Insurance Underwriter

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1 Insurance Underwriter It s About You Curious about the risks involved in life events? Can you think at a macro-level, into the long-term and across broad groups of people and businesses? Do you enjoy working with numbers? If so, and you have good research skills, are you a good problem solver and enjoy negotiating with others, then being an Insurance Underwriter might be a good career fit for you. What is Insurance Underwriting? Insurance underwriting is the fundamental process of reviewing insurance applications and deciding who and what to insure, for how much and under what conditions. Insurance underwriting is related to the field of risk management in that Underwriters assess the risks inherent in an insurance application and evaluate the probability of those risks occurring and the potential costs associated with occurrences. What is the role of the Insurance Underwriter? Insurance Underwriters determine the amount of premium to charge for each risk, along with the terms of the arrangement. Insurance Underwriters work for companies that provide insurance services and products to clients either directly (direct model), or through intermediaries such as insurance brokers (agents that sell these products to individuals and organizations -- broker model). Ultimately it is the insurance carrier (the company that issues the policy) that assumes the risk associated with applicants. Areas of Focus Insurance Underwriters work in three predominant areas: Life & Health Life & Health: Life insurance is a financial benefit assigned to a person s family or other beneficiary in the event of the person s death, and is typically designed to cover the costs of burial, funerals or other related costs. Life insurance can also include additional financial coverage to supplement the loss of income associated with the person s death. Health insurance policies provide coverage against costs associated with injury or illness and are typically negotiated as group policies provided as part of employment packages. Health Insurance is also available for individual purchase (e.g. by those that are self-employed or not satisfied with their employer s organizational package). Health insurance may include disability, injury, medical device/hospital coverage and the related health risks. Underwriters working in Life & Health may interact with physicians, medical analysts, employee groups and unions in order to evaluate and determine insurance premiums based on account information such as age, life expectancy statistics, lifestyle, family health and employee needs. Copyright 2010 Toronto Financial Services Alliance. All rights reserved. 1

2 Property & Casualty Property & Casualty: Property insurance is coverage against risks associated with any type of properties including fire, theft and damage. It can also include landlord insurance in the case of commercial properties or terrorism insurance. Casualty insurance covers against accidents or incidents affecting property (e.g. motor vehicles, recreational vehicles and personal property). Underwriters working in Property & Casualty may liaise with surveyors, industry experts, engineers and employees or corporate clients in order to evaluate risks and determine insurance premiums taking into account engineering reports, regional location, crime statistics and/or weather pattern reports (e.g. hurricane or tornado trends). Commercial & Industrial Commercial & Industrial: Commercial & Industrial insurance covers a number of areas specific to organizations, such as property damage, theft and business interruption or employee injuries. The types of products may change depending on the industry, but in financial services sectors the coverage can be expanded to include customers needs (e.g. life or disability coverage on credit cards or loans to customers) or organizational needs (e.g. coverage against fraudulent activity). Underwriters working in Property & Casualty evaluate and determine insurance premiums taking into account data from a wide range of sources including crime reports and statistics, weather reports and trends, geological and engineering surveys and reports. In summary, Insurance Underwriters compile and analyze research related to their area of specialty and use this information to make a determination about the risks inherent in individual insurance applications. They are responsible for selecting what elements will be covered and determining and negotiating the terms, costs and conditions with insurance brokers. Main Duties Commonly, the main duties of an Insurance Underwriter include: Review and evaluate applications for insurance. Insurance Underwriters review the details of insurance applications and accompanying reports (e.g. medical reports, property assessments, safety reports, financial reports) provided in support of the application for insurance. They then need to evaluate the risks inherent in the application in order to determine whether or not to accept the risks on behalf of the insurer. Key Activities:! Analyze information contained in insurance applications using advanced computer programs to determine risk levels, including probabilities and financial impacts.! Review and understand accompanying reports (e.g. actuarial studies, medical reports, supplemental research reports) in order to apply the findings, recommendations and implications to the assessment of the information contained in insurance applications.! Reassess renewal applications considering relevant information such changes in applicant information, industry and subject matter expert reports in order to determine whether to continue insurance coverage and if so, at what rates. Copyright 2010 Toronto Financial Services Alliance. All rights reserved. 2

3 Determine or recommend terms and conditions of insurance contracts Insurance Underwriters may serve as the intermediary between insurance brokers and applicants as they determine the costs, terms and conditions of insurance policies. They evaluate the risks of the application, present the risks to the insurance brokers and obtain coverage options from them. They inform insurance brokers and/or applicants of the terms of coverage and provide them with guidance on how to mitigate particular risks in order to reduce costs or modify terms. Key Activities:! Identify type of insurance coverage that is available and appropriate based on the risks inherent in the application.! Prepare underwriting reports and update insurance documentation and applications when appropriate.! Communicate the terms and conditions of the coverage to insurance brokers and/or clients, resolving questions and providing further information as required.! May provide advice and counsel on risk management strategies (e.g. vehicle protection, lifestyle changes, safety measures) to reduce insurance premiums. Develop and maintain a professional network with insurance brokers and industry experts Insurance Underwriters are expected to maintain networks with subject matter experts (e.g. doctors, home inspectors, security professionals) and insurance brokers in order to be able to collect relevant information to inform the evaluation of applications. Key Activities:! Provide underwriting advice and answer inquiries from insurance brokers, customers, consultants and other company personnel.! Foster relationships with insurance brokers to enable flow of information and build awareness of ideal qualities too look for in applications. Remain current on industry trends and environmental changes Insurance Underwriters are expected to remain current on political changes and environmental factors, research, regulations and policies as they relate to their field of underwriting. Key Activities:! Monitor the environment for trends and changes in order to develop products as needed (e.g. recent trends in identity theft).! Attend conferences, training courses and read industry publications to apply current industry trends and practices.! Network with industry experts, underwriters and other insurance professionals. Copyright 2010 Toronto Financial Services Alliance. All rights reserved. 3

4 Work Context, Knowledge, Skill Requirements and Applicable Experience Work context Insurance Underwriters work in an environment that is data intensive and risk-focused. Underwriters need to be able to manage the responsibility of their decisions and the demands of their clients and insurance brokers. Underwriters typically work in office environments, and from time to time may be required to travel to meet with insurance brokers or obtain information needed for assessments. Underwriters tend to have typical business days, yet may be required to work overtime when the situation requires. Underwriters are typically located at the head office of a company, but in very large organizations they may be located at branch offices. Knowledge Insurance Underwriters require specific knowledge of:! Mathematics and accounting principles with the ability to apply this data to solve problems! Specific business lines related to their segment (e.g. life, auto, home)! Financial methods including: o Market rules and regulations, such as the Insurance Companies Act of Canada. o Valuation methods, to understand size and risk of people or organizations being insured. o Risk management methodologies and models including best practices and regulatory requirements (e.g. policies outlined by the Superintendent of Financial Institutions). Technical Skill Requirements Insurance Underwriters require specific technical competencies:! Proficiency in various computer software packages (e.g. FormsPlus, VUE Wrap-up Management, CRM Software, SQL Database technology).! Strong analytic, judgment and decision-making skills to determine validity of policy application.! Excellent mathematical and quantitative analysis skills. Soft Skills Requirements Insurance Underwriters require specific soft skill competencies:! Personal integrity and sense of ethics in making objective decisions regarding applications.! Service-oriented attitude with strong interpersonal skills to work collaboratively with insurance brokers and agents.! Ability to adapt and demonstrate flexibility in a dynamic environment where a multitude of application scenarios need to be considered.! Strong negotiation skills.! Excellent written, oral communication and presentation skills to communicate technical and complex information to a variety of people in meaningful terms. Copyright 2010 Toronto Financial Services Alliance. All rights reserved. 4

5 Applicable experience There are a number of related experiences that are transferable to the Insurance Underwriter role. Deep industry experience and expertise is highly transferable to underwriting as it enables understanding industry-specific operational risks, as well as facilitates developing relevant networks of knowledge experts. With additional training in underwriting practices, people with the following backgrounds may do well as an Insurance Underwriter:! Medical or healthcare experience is transferable to life and health underwriting.! Construction or home inspection experience provides good knowledge of structures and buildings relevant to property and casualty underwriting.! Transportation industry experience brings relevant knowledge for casualty or motor vehicle related insurance.! Manufacturing experience may translate into valuable knowledge relevant to commercial property insurance. Education, Certifications, Designations and/or Licences Entry Level Positions Entry level positions typically require: " College diploma or " Undergraduate university degree In the fields of:! Business administration! Economics! Accounting! Law Licences may include: Chartered Property & Casualty Underwriter (CPCU) Copyright 2010 Toronto Financial Services Alliance. All rights reserved. 5

6 Additional Training! Associate of the Insurance Institute of Canada (AIIC)! Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU)! Fellow of the Insurance Institute of Canada (FIIC)! Fellow Chartered Insurance Professional (FCIP)! Fellow Life Management Institute (FLMI) Additional training for entry level positions may include:! Enrolment and completion of training programs provided by the Insurance Institute of Canada or Ontario (Property & Casualty)! Enrolment and completion of training programs provided by ADVOCIS (Life & Health)! Pursuing courses towards Chartered Insurance Professional (CIP) designation! Continual upgrading of computer skills and software applications Professional Associations Professional Associations may include:! Life Underwriters Association of Canada (LUAC)! Canadian Boiler and Machinery Underwriters Association (Property & Casualty)! Marine Underwriters Association (Property & Casualty)! Fire Underwriters Association (Property & Casualty)! Underwriters Association of Toronto! Insurance Bureau of Canada! Insurance Institute of Canada (IIC)! Insurance Brokers of Canada (IBC)! Canadian Insurers Accountants Association (CIAA)! Canadian Institute of Underwriters (CIU)! ADVOCIS Copyright 2010 Toronto Financial Services Alliance. All rights reserved. 6

7 Representative Job Titles Depending on the organization you work for, Underwriters may hold various job titles:! Underwriting Associate! Underwriting Assistant! Underwriting Consultant! Underwriting Specialist! Underwriting Analyst! Insurance Underwriter! Exception Underwriter! Pricing Manager! Underwriting Operations Analyst Career Pathways Moving into the role In many cases as an early job entrant, you can start directly out of college or university in an assistant or trainee role. Assistants and trainees work under the supervision and guidance of experienced Underwriters as they complete additional training. The work of entry-level roles focuses on reviewing, evaluating, and routine applications and collecting relevant data and information to inform underwriting decisions. With more related experience or deep industry knowledge (e.g. healthcare, construction, transportation), and basic courses in underwriting, you can move into core underwriting roles. For these roles, some course-related material and software skills would be considered beneficial, but on-the-job training is likely to be more applicable. The most common career path is for individuals to start in claims case management that is, working with insurance claimants to assess and settle claims. This enables familiarity with the overall process of insurance claims and common client issues/concerns, as well as builds knowledge about the interpretation of policies. From there, you could move into underwriting after developing a familiarization with the risk factors involved in providing insurance. Progression beyond the role As with many occupations, Underwriters may progress into either management or technical expert roles. If you wish to pursue managerial or executive roles, many organizations have a variety of leadership roles in underwriting. If you wish to become a deep technical expert without management responsibilities, you may find career opportunities in more complex underwriting roles such as reinsurance, risk management, specialized industries or actuarial science. Copyright 2010 Toronto Financial Services Alliance. All rights reserved. 7

8 Sample career path Underwriting trainee > Underwriter > Intermediate Underwriter > Senior Underwriter > Director of Underwriting & Chief Underwriter External Factors Impacting the Role Given the direct link between insurance policies and the environment, the number of factors impacting assessment outcomes is vast. The following are some examples of environmental trends that could potentially impact the underwriting role:! Natural disasters need for property and casualty insurance! Life insurance growth in popularity of annuities! Regulations changes in regulations such as Ontario s recent Auto Insurance Reform! Accreditation licensing requirements for underwriting practitioners Employment Trends and Outlook Employment Outlook The insurance industry is a dynamic evolving industry and there is growing demand for Underwriters. Retirement rates of experienced Underwriters coupled with population growth and declining birth rates are creating a demand for talent. The changing risk and regulatory environment is leading to the creation of new insurance products, creating opportunities for new specializations and opening doors for people with a broader range of backgrounds. At the same time, insurance companies are changing their business model to automate many of the transactional aspects of the typical underwriting role so that Underwriters can increase their value to the business and focus to a greater extent on more complex applications. Competition for highly qualified top performers is fierce among companies and can mean great opportunities for Underwriters. Compensation Ranges Underwriters are typically compensated with a base salary, with the potential for bonuses or incentives for performance and additional certifications and/or designations. Copyright 2010 Toronto Financial Services Alliance. All rights reserved. 8

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