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Building Confidence and Knowledge Over Time

A Day in the Life of an Underwriter

Posted in Professional Development

Author: Kristin Bolhuis

At JM Wilson and career stops elsewhere, I’ve learned that timing is key. Whether exploring new opportunities, allowing myself space for meaningful growth, or structuring my day to be as productive and intentional as possible, timing matters.

My Road to JM Wilson

I started in the insurance industry right here at JM Wilson after graduating from high school. Today, I serve as a Senior Underwriter and Contractor Specialist nearly 33 years later.

The processing/typing department was my first stop at JM Wilson in June 1989. I then moved into an Assistant Underwriter role in our Life & Health department before transitioning out into the agency and retail side of the industry. There, I specialized in the Life & Health area, specifically Senior Market Insurance.

In 1998, I left JM Wilson and moved on to a local agency specializing in insurance for municipalities. This was my first experience in the P&C arena.

About six years in, I needed a special event for one of the municipalities I served and reached out to JM Wilson for an application. They directed me to the website where I saw that JM Wilson was hiring. 

I mentioned it to my husband that evening and he encouraged me to apply. He said I had nothing to lose, and that it would be a good experience for me. I always had the choice to decline if I was made an offer. So, I went through the interview process and the rest is history. I rejoined the JM Wilson team in 2015 as a Property & Casualty Underwriter and have not regretted my decision.

My Typical Day

The nice thing about Excess & Surplus Lines Underwriting is that nothing is typical or the same. Each submission/application is unique and has its challenges. Every day is different, which makes it fascinating and interesting to see what the day is going to bring. Some days are more challenging than others.

I enjoy coming in each day and planning for the day. I take an overall look at the new submissions/applications I have been assigned to review, send emails, organize tasks and endorsements that need to be processed or rated, and attend meetings or trainings that are on the schedule. While my day doesn’t typically go as planned, taking the time to set my expectations gives me a good roadmap to stay focused and on task. 

Most of my morning is spent underwriting risks, applications, and market inquiry questions as they come up. I like to begin with some of the more challenging items first thing in the morning while my mind is fresh and awake. As the day progresses, I work on smaller items that aren’t so demanding or thought-provoking, like endorsements, reviewing an inspection, or even doing some personal underwriting/market training to keep up with trends and best practices.

Overcoming Challenges

In addition to the inevitable deviations from my intended plan of action, difficult or unfamiliar coverage needs occasionally present themselves.
Some of these submissions or market inquiries can be quite challenging. If the insured is doing something I’m not the least bit familiar with or has an item they need insurance for that I haven’t a clue about, it can be a bit stressful.

In these cases, I try to find information online to help me better understand the associated risk so I am better equipped to approach our carriers.

Working in Partnership

While I have worked on the agency side of the industry, I was never an agent despite being licensed in both Life/Health and Prop/Casualty. Instead, I worked in a supporting role for several years.

That experience helped me gain good knowledge and an understanding of the role and responsibilities an agent has. They are the customers’ resource just as we are to our agents.

As a partner to our agents, it's very gratifying to help them throughout the process and ultimately make the sale. I enjoy being involved from start to finish of the process.

In turn, one of the biggest ways an agent can help me in my role is by providing as much information as possible when submitting a risk or inquiry. A complete, detailed submission has a better chance of going through the underwriting process in a timely manner than a submission with very few details.

It's never a waste of time to reach out to an underwriter to see what is needed prior to sending a submission over so we aren’t asking for additional applications or information that would hold up the process. I always encourage agents to give us a call with any questions!

What Brings Me Joy

I love working with our agents and helping them find the appropriate coverage for their customers. It is rewarding to review the variety of exposures/risks we see daily and then to find solutions and coverage for the customer.

Speaking with our agents over the phone or in an email and developing a trusting relationship keeps them coming back to JM Wilson repeatedly and gives me joy.

I also get great satisfaction when a Bind Order arrives! I take pride in the work I do and the quality of the quotes I send out, so when an order to bind arrives, it’s a gratifying feeling knowing I’ve helped all parties involved.

Words of Advice

In life and in the insurance industry, I have learned to give myself time to grow, that knowledge is power, and that it takes time to gain confidence. 

I have learned so much from the time I’ve spent underwriting and still continue to expand my knowledge a little bit more every day. 

Building this confidence solidifies my relationships with our agents/partners as they come to JM Wilson for guidance. Taking time to ask questions and seeking education and additional training to continue my personal growth, in turn, provide even more confidence and knowledge.

Don’t forget to make time to do and be your best! 

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