R.E.S.P.E.C.T. – Why it is critical inside of the Insurance Operations Ecosystem

In the Insurance world, each and every role is critical to the existence, efficiency, and performance of our Industry. If this is the case, why does it seem that certain departments are eternally at odds?

For example, the responsibility of the Agency is to market and solicit a product to the public. In doing so, they must reach out to a variety of prospects, to seek out and pursue clients who are an ideal match for the carriers they represent. This process includes the preparation and submission of applications to the underwriters for review and approval. When the underwriter returns a less than favorable response, such as a declination, or higher than anticipated rate, the agent typically becomes frustrated. “How are we supposed to grow, when the underwriters are constantly preventing us from binding new business?”

When an Underwriter receives a new business submission, they have a duty and obligation to protect the financial position of their company. They must review the information provided, ask the appropriate follow up questions, and perform a detailed analysis to determine if this client fits the profile for an ideal insured. For as many quality applications which are received, and issued with very little follow up, there are those that require a more in depth review before a decision can be made. When these questionable applications arrive, the underwriter can become perplexed, and lament, “Why would the agency pursue this account?”

When a policy is finally issued, and coverage is in place, at some point during the life span of a policy, an insured experiences a loss. When the Claims Handler does their investigation, there may be details about the insured that were not previously disclosed. This tends to be a pain point for the claims handler. “Why would underwriting approve such a client? What was the agency thinking when they decided to sell this policy?”

Just by virtue of the opposing objectives that exist between the agency, the underwriter and claims handler, it is understood that tensions can arise. However, the coexistence and cooperation between each of these parties is what keeps our industry afloat. It’s when the proper prospective starts to wane that compassion and communication begins to deteriorate. The end result of this can be a diminished level of respect.

R.E.S.P.E.C.T… Find Out What It Means To Me – Aretha Franklin

As an Insurance Professional who has spent some time in each of these departments, I have experienced the frustration from all of these positions. What I have found to be ironic, is that while working in any given department, I have been placed in a position to defend the other prospective.

On countless occasions, I have overheard the conversations within the claims department, describing the agent’s office personnel as untrained CSRs. Additional comments may sound like, “What could they possibly understand about the ins and outs of a policy form? They are only required to sit for a single exam, and pass with a 70% or higher. Clearly, they do not have the capacity to understand the complexity of the product.”

The water cooler discussion around the underwriting department is slightly different. Many of their gripes are around claims and agency activities. Questions which are asked may sound like, “In reviewing loss runs, why wouldn’t the Claims Handler provide better information or context around a loss. How did they come up with that settlement amount? Why don’t we know more about the conditions which surrounded the loss that could assist in a better rating or renewal decision? And the agency? They will quote anything that can fog a mirror! Why aren’t they more selective about who they quote? Why are they always trying to slip these undesirable risks onto the books?”

And the Agency chatter isn’t any better. The underwriters are viewed as the gatekeeper with unreasonably high standards. Agents may ask, “Why can’t they accept my narrative into their underwriting decisions? This account has the potential to grow, and the referrals we could receive by placing this policy are phenomenal. Every time a renewal premium increases, it places me in a position of having to “resell” the policy to the client. It seems like the underwriters are seeking to unravel what the agency works so hard to put into place. And the claims handlers? Insurance sales are all about selling the promise. But, when a claims handler lacks the compassion, professionalism and responsiveness that I have sought to create, it creates a rift, and places my best accounts at risk.”

I get it. Many of the comments I just laid out are valid. I have slightly paraphrased to protect the identities of those involved in the conversations. But, when we acknowledge that we are all highly skilled, capable and well meaning professionals, it helps us to approach every situation as a united front, and most importantly, a cohesive team. When this is accomplished, we can treat each other with the RESPECT that is due.

About Precious Norman-Walton

Driven by a passion to help businesses and organizations succeed and prepare, I have served as an insurance professional for the past fifteen years. Starting off as a Sales and Marketing specialist in the agency environment, I fully understand what is involved with having the difficult conversations and making the appropriate recommendations. I have also experienced the tremendous gratification that comes with delivering the promise as a Claims Professional. My formal training as a Commercial Lines Underwriter has provided me with the industry acumen necessary to negotiate and place coverage for my clients, and lead a team of Commercial Insurance Advisors here in the Dallas/Ft Worth Metro area.

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