What Does Field Underwriting Mean?
Field underwriting refers to the initial decision an insurance agent or producer makes about a potential client’s ability to meet the insurer's underwriting requirements. The agent decides after performing an initial evaluation of the asset or person.
The role of an insurance advisor has many facets. On one hand, they represent the client’s best interests, advises them on the coverage they need, breaks down policy terms, and ultimately helps their clients find the best coverage possible for their needs and budget.
On the other hand, an insurance advisor also represents the insurance company’s best interests at the same time. In this capacity, the advisor is responsible for accurately communicating the risks to the insurer and also to perform some field underwriting (sometimes referred to as frontline underwriting).
Because the advisor is the only one in the insurance sales process that has a close relationship with the client, they are in a position to discover things that underwriters and other people involved higher up in the chain would not know. The advisor likely knows the client personally and would therefore have a better grasp on the client’s personal reputation, business reputation, and other personal information.
Through good field underwriting practices, the advisor is able to set realistic expectations for their clients, make the underwriting process more efficient and less time consuming, and help the underwriters select better risks. Good field underwriting results in a win for the advisor, a win for the client, and a win for the insurer.
Insuranceopedia Explains Field Underwriting
Field underwriting is when the advisor, agent, or producer takes on some of the frontline underwriting tasks. Good field underwriting results in a win for all parties involved.
The advisor, agent, or producer typically has a personal relationship with their client and therefore understands things about the client and risk that underwriters and those further removed from the client would not be able to know. Some examples of things pertinent to field underwriting include the client’s personal and business reputation or how forthcoming they are with answers to underwriting questions like business activities or medical history. Basically, an agent who has that personal relationship can help underwriters assess the moral character of the applicant.
Besides increasing sales, field underwriting also serves as a way to prevent adverse selection. After gathering Information on the potential client and establishing that the person can meet the underwriting requirements, the agent signs off on the insurance company’s acceptance to provide insurance coverage to the insured party. The agent also gets an opportunity to explain to the potential client what they are to expect from the insurance company so that realistic goals are set.
Field underwriting begins with understanding your client. In a life or health insurance context, this might be to understand the client’s purpose and intent for purchasing insurance, source of funds that will be used to pay premiums, and even medical history. It may also help the underwriting process if the agent could elaborate on their relationship to the underwriter. If the agent has known the advisor for a long time and they have a good relationship, the underwriting process will likely go smoother because the agent is vouching for the client.
The next step is to include this field underwriting information as part of the submission process. When an advisor submits a risk to an underwriter for evaluation, you would include the standard application form required of all applicants, but you can also include in an email or as an attachment some additional comments. These comments would outline the information the agent gained through conversations with the client and other field underwriting activities. For example, you might mention to an underwriter that this is a long-time client of the brokerage with many policies or any expectations that the client has around premiums. This information helps the underwriter understand the risk better and allows them to work with the agent to win the business (ie. by adjusting premiums to beat competing quotes or to match client expectations as much as possible).
As the agent, you represent the client but also the insurer in equal parts. As the one “in the field”, the agent is the literal “eyes and ears” of the insurer providing them with valuable information that helps all parties involved from the client, to the agent, to the insurer.