Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Underwriter Q&A

Hi guys,

This post would hopefully address some of the common questions that I get from housemans (in plural form, is it housemans? or housemen?) in regards to what being an underwriter is all about.

Please take note that I'm just entering my second week of training as an underwriter, so I might not be giving you the most accurate description regarding the job as an underwriter. Nevertheless, I'll see what I can do. Here goes.

Question 1: What is an underwriter? Is it like an undertaker? (common lame jokes that I often get, hardy har har)

Answer: No, an underwriter is not an undertaker. There are a few types of underwriting, which includes medical underwriting, financial underwriting, etc. But the one you should be concerned about is medical underwriting since you have a medical education background. Do note that the underwriting categories usually overlaps, so even a medical underwriting case would have some financial aspects that need to be taken care of, although you don't have to worry too much about this.
Underwriting is basically going through a client's personal and medical details, so that you can decide whether you should approve his insurance application, decline it, or perhaps approve it but at a higher premium.

Encik Ali would like to apply for an insurance plan. He filled up a few forms containing his personal info and his health background. He submitted these forms to his agent, and subsequently the case will be passed to you for you to decide whether to approve or decline his application.
So your job is to go through the relevant documents, which includes details of the insurance plan that he is planning to purchase, his health background, his personal details, and so on. A few scenarios are possible:

Scenario A) If his forms are correctly filled, and he has no major medical problems, perhaps just a simple appendicectomy 10 years ago and now he's fully recovered, then you can just approve the application.

Scenario B) Let's say he declares that he has hypertension, then you might want to impose a higher premium for him, since he is at more risk to develop hypertensive complications in the future. It's only fair. You might also want to request for a medical checkup at one of the panel clinics, to see if he already has any complications from hypertension, and how is his current blood pressure control. If a medical checkup seems insufficient, then you can request for a medical report from the doctor who's been attending to him.

Scenario C) Perhaps he might declare that he already has hypertension for 20 years, and that his kidneys are failing, and he is also under cardiology folllow-up for a heart problem. Then in this case, you might want to decline his application altogether since it is very likely that he will make a claim in the near future.

Although it might seem cruel to reject Encik Ali's application, it's what you have to do to keep the company running. If you're going to approve everyone's application and then everyone starts making claims, then who's gonna pay them once the company runs out of money? This is an insurance company mind you, not Bank Negara. Sorry Encik Ali.

Question 2: How much salary should I expect?

Answer: Somewhere between RM2300-3000, depending on the company, and your degree and experience. Experienced underwriters might get around RM3500. This will further increase once you have gained more experience and you gain the authority to handle more complex cases.

Question 3: What's the job like?

Answer: Come to work at 8.30am, switch on your computer, and start doing the cases until you finish at 5.30pm. Expect some back pain at the end of the day. On average you would be handling 20-35 cases per day. At the end of the month, there will be tons of cases, and you might need to stay back until 9 or 10pm. You might need to work on Saturdays as well.  But you can claim your overtime.

My job is a bit different though, since I'm just a part-time underwriter. They hired me because they wanted someone with a medical background to train new underwriters on the medical aspect of underwriting, as well as someone to liaise (that's hard to spell) with the panel clinics. So I'm not doing full-time underwriting.

In terms of working environment, it's awfully silent here. Just the sound of keyboards going 'clack, clack, clack'. It's like being in a library... with keyboards. No one seems to be chatting casually, even during lunch time. But perhaps other companies are different.

Question 4: How do I apply?

Answer: Browse through insurance companies websites, and look under the "Careers" or "Join Us" tab. Sometimes they have an online job application form, but sometimes you have to e-mail them. If you have to e-mail them, provide a nice cover letter.
Other sites: JobStreet, JobsDB, JobsCentral, etc. Just type "underwriter" or "underwriting" in the search box.

Question 5: Wow, thanks for all the info man! Can I treat you to a nice dinner tonight?

Answer: Yes. Yes you can. I'm a bit short on cash. Naah, just kidding. I'll survive.