Web Underwriting, are you ready for it?

By Ken Kukral

As a veteran of the insurance business, I am always looking for new and better ways to do things.  As more and more information becomes available on the web, I search it out and include it as part of my submission to the underwriter.  Are you doing this on your new business account?

More and more underwriters are using the web to verify information provided on an application and do not wait till after they have written an account.  This is especially true for hospitality business.  Underwriters will note the differences between what they find on the internet (including the insured’s website) and what is on the application, so be ready to explain these differences.  They will also look at reviews and comments left by patrons in considering an account.

Some tips:

–        Google the address for your account.  Google will usually have a drive my image of the account.  You will need to explain and visual deficiencies or updates that have been done since the image was taken.

–        Check out the insured’s website.  Many times the insured will list capabilities that they do not engage in, but could.  Underwriters make the assumption that they are actively doing work in these areas and some of these exposures may make the risk ineligible for a specific program.  Ideally you should have your potential client remove these prior to submission, but if not, please address this via a letter explaining they will not do work in these areas and are in the process of having their website corrected.

–        Do a web search under both the business name and the owner’s name.  Go back a few pages (say 5 or so) and be ready to explain any negative items that come up.  This includes items such as bad reviews, media articles, court cases, public filings and losses.  You really want to give the underwriter the impression that you are not hiding anything.

–        Check public databases.  One example is the liquor control board in a state.  Some of them list the clients liquor receipts for the previous term and an underwriter will want to know about any disparity in what is shown on the website versus what you have on your application.  Keep in mind that most properties have information available on the County website, including square footage, construction, purchase price, etc.

–        Look deeper.  By this I mean if you do not find anything on your potential client on the webs when you Google their name, try Googling their phone number or address and see what comes up.

–        Include Federal ID number or D&B number if you have it.  Some carriers have access to additional databases and can find out more on a particular account with this information.

–        Check out the clients Linkedin page and their Facebook Page.  Pictures on these social media sites are sometimes worth a thousand words.

You need to make this a standard part of your application process NOW!  You need to be “ahead” of the underwriter on the information available, rather than reactive.  Once an underwriter has declined a piece of business because of information found on the web, it is harder to get them to reconsider.  It is very much like they have “closed” their file on the account and it takes a lot more to get them to reopen it.

What unique underwriting tools or websites have you found that helps you to get the needed underwriting information? I would love to hear more about what is available.

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