Part of our Underwriter-to-Underwriter blog series
By Carolyn McAvinn, FLMI, AALU, PMC-IV
November 12, 2020
I saw a job posting for a life underwriting position the other day that caught my attention. Most of the required qualifications were typical, must have a minimum of $1M approval authority, a minimum of five years of life underwriting experience preferred, etc. However, there was one new and surprising requirement: Must have been a production underwriter within the last year. That made me pause and wonder why the tight timeframe for production experience? Do technical underwriting skills now have a lifespan?
Underwriters new to a company may need to familiarize themselves with a new underwriting manual and age/amount requirement grid, understand the company's risk tolerance and learn how to navigate the politics of their new organization. However, the technical risk part of underwriting has historically been consistent company-to-company.
So why the requirement? Although our industry has historically been slow to change, it is finally embracing and implementing change at a pace that is now visible. We are introducing new tools that are preserving mortality assumptions, expediting cycle times and providing real-time, or near real-time decisions to customers. Underwriters now need to keep up with these changes to stay competitive.
The integration of new data sources in lieu of traditional requirements (medical questions via long applications or exams and full insurance lab profiles) is exciting for many, but challenging and a little scary for others. Underwriting itself has always required the ability to maneuver through the 'gray'. Using new data sets adds both subtle and more complex shades to those gray areas.
Underwriters in 2025 will still have manuals and guidelines and be assessing risk with the goal of accurate mortality assessment. But there will be less 'one size fits all' age/amount grids. They will likely not be limited to production review only. The successful Underwriters of 2025 will likely have a broader view of risk, and they will have all or many of the following characteristics:
Sales-focused mindset aimed at growth and earning a customer's business.
Keen awareness of other companies that are competing in the space with like product(s); pricing and distribution channel(s).
Understanding of how an insurance policy is priced and how mortality is measured.
Deeper understanding of distribution, the markets served and the products sold (how and why).
Polished negotiation skills and the ability to communicate the value of new data sets.
Knowledge of the external market conditions that impact the profitability of products.
Understanding of the reinsurance arrangements/treaties that support the company, the underwriting department and each product.
Strong awareness of the vendor products used internally, those competing in the market and the differences between them.
Ability to represent the company at market facing event in a variety of ways - panels; presentations; virtual meetings; conferences; etc.
The ability to work in tandem with data scientists in ways to utilize the data in various ways to support business initiatives (e.g.-understanding your customers; predict placement ratios and persistency).
The role will be more broadly tied to customized pricing, the cost of underwriting and the use of data over the lifespan of the policy. Age and Amount charts will be gathering dust on a forgotten supply shelf or email folder and requirements will become sequenced and customized by customer profiles and attributes. With an abundance of digital data source options, it will take a mindful underwriter to distinguish when they have enough information to assess the risk.
So getting back to that job posting, it makes sense that vetting new underwriting candidates is becoming a little more complicated. Screening applicants will now involve more than making sure the candidate can acclimate to the company. It is becoming an essential step to ensuring that candidates can assess risk in the era of new and evolving data sets. I look forward to watching how the role and the job requirements evolve.
As you our members adjust to a changing industry, MIB is growing and evolving with you. Our Checking Service has historically been our keynote offering, but we also provide a variety of data driven solutions that help underwriters keep pace with the evolving need to get more information sooner. MIB provides services that offer helpful insights to minimize risk and fraud by helping to validate applicant identity, understand applicant behavior and lifestyles, and obtain medical histories — all in a way that adds efficiency to the underwriting process, without being cost-prohibitive.
For more information about our products and services, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Carolyn McAvinn
Carolyn McAvinn is the Director of Business Development for MIB, Inc. Prior to joining MIB in late 2018, she held various underwriting roles supporting multiple companies, product lines and distribution platforms. These included underwriting management, direct line production underwriting in the life, disability and long-term care markets and assisting with the development of underwriting engine automation and accelerated underwriting programs. Carolyn is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts- Amherst and currently serves as a board member of the MUD (Metropolitan Underwriting Discussion) Group in NYC.
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