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.


  1. Hi Danny,

    Congratulations on landing yourself in the world of life underwriting!

    All the best to you.


    1. Hi bro,

      haha, just starting to get used to it. Thanks for your advises all this while. :)

  2. hi how about health information tech or biotech after quitting ho ? need some light there .. would very much appreciate it .. thanks !

    1. Hi, i have no idea what can you do in the biotech field with a medical degree. You have to google this one yourself, cos that's pretty much my main source of info as well. As you might have realized, i'm just another HO who quit his housemanship. I'm just as clueless as you guys.

      For health information though, what you can do, is join some companies, for example companies which provide clinical softwares to GPs, medical centres, and hospitals. Just google "clinical software Malaysia" and you should get a few relevant results. You can either be in the sales team, or in the development team, etc.

      That's as much light as i can shine on you. I'm just a candle, google is like a fucking floodlight.

  3. hi, tanx alot Danny, u have no idea how much ur blog had helped me out.seriously, tanx alot, and i didnt noe bout underwriting until i read ur blog and it seems not too bad, million times better then what i had to go thru, my question is did u apply for the job after u sent in ur resignation letter to HR at hosp,cause as far as im concern, one hav to put in reference as well in our cv rite? n that wud be one of the doc that v worked with before, am i right? do correct me if im wrong. i havent sent in my letter yet, cz i tot i wud get a job first at least it wud cool down my mum. so im kinda confused wen it comes to the reference part in the resume.

    1. hi shinni,
      first of all, if u read through the blog, u would find out that i still havent submitted my resignation letter. mainly because my parents are strongly against this, and they still cling to the non-existent hope that i would continue my housemanship someday.
      reference in cv is not a must, but it would look nice. i just put my friends as reference, at least they have the title "Doctor", so at a glance my references look pretty cool, cos so many "doctors" are there.

      anyway, dont worry too much about it, i doubt they would actually call up your references to ask how u were doing, cos u're changing ur career path already. it doesnt matter anymore how did u do while u were a HO, cos now u're not applying to become a doctor anymore.

      moving on to my new job. yeah, i kinda like it. some of the seniors suck, and some of the bosses suck, but the job itself is quite alright. but it depends on the person, cos for me, i like doing a desk job with a computer, so that's why i like this job.

      hope that helped! :)

    2. tanx alot danny, was very helpful, n i kinda like doin desk job too, thats y i was quite interested when i read about the job description u wrote in ur blog,
      n from the bottom of my heart tanx alot cause ur blog has helped me alot goin thru this difficult phase of my life...my mum is not in proper talking terms with me, thinking il get bck to da job which i noe i wud never, at times i jz wish they cud experience the life of a HO at least for a day.
      Anyway, screw the stupid job, the biggest mistake i made in my life,
      I was wondering what wud be the salary of an underwrter inclusive of OT cause u said that basic would be around RM2500-RM3000, just want to noe a rough estimation .Hope to get a job soon...tanx once again

    3. huh, it seems that our moms very similar. totally understand how u feel.
      but dont worry, they'll come to accept your decision one day.

      in terms of salary, for starters, expect around 2500-3000. 2500 if u're like really fresh, never even done housemanship. close to 3000 if u're already houseman for quite some time. but dont forget that this is before deducting ur epf and socso and tax and stuff. expect 300-400 less than that for your net salary.

      if a company offers you less than 2.5k, spit in his face and tell him that even a dishwasher earns more than that nowadays.

  4. and by the way, how is ur new working experience? hope all is good...

  5. M a rebel, sometimes i punch people, but most of the time i just laugh and stoned. I dont like messing with people because i dont like it if people messes with ny life. I do what i want, i like cars, AMG black series is my goal, i play musics, i love socializing with people, i also love my girlfriend who comes from a rich family and you know how much my marriage is gonna cost, money is a little bit of a problem to me lately so i decided to call SPA for an interview and voila they interviewed me last 2 weeks because somehow i have a medical degree in my piles of files. Curretly im a jobless punk who wakes up just to sleep again and sometimes check on the mailbox for any letter from the commisionary. Applied for serdang, hukm, and kajang, live nearby. So what say you man? Am i fucked or am i fucked?

    1. hey, at least u got an interview with SPA. what position did they interview u for anyway? anyway, try to enjoy being jobless while u can. haha. cos work aint gonna be fun, unless u're one of the rare talented people whose job is their passion as well.

      dont worry about fucking up your life, cos for most of us here, it's pretty much fucked up the moment we took up medicine. it doesnt get any worse. so start fresh if there's nothing holding u back. start from zero. build your dreams again.

    2. Position is pegawai perubatan siswazah pretty much what you guys were talkin here, gonna try for some departments first i guess, wont hurt. But reading this blog i was all like "oh man social suicide man, what have i gotten myself into"

    3. oh, so u havent started your housemanship yet? then give it a try first. it'll be tough no doubt. but if that's your passion, then you're gonna sail through it. if not, then you'll become me. hahah

  6. danny. so is it that you quit or mia? cause from your replies it seems that you are mia.

    any vacancies in your company? cause I am about to rock the boat now..hoho


  7. oh, i MIA'ed actually. but i informed the HR of course, that i wont be coming to work. the blog title is just to make it catchy. it would sound very weird if i name the blog as "MIA-ing housemanship", u know.

    i think there are vacancies, cos they are hiring people quite often. if you'd like to apply as an underwriter here, just e-mail me your resume and i'll pass it along to HR.

    1. hi danny....i quit housemanship yesterday,and somehow quite suprised to found your blog..i mean,i'm not that alone after all..today is my second day jobless, hey i'm interested in this underwriting thing...what's ur email?

    2. hi, welcome to the club. lol.

      here's my email: danny.sp87@gmail.com

      i'll forward ur resume to HR and see what they can offer. but be warned that this isnt exactly your dream job. it's just a means to survive for the time being, a stepping stone. and it wont be easy. but if u're up for it, drop me an email. :)

  8. Bro, another question
    What is the difficulty and challenge you have as an underwriter and how could you manage it

    1. Hi bro.

      Working as underwriter itself doesnt really pose much of a challenge compared to the glorious life of a houseman. But these are some of the things that might be of concern to some people:

      -u have overtimes. Especially during month end. Safe to say the last 4-5 days of each month u will have to stay back until 9pm or 11pm. And sometimes Saturdays too.
      -you need to take exams in order for u to get faster promotion or make it easier to switch company if u want to. i would say it would take about 2 years to step up to the next level of underwriting authority, and get allowances for that.
      -pay is low. Fresh grads are getting around 2.5k. Those with experience between 2.7-3.5k. Not including OT, which usually adds up 100-600 per month (average 150).
      -even though u have medical experience, u dont have underwriting or insurance experience. you might know the disease inside out, but u might not have a clue how to assess the case in terms of insurance.
      -bosses still treat u like shit, even if u're a doctor. not to say shit like how MO/specialist yell at you every morning, but shit similar to how Dilbert gets treated by his boss.
      -u'll get backache.
      -ur eyes will get tired from staring at the PC all day long.
      -the coffee machine makes the shittiest coffee
      -ur doctor friends will look down on you, even if they dont say it doesnt mean they dont feel that way
      -ur doctor friends will never understand why u quit HO
      -ur doctor friends will ask u "what does an underwriter actually do?" every single time u guys meet up.
      -ur future in-laws will look down on u
      -ur parents will be disappointed
      -u cant afford to dream of driving a BMW/Merc (not at ur current position at least), cant afford to go honeymoon at Maldives, cant afford to have your wedding at Hilton.
      -u'll be struggling to pay for the car that u've bought while u're still a HO (thinking that a HO can afford a nice car, so u bought one, not expecting that u're gonna quit someday)
      -society looks down on u
      -some people in this blog looks down on u

      So those are some of the challenges as an underwriter. The benefits though?
      -I'm fucking happy.

  9. Hi guys,

    just my two cents. note, i am not a HO myself. not from medical school background as well. stumbled upon this blog upon reading up frustrations on job seekers haha.

    if u guys ever wonder what kind of job you guys would fit into apart going to 'medical related' thing, there's aplenty out there! u can apply for so many jobs in the job portal, normal office job -there's alot! marketing, sales, even HR job. this is most common. or you can walk to the nearest mall and enquire how to apply as retail outlet manager! i believe what the recruiters would want to look at while filtering hundreds applicants are merely 'degree' and abit of 'experience'.

    once u get through the interviewer's door, it's all about how u present urself. no matter what background you're from. (unless the one that requires professional papers like finance or engineering) goodluck to everyone whom struggles!


  10. what a waste- talent, time and efforts, not to mention a huge sum burnt to go through years in medic school. in the end- I quit, as HO! That's no hero man, no matter how you look at it. one should have stayed on to complete the training then 'quit' to become MO in non-clinical positons, e.g. MO research in IMR or govt related R&D departments, MO in health functions, or get a MSc or PhD to work in an academia, or join the private sector in exec positions in pharma/chemical companies etc. etc.

    It is too easy to be an underwriter...sigh....just spm will do (during my time in 1960s, no qualification needed just be able to read and wrire). I did that part-time while reading for my degree in a professional field (legally defined and registrable in the Malaysian Acts).

    So, my take of the matter- NO HO SHOULD QUIT to become an underwriter.

  11. Hi Danny, are you still in underwriter role now? I'm from a headhunter company looking for underwriter if you're looking for a career change. You can reach me at belle@timesconsult.com. Thanks

  12. Danny bro =)

    My name is Eugene

    Actually I too quit my housemanship about 5 years ago as I had really poor health but today I am about to reapply for housemanship due to a recent discovery inspired in me when God guided me through my journey of healing


    Its just so amazing how I came across your blog just this morning when I am about to reapply for my housemanship ! XD

    Its really nice to meet you !

    Btw might you have an interest to learn start a trading business of your own ?

    such as import stuff and sell

    I can share with you how I done it

    I import stuff from this website http://taobao.com

    Here is the story of how I got started

    Full story here : https://www.facebook.com/notes/eugene-leong/2372015-how-god-taught-me-business-granted-me-freedom-to-pursue-freedom/10153345468076084

    So you have an interest to start business yourself or if you know anyone who have an interest to get to know about how to start up, please feel free ask me anything, I can show you all the doors I went through and I will be glad to be of assistance

    to be honest i started taking stock of goods from taobao with only RM 500 five years ago, its whats left of my houseman salary savings after i got a dslr and started my website FAME CHeRRy

    from taobao we can get virtually anything that china makes, even motorbike or furniture

    and if you have an ability to source for Malaysian products to export to china i would assume that you may earn a living selling on taobao as well earning china yuan which is a huge advantage against the rapidly depreciating ringgit

    the possibilities of this is just limitless really

    If you have any questions please feel free to ask me

    I am on facebook https://www.facebook.com/elsuperb

    My phone is 0123375629 ( I am also on whatsapp )

    Would be my pleasure to help you =)