First Look. What does an underwriter look for in their initial look at a new piece of business?

By Ken Kukral

I believe my success as a broker goes hand in hand with the empathy I have with my underwriters.  I try to look at accounts as if I was in their shoes and anticipate what they are going to ask.  I know which underwriters are more discerning than others and the threshold of information they will need in order to take a serious look at an account.  Let me give you some of what I have learned:

–        Most agents are surprised to learn that the first question may wholesalers look at is the question on “have you been non-renewed”.  When the answer is “no” they then look at whom the expiring carrier is.  Being non-renewed is actually a “good thing” since the chances of writing the account have just increased.

–        Narrative- This has become a lost art and really does help fill in the gaps of what the questions on the application don’t cover.

–        Loss history – If there have been losses of “consequence” they should have a loss summary and details of the loss so that they are explained.  If any changes were made in the risk to prevent the future type of loss, this is the place to cover those changes.

–        Premium basis.  If it is a contractor, I give payroll, receipts, number of employees (FT & PT)  and cost of sub-contracted work.  While all of these may not be the premium basis, different carriers use different rating formulas.  You may want to get a breakout of the clerical, owners and sales payroll because these sometime may not be used in the payroll calculation.

–        Current policies.  This helps determine how the account is currently written so you can determine if all exposures are being covered.  While this is not a “must” it does give some element of how much the insured trusts you, the increased probability that they want you to write the business and sometimes “ammunition” to use to show the current agent is not properly handling their coverage.

–        Supplemental apps.  Many accounts will need supplemental applications so get a good feel for the type that is needed and use them.  It will speed up the process and give the underwriter a feel for how well you know your business.

–        A rundown of your property valuation methodology.  If you did a cost estimator, include it.  This shows the underwriter you took time to determine valuations and they are less likely to “question” them.  Also give full details on updates to older properties.  Carriers are looking much closer at this information and have “set” underwriting guidelines that need to be met.

–        Advise which portions of the risk you might be able to place standard.  This will allow them to concentrate on the portions they have the best chance to write.

–        Website and internet information.  Many times underwriters will do an internet search themselves.  This is especially true for hospitality risks.  Check it out since it would be better if you addressed it upfront, rather than after an underwriter has declined an account to has come across negative or different information than what is on your application.

–        Needed by date.  If only for laying out your expectation.  This will also help to convey the insured’s expectations you are looking to satisfy.

–        Finally, what information you are still gathering.  It lets the underwriter know you are on top of the account and know what they need to properly do their job.

–        Pricing or terms you need in order to sell an account.  It is many times tough to meet or beat your expectations if they don’t know them.

Since many times I feel like a detective when I take an initial look at an account, I have the highest respect for agents who think much the same way.  The more they have anticipated the questions I might ask, the better I can do my job of quoting and placing the account.  Brokers don’t enjoy having to go back for additional information because it slows down the whole process.  They are many times judged on how quickly they can turn quotes around and anything that slows them up hurt their “batting average”.  If you want to know what they need on a specific account, just call and ask.  They will be more than willing to tell you what they need in order to do their best work.

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