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“Resolved: Underwriters Must Be Increasingly Prudent In Their …”

I have been part of many panels before many an audience over my four decades in the life and health insurance business. Usually a panelist is constrained from being controversial or opinionated by the ground rules laid down by either the moderator or the organization running the event. Traditionally from my recollections there have been very few meetings of underwriters where the panel is controversial, meaningful fun and leaves the audience with a message to think about. 

In 1994 George Brennan, one of a large crop of Canadian iconic underwriters who played a large role in all associations, put together a great panel (personally speaking and from memories of audience feedback) that really got the juices flowing and left many a valid point to ponder for the audience. George let the four panelists do their own thing and he did not encumber the spoken word or the venom so playfully thrown around.

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Is There Life After Underwriting? ( A History Lesson Perhaps?)

I wrote the following article as it was part of a presentation I did with the great Don Frost at the January 1983 Cholua Seminar. In a recent search of my archives for background material for a book I came across the article. After reading it I felt that today’s underwriters should read it as a history lesson. Today’s leadership should read it to show that some things change for the worse — the lack of meaningful industry statistics on what is issued standard, substandard or declined. The CLHIA to my knowledge has dropped the industry stats for some years leaving an underwriting leader wondering “is my company rating and or declining more than the industry average?” Or then again who cares. 

For the past three years I have heard from many large advisors (large by size of the clientele not their waistline) and MGAs that rated cases are few and declines are many. I have even had a senior underwriting leader say it is irrelevant as the key to today’s underwriting leadership is to get the standard through as quickly as possible. There seems to be less competition be it from insurers or reinsurers for the case that is not quite standard. The last time that complacency was around there were challenges to our right to underwrite! 

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Hate To Be Critical Of One’s Hosts, But …

I was still not convinced 100% by the end of the day. But now lets fill in the information I took away from a day with peers.

Being outside the decision making spectrum of the insurance world it is less likely that I would be invited to an industry leader’s (who services the risk selection domain) infomercial masked behind meals and golf. When asked I said yes not because of the meals or the golf (my golf game needs much remedial effort) but because the infomercial that was to be laid out was intriguing and could perhaps represent the next great turning point in the life and living benefit insurance world. I honestly and without fingers crossed attended even without the two meals and golf. The only down side to the event was that it would take up the whole day from 8:00 Am to 9:00 PM. I also wondered who from the decision making ranks of insurance would give up a whole day away from countless and meaningless meetings to attend an infomercial.

I could write a short thank you and say I enjoyed the day with the usual plaudits embellished with great thanks for the food, camaraderie, golf prices (not for longest drive or nearest pin so lets leave it at that), and anything else that came to mind when writing the Hallmark type thank you. Instead I decided to write an opinion paper on the day. I felt an urge deep within to be constructively critical knowing some would applaud the opinions while others would feel chastised for what was said or not said during the 13 hours. The following is written to constructive and yet it may end any chance of future invites to infomercials regardless of how they are dressed up.

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Two Hymn Books and Two Choir Masters

or Advisors Never Refer To Underwriters As Refulgent (A Geck Maybe but Never Refulgent)

A 2011 opinion on the relationship between advisor and underwriter.

Many many years ago I wrote an article for the now dormant Marketing Options magazine (dearly missed by all while fondly remembered by writers and readers) about the conflict often created by miscommunication or no communication between advisor and underwriter. Thus, to say that the seemingly constant battle to get a life or living benefit insurance application through the mysterious and far from transparent new business department is new has not been around for long. Like most Canadians the advisor has a short memory (just look at how we continue to elect politicians who mere months prior to election screwed us royally) and the underwriter is not paid to remember so they never stored the historical perspective anyway. This chasm of misunderstanding, poor communication and lack of empathy between two integral parts to getting premium in the door to keep the life business going strong is not new but merely in an exaggerated state unseen in intensity in the last 41 years.

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