The miscommunication between actuary and underwriter ranks right up there with the disconnect stemming from communication screw ups between advisor and underwriter. This session with the counter point being supplied by a young actuary tried hard to explain that the two sides must talk. We tried to show why they must talk. We tried to show how previous decades of only mythical communication had hurt our industry. Why some actuaries appear to see communicating with underwriters as almost demeaning has never made sense to me. The reluctance of underwriters to stand up for their opinions and their value has become common place regrettably. The session had some fun to it but there was a message buried in the rhetoric. Did anyone leave thinking they would change they way they interact with the expertise within underwriting? I doubt it as they rushed to lunch and or the next session. I wonder if they rushed off to discuss the impending investment meltdown.
I had the good fortune to be asked several times to present to the Cooperators agents/advisors in regional meetings. Each time I thoroughly enjoyed meeting the heart and soul of our business as represented by Cooperators distribution forces. They ask challenging questions and do not settle for casual answers. I was impressed at how eager they were to understand who is taking risk. Who sets the rules for underwriting? Why reinsurers are so dictatorial (a misconception perhaps fuelled by passive risk appraisers). The talk covered everything from “soup to nuts” (you can decide on who were the “nuts”). The passion and loyalty of the distribution teams matched the same passion and loyalty of their new business staff in Regina. Speaking to any part of Cooperators is always valuable to me and the company is one of the few in the world that has solidarity of purpose in all its disciplines. A favourite company for sure.
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Curacao in May is not as great as Curacao in January for a Canuck! This risk management meeting had attendance over 100 and represented various disciplines within claims and underwriting, from leaders to adjudicators. I started my travels with Caribbean adventures as an M&G traveller spreading the gospel of underwriting and reinsurance from the Bahamas to Guyana. The opportunity to return to the region and bring them up to date on reinsurance was a highlight of the year. The world is changed so greatly and I tried to get this audience into an aggressive mood to take on the reinsurers who they felt were being inconsiderate of their current issues. Pushing back against the very people who buy you meals, take you golfing, buy your sports tickets and in general just stroke your soft spot is not easy. IF insurers, especially underwriters do not push back they will be steam rolled (do we even have steam rollers these days?).
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A privately sponsored trip to speak to audiences in both Beijing and Shanghai about risk selection within the life and living benefit context with the side benefit of meeting some truly bright minds. The partner for the trip was the world renowned Bill Rabel of insurance education fame and someone who is really smart but also very practical. After giving a lecture on underwriting 101, I had to then turn it up a notch by doing what to the audience would be an advanced underwriting course. The audience was made up of predominantly academics (MA and PhD students studying accounting, actuarial or management skills) with lots of theoretical knowledge but a dearth of practical experience. All went well until, in both locations, I was asked if all reinsurers were corrupt! They had access to the internet and had been studying some of the recent NA fiascos with treaties and “financial reinsurance”, those cleverly constructed deals that are harder to unravel than modern plastic packaging.
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I have been to India 8 times and find the people eager to assimilate as much knowledge as possible. They want to be great underwriters, claims’ adjudicators and insurance leaders and thus are very inquisitive as to what worked (we have had some success) and what did not (we have had some blunders) in NA. In this emerging market of new entrants into the Indian insurance market the underwriter is fighting to be recognized as a necessity within the insurance industry. As they clamour to acquire self sufficiency in underwriting they are adding new staff faster than they can train. The number of experienced insurance pros is limited so any chance to spend some time with an old timer like me is appreciated (I do like to be appreciated). The audience of actuaries and underwriters needed to hear why great underwriting can compliment a great sales force while insuring prudent decisions make the pricing actuaries look like true geniuses. Never did get the 2008 speeches completed as the terrorists got in the way and I got out of Mumbai.
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Sometimes the use of humour is perfect to get a message across and if people have fun while expressing opinion and reaching conclusions what can be the harm? Years ago (2000 is indeed now in the category of years ago) just as the shift in risk from insurer to reinsurer was going through the radical change and reinsurers were rubbing their hands in glee over the volumes of risk they were assuming three of us representing insurer and reinsurer gave a presentation to be remembered (at least by me). It was a presentation that was fun to build and fun to deliver which in and of itself is a rarity these days. In looking at it today it is a presentation worth doing again and since it is one that can be done via self turning of pages please go there and proceed. I will let you, today’s reader, decide if it was worth the minutes out of the committee rooms. Thanks again to Bill Hazlewood and Ed Swerhone for sharing the moment.
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The interaction between the “field underwriter” (today’s distributor, advisor, agent or broker) and the “home office life underwriter” has never been tested more. This speech has been given to distributors and their leader plus a few select underwriters and covers the relationship and where it has to go. There is a lot here on the professional modification of action needed by the distributor to enhance their reputation and work with not against the underwriter. It tries to instil a paradigm shift in thin king and action in the distributor which should pay off in relationship with the life underwriter and the growth of their business.
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Another look at the future from the present. A major software vendor and manufacturer asked Ross to paint a picture of the world of underwriting and risk selection and where it has to go in terms of the bigger new business environment and the (in)tolerances of senior management. The presentation fit into a new release of CGI’s future and tried to highlight they were indeed at the front of the line in realizing what the insurers needed going forward.
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The easiest underwriting in the world but the hardest to do right. The textbooks are vague on how to assimilate the myriads of numbers and decide not just if the amount is right for life insurance but is the insurable interest there for now and the future. From Ross’ hard earned rules there is hope that the tough underwriting can be made simple and yet be prudent enough to keep the company off the front page of the press!
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This presentation or a derivative of it has been given to several groups of CEO’s and COOs in various countries and deals with the changes that are inevitable in every countries life industry. It handles the issues in people and software, underwriter and distributor, niche market versus mega market, independence versus convergence. It is a presentation that provokes discussion amongst the leaders and has been also given as follow up to boards of directors so they have an appreciation of where their company fits not only nationally but internationally.
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