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Career Story: Reinsurance Underwriter

Reinsurance Underwriter

Job Title: Treaty Reinsurance Underwriter

Type of Company: Large global provider of insurance and reinsurance products. Reinsurance is insurance for insurance companies and is a way of spreading risk between a number of companies.

Education: BA, Business Administration, Marquette University

Previous Experience: I have worked as a primary casualty underwriter and a facultative reinsurance underwriter.

Job Tasks: I make decisions on when to accept and how to price reinsurance transactions. An example of what I mean would be what typically happens when someone insures a large building. Let's say for the sake of argument that the building's insurance company has issued a policy for $20,000,000 but decides it doesn't want to risk that much alone. It decides, on the contrary, to spread the risk around: to keep a portion for itself -- say, $5,000,000 -- but reinsure the rest: to buy insurance (referred to now as re-insurance) for the balance. I have to decide if the risk of providing a portion of that $15 million is an acceptable one, and then decide what to charge for it and decide what exclusions and conditions to insert in the agreement.

I also do some selling, visiting other insurance companies and reinsurance brokers to offer my services and ask for reinsurance prospects to price. I do a fair amount of traveling, visiting clients and performing underwriting audits. The underwriting audits consist of looking at a sampling of files to determine if the company we are reinsuring is writing the types of business that they claim they are, and confirming they are following accepted industry procedures. I have to have good understanding of the basics of insurance as well as reasonable math skills to understand the pricing methods for reinsurance.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of the job is that there is a lot of contact with clients and brokers. Building long-term relationships is important in the reinsurance business. You look at a lot of unique and unusual situations that require reinsurance so it is not a job where there are simple answers to routine situations.

The negative side is time away from home due to travel. At certain time of the year the travel can be quite heavy. Another negative is that the individual reinsurance transactions can be complicated and documenting them for internal approval is often tedious.

Job Tips: To pursue a career in reinsurance, it is best to get a good primary insurance underwriting background. This is the best way to learn your insurance coverage issues and learn how the business works. Some colleges have insurance schools but not too many. If you have a basic business degree or math degree, many insurance companies will hire you into their training program and teach you the insurance side of the business.

Additional Thoughts: What surprised me most about the insurance industry was the number of career options available. I hadn't even heard of reinsurance until I got into the insurance business. There are jobs for many types of people, from those who like sales to math majors who'd prefer to work on pricing business.

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