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Underwriting & the Dreaded ‘Laundry List’

A Day in the Life of an Underwriter

Posted in Professional Development

Author: Alex Mikos

When I was a kid, my mother worked for Allstate and always spoke fondly of her time in the insurance industry.

Since October 2018, I’ve been lucky enough to experience it for myself in my roles with JM Wilson.

Fast paced, rewarding, challenging, and exciting; I enjoy my small area of the monstrous beast known as the insurance industry even though my role requires completing a dreaded laundry list of information to complete a quote.

My Road to JM Wilson

Prior to JM Wilson, most of my career was spent in the mortgage industry processing loans and training new employees. As interesting as the mortgage industry was, I was ecstatic to have a new opportunity to work in insurance.

Joining JM Wilson allowed me to explore a new career path with numerous possibilities, including a promotion to Transportation Underwriter a short time later.

What Brings Me Joy

In my various roles at JM Wilson, I have had the ability to process my daily tasks, build relationships with my agents as well as my carriers, create reference guide content to help others in my position, train new hires, and help with company initiatives that I am passionate about.

JM Wilson has also given me the opportunity to learn and advance in my roles while allowing me the flexibility to keep my work passions alive including writing blogs and hosting trainings. I absolutely love the ability to personalize my role and to continue doing things that I enjoy.

My Typical Day

As a Transportation Underwriter, I am constantly looking over my carrier guidelines, reviewing MVRs, and looking at SAFER reports. Underwriting is a unique profession because there are no true consistencies even though we are reviewing a lot of the same kinds of information for each insured.

It is very important to approach each new submission with a genuine curiosity to uncover the best attributes as well as areas that may need improvement for each insured.

Unfortunately, a side effect of underwriting is the dreaded laundry list of necessary information to quote.

With access to several different transportation markets, each of our carriers requires somewhat different information. The ability to provide a full and complete submission is more difficult than ever.

Overcoming Challenges Through Communication

Often, our agents write different types of business that may not require such in-depth submissions. With different short- or long-form applications, ACORD applications, IFTAs, loss runs, MVRs, supplemental applications, it’s no wonder why providing a full transportation submission can be difficult. 

From the bluster of “what is required to submit”, we commonly see two different approaches to information that underwriters require: call or email. 

Truly, I do not believe that there is a one-size-fits-all answer. Instead, it is important to take into consideration the person that submitted the application and what their preferred form of communication is, the timing of the submission (is there only 1 day until the effective date?), and the need for documentation. 

With the reality that insurance is fast paced, it can be difficult to find time to address something twice.

There are benefits and drawbacks to both types of communication as well. 

Email is helpful because: 
  • The physical document can be reviewed and referenced throughout the process. 
  • Bullet points can help to organize the need for information. 
  • Time stamps are included. 
Drawbacks to email include: 
  • The time it takes to type out and address all the information required. 
  • A potentially daunting number of items to address. 
  • The potential for the message to be lost or missed depending on the number of emails in the recipient’s inbox.
When calling to address required information, benefits include the ability to: 
  • Uncover a larger story through conversation. 
  • Quickly respond to items that may already be known. 
  • Hear the tone of the conversation rather than inferring through email.
Drawbacks of calling include: 
  • The need for follow-up documentation via email. 
  • The lack of a time stamp or a record of the conversation. 
  • Difficulty recalling all of the answers from the conversation verbatim. 
For me, the most important thing to remember is that the person on the other end of the communication is human. It’s important to take their feelings and needs into consideration.

Working in Partnership

Although there isn’t one answer for the laundry list, we are in control of the relationship we can build based on our communication. 

JM Wilson’s inclusive culture allows each underwriter to work with agents to determine the most beneficial communication method.

Flexibility, kindness, and understanding are the key components to a truly successful transaction. We may not be able to win every piece of business, but the relationship we build with effective and caring communication can make all the difference.

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