agents
Managing General Agents (MGAs) rely heavily upon the skills of the underwriters who work for them. Often working in unique and/or specialty insurance markets, the MGA has been given authority by an insurance carrier to design the insurance coverage, negotiate the price and adapt to changing market conditions. Given the volatility of the insurance market in general and the unique demands of specialty markets in particular, any policy provided by a Managing General Agent without good underwriting behind it will almost certainly lead to a loss for the insurance carrier and therefore to the managing agent as well.
Characteristics of Good Underwriters
The person doing the underwriting behind a given policy should possess the following skills:
- The ability to work in a team: Underwriting is not a one-person job; everyone on the team has something of value to contribute to the process. Understanding the value of the team, the individual(s) doing the underwriting under the supervision of a managing agent should be proverbial “team players.”
- Analytical and problem solving skills: It’s not enough to rely upon the company underwriting manual. Individuals skilled at underwriting should possess a logical, analytical and almost scientific mindset, with an ability to analyze the data behind a given risk and suggest a viable policy solution.
- Capacity to see beyond the black and white: All insurance markets have “gray areas;” policies that are uniquely designed or specialty products are especially filled with gray areas. An individual engaged in underwriting, therefore, must have not only a logical mind, but also a flexible one.
When put together, a managing agent and an individual with strong underwriting skills become an unstoppable and successful force for the insurance company. With the negotiating skills of a strong managing agent and the analytical skills of someone with strong underwriting abilities, the perfect insurance team comes together.