NAILBA Perspectives Virtual Symposium Special Edition - Page 22

UNDERWRITING The art of Underwriting Advocacy Risk assessment is both an art and a science. Christopher Bottaro is the Senior Vice President of Insurance for Valmark Financial Group. He is responsible for the vision, strategy and execution of life insurance marketing, underwriting, new business and in force insurance solutions. Plato once wrote, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” Winston Churchill stressed “Never let a good crisis go to waste” and Albert Einstein philosophized that “in the middle of difficulty, lies opportunity.” Each of these well-known adages from history’s best thinkers is apropos to the impact of COVID-19 on the life insurance underwriting and new business process. To continue to offer coverage, manufacturers, distributors and advisors alike have been forced to find creative process solutions. Underwriting and new business processes have seen some of the largest transformations of any area during this time. The integration of automation, technology and new data sources have dramatically changed the process of assigning a rate class and issuing a policy. The pandemic has truly been a watershed moment, moving underwriting processes forward several years in a matter of mere months! At Valmark Financial Group, we view underwriting as having two facets: pricing (rate class) and the administrative aspects of placing a contract in force. During this time of change, our Underwriting Advocacy process has come to the forefront as we partner with carriers and advisors to distribute life insurance using evolving digital processes. Defining Underwriting Advocacy We define Underwriting Advocacy as “the art of packaging, clarifying, and negotiating to obtain the optimal underwriting class for the client in the least intrusive and fastest manner possible.” Risk assessment is both an art and a science. The only truly negotiable aspect of an insurance contract is the underwriting class assigned by the insurance company. To secure the best possible price for a client, the ability to thoroughly shop and understand the marketplace is critical. Data on which carriers “play well” in certain niches is helpful to ensure a smooth process and optimal outcome. And, because the underwriting space is complex and remarkably fluid right now, it’s critical to have in house talent with top-notch technical expertise, resources and relationships to advocate on behalf of producers and their clients with carrier underwriters who may not have access to a complete, traditional file. Inviting strangers in the home Paramed exam challenges, for example, have been exacerbated by “quarantine life” as proposed insureds balk at the idea of inviting a stranger into their home. Enhancements to accelerated processes to allow for more policies issued without a paramed exam has been critical to securing coverage. Each carrier’s accelerated process is different in terms of guidelines, restrictions, and success rates. At Valmark, Underwriting Advocacy involves closely tracking the nuances of each process, including keeping data on the percentage of cases moving to issue without an exam at each carrier. Arming our team of underwriting experts with data allows them to provide guidance to advisors, enabling them to target the best carrier for a case and helping to ensure an efficient client experience. 22 Perspectives Q3 Special Edition 2020