What makes an underwriter a trusted adviser?

In many areas of financial services, the role of underwriters is broadening beyond their traditional responsibility for assessing and pricing risk. Underwriters are now often seen as being the ‘deal makers’, responsible for identifying opportunities, understanding customer needs, shaping solutions, negotiating and closing deals.

At the same time, we believe that the most successful will change the way in which they are seen by their customers.

An underwriter who is still focussed on assessing and pricing risk can often sustain a transactional relationship with intermediaries and customers. This means approaching business on a case by case basis, and deciding the ‘right’ response in terms of product and price.

In more complex markets, these underwriters may develop beyond a transactional relationship and be seen as ‘experts’, providing insight, experience and knowledge in specialist areas.

But in the new world, the very best underwriters go a step further and become ‘trusted advisers’. They are then seen not just as technical specialists but as the ‘first port of call’ for advice.

What does it take to develop that kind of relationship?

The first element still has to be expertise, as a trusted adviser has to be seen as knowledgeable.

Beyond that, of course, they also have to be seen as reliable. Reliable in the simple sense of returning a call when they say they will and also reliable in the sense that they will give real consideration to an enquiry and a professional response.

There are however also much more personal elements that are required. For example:

  • Being able to identify, understand and adapt to different personality types, developing a rapport which encourages intermediaries and customers to openly discuss opportunities and explore potential solutions
  • Being seen to operate in a way that has the end customer and intermediary’s interests at heart, as well as meeting the needs of their own internal stakeholders

All of these components need to be in place to enable underwriters to do more than process individual cases. To achieve this requires more than just a training course. It requires a programme that looks at all of the elements that drive current behaviours, and which embeds real, long term change.