How to get underwriters to step outside the box

Posted on: 28 March 2018

Industry News icon

By Nick Hobbs, director of broker markets

Just recently I’m often asked how brokers could engage better with underwriters. That’s a reflection of the present variable market! It stands to reason that being able to speak to an underwriter about the finer detail of a risk is undoubtedly valuable and best represents the client’s position. By referencing their own expertise, brokers can get even more out of this relationship – and not all of it is always quite so obvious…

First, it pays to be selective when starting a conversation. We often see a presentation that’s blasted out to many insurers in the market, but this is a space where one size definitely doesn’t fit all. Instead, use your knowledge of insurers’ underwriting approaches to select those most likely to be able to offer cover, and tailor your presentation to them. 

Underwriters will always want to know as much as possible about the risk. That’s not always possible to satisfy but providing them with a comprehensive fact find at the outset will help them get under the skin of the risk, saving time and even leading to outcomes that would never have been explored if they’d only had the basics.

It can also be useful to go beyond the rating information when presenting a non-standard risk. By sharing details about a client’s needs and expectations, which the broker is uniquely placed to do, means it’s much easier for an underwriter to deliver a solution that’s right for them and with benefits for all parties. 

Similarly, brokers should talk to the underwriter about why they should consider the client differently. On paper, the implications of some of those elements of risk can be lost, or it may superficially appear as something that’s outside of their normal appetite. By sharing the full story, including details such as the client’s plans and the relationship with them, an underwriter is more likely to step outside of the box and take a chance on a risk they might have otherwise declined.

It is often also worth encouraging a tripartite client-broker-insurer-client relationship. Bringing together the client and the underwriter will add that further understanding of the risk and how this will be approached, aiding retention and enhancing client relationships.

It’s also important not to focus on just one piece of business. Maintaining a strong pipeline is a key function of a new business underwriter so apprising them of upcoming risks puts everyone in a much stronger position.

As with any good relationship, the dialogue needs to flow both ways with the underwriter providing the right insight into the insurer’s approach.

Further, over the last few years, insurers have expanded their propositions considerably, with additional features and broad coverages delivering value to clients. Added-value services can be a key differentiator. For instance, a risk management service such as Allianz’s Risk Director can significantly benefit a client’s business, even if they never have to make a claim.

It’s also worth exploring occasionally some other of the insurer’s strengths, such as its claims paying ability, risk innovations and customer survey scores. They should be part of your discussion with an underwriter and all help to demonstrate to clients that the best possible insurer partner has been selected.

This knowledge will undoubtedly strengthen the broker’s relationships with their clients. After all aggregators sell on price; brokers sell on their expertise and insight into all the elements that make up a client’s insurance contract. 

Finally, even in a world that is becoming increasingly digital, person to person will always work best. If it’s important then make the call or arrange the meet. Business conducted by e-mail will rarely get the best result and there’s not been a better time to start the dialogue.


This blog was originally posted on Insurance Age's website. It may not be replicated in any other publications.