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Does This Sound Like YOUR Underwriter?

Author: Chris Boggs

To keep things fair, and to avoid the idea that I'm just picking on agents (see: Are You One of THOSE Agents?), I wanted to make sure agents got their opportunity to talk about what their underwriters have done. And what the agents told me is just as amusing as what the underwriters said.

Following is a sampling of some of the stories agents sent. But before enjoying these accounts, remember the purpose of this two-part series for both sides of the agent/underwriter equation to realize that each side needs the other. At the very least each side needs to other so we all can enjoy a good laugh.

Here we go:

  • I requested that several pieces of equipment be removed from an equipment schedule. When the endorsed policy arrived I reviewed it and noted that one piece of equipment had not been removed.  I called the underwriter simply to find out why this piece was still on the schedule. The underwriter stated, 'I didn't think I should remove a new piece of equipment.' I hated to break it to the underwriter that New London was a brand name and not the condition of the equipment." To paraphrase a rap song from the 1980s, sometimes underwriters just don't understand.
  • I was getting professional liability quotes for an electrical engineer. I requested quotes for $1 million and $2 million limits. The underwriter called and said, 'You won't ever need limits that high.' I said, 'Really? Please put that in writing, sign it and send it with your quote for lower limits.' I received the quote for the higher limits the next day." Why would an underwriter tell anyone the limits are too high?
  • I called one of my underwriters to ask him some questions about a proprietary endorsement specific to his company. When I gave the underwriter (who had been with the carrier more than five years) the name of the endorsement and the form number the underwriter asked, 'Is that one of our forms?'" I really can't add to this.
  • I was working on a homeowners' policy. During my conversation with the underwriter she asked, 'How far from the beach is the property?' (I live in a state on the Atlantic Ocean.) My response, 'If the water makes it this far we have far more to worry about than a homeowners' policy loss." The underwriter said, 'So I guess this isn't near the water.' I said, Only if you consider 150 miles to be near the water.'" This is why underwriters should know their territory (and not be constantly moved from territory to territory).
  • We submitted a homeowner's application to one of our carriers and the underwriter declined the risk. We knew the risk met all underwriting guidelines so we called to inquire the reason for the declination. The underwriter said, 'Your application stated that there is a two-ton air conditioner on the roof; it could come crashing through the roof any minute.' Obviously we had to educate the underwriter regarding what tonnage meant in relation to air conditioning units." I wonder if the underwriter ever told anyone about this.
  • I had a church insured that had no owned vehicles. The church wanted to increase their hired and non-owned (H&NO) auto limit from $500,000 to $1,000,000. The only way my underwriter would do it was to get the drivers information on anyone in the church that might drive their vehicle on church business. Knowing that would be a major undertaking, I asked her if she would quote me an umbrella policy that would provide excess limits over the church's H&NO auto limits. She did it without hesitation for a couple of hundred dollars and never asked for a drivers list." Wow; just wow!
  • A few years ago, I was securing Professional Liability quotes for a county medical examiner's office that I wrote.  I sent the submission to several carriers and one of the underwriters asked, 'How many walk-in patients do they see on a weekly basis?'"  I'm pretty sure that would be none.
  • When I was an agent in Phoenix, Arizona, I provided a complete underwriting submission for a carpet cleaning operation. The carrier I used was very competitive for this class of business, but they had one stipulation - they would not write franchises. But that was not an issue in this case. Long story short, I wrote the business, the whole process couldn't have worked out better. Fast forward 24 hours and I get a scathing email from the underwriter letting me know she's cancelling the policy and chastising me for omitting the fact this was a franchised operation. I politely emailed her that she's mistaken and that he's not a franchised operation to which she replies with a link to a website for a group of franchised carpet cleaners, operating under the same name. The only fact she missed was that this franchise was available ONLY in select states, EAST of the Rocky Mountains; I replied back that I appreciated her diligence but that Phoenix, Arizona is WEST of the Rocky Mountains. We ultimately agreed this was an eligible risk." Well, how did you do in geography? Not everyone knows where the Rockys are.
  • I was renewing a package policy for one of my favorite accounts. The insured had made permanent additions to the building which was owned and insured by a separate entity. I submitted the renewal statement of values indicating a blanket limit for the business personal property (BPP) and the Tenants Improvements and Betterments (I&B). The underwriter assured me that these could not be blanketed. I pointed out that it was previously written that way, but the underwriter would not allow it. I sent in a change request blanketing the BPP and I&B and the policy was endorsed with no question." Just in case you were wondering, ISO's Property Rule 32.D.1. specifically allows the blanketing of I&B with BPP.
  • The underwriter forwarded me an inspection report with notes stating that everything about the risk looked just fine with one exception... the underwriter wanted the deck on the back of the building to have railings. I went over to the insured's premises snapped a photo of the 'deck' in question. I emailed the photo to the underwriter with the caption, 'It's called a loading dock.'" Deck vs. dock one vowel can make a big difference.
  • After submitting a complete submission on a plumbing risk to an underwriter and discussing it with her by phone, she asked, 'What do you want from me on this?' The only response I could think of was, 'A quote would be nice.'"
  • I have a homeowners policy with (not gonna tell ya who) for one of my clients. The mortgage company called to ask me why the name of the city was missing the last character (letter S). The carrier was contacted and asked why this was. The carrier stated that their system didn't have enough characters to include the last letter of the city name. I asked if it was possible to somehow add the last character so that the mortgage company would be satisfied. The underwriter's response, 'It is what it isThe mortgagee can demand what it wants' Probably the least professional response I have ever encountered in this industry to an inquiry. A simple 'No' would have sufficed."

In all seriousness, agents and underwriters truly are a team trying to do the best for the insured. Agents and underwriters have comical anecdotes that make this industry fun; but more importantly they have worked together to build one of the most important industries in a free-market economy. Neither exists without the other in scientific terms, agents and underwriters have a symbiotic relationship.

So, can we all get along now?

Republished with permission of Insurance Journal's Academy of Insurance

Last Updated:  July 5, 2019

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