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"Underwriter" redirects here. For the United States Navy ships, see USS Underwriter.

In insurance, underwriting is to sign and accept liability and guaranteeing payment in case loss or damage occurs. Underwriting is provided by a large financial service provider such as a bank, insurer or investment house.

The name derives from the Lloyd's of London insurance market. Financial bankers, who would accept some of the risk on a given venture (historically a sea voyage with associated risks of shipwreck) in exchange for a premium, would literally write their names under the risk information that was written on a Lloyd's slip created for this purpose.[1]

Securities underwriting[edit]

[[ In summary, the securities issuer gets cash up front, access to the contacts and sales channels of the underwriter, and is insulated from the market risk of being unable to sell the securities at a good price. The underwriter gets a profit from the markup, plus possibly an exclusive sales agreement.

Also if the securities are priced significantly below market price (as is often the custom), the underwriter also curries favor with powerful end customers by granting them an immediate profit (see flipping), perhaps in a quid pro quo. This practice, which is typically justified as the reward for the underwriter for taking on the market risk, is occasionally criticized as unethical, such as the allegations that Frank Quattrone acted improperly in doling out hot IPO stock during the dot com bubble.

Bank underwriting[edit]

In banking, underwriting is the detailed credit analysis preceding the granting of a loan, based on credit information furnished by the borrower; such underwriting falls into several areas: (a) Consumer loan underwriting includes the verification of such items as employment history, salary and financial statements; publicly available information, such as the borrower's credit history, which is detailed in a credit report; and the lender's evaluation of the borrower's credit needs and ability to pay. Examples include mortgage underwriting. (b) Commercial (or business) underwriting consists of the evaluation of financial information provided by small businesses including analysis of the business balance sheet including tangible net worth, the ratio of debt to worth (leverage) and available liquidity (current ratio). Analysis of the income statement typically includes revenue trends, gross margin, profitability, and debt service coverage.

Underwriting can also refer to the purchase of corporate bonds, commercial paper, government securities, municipal general-obligation bonds by a commercial bank or dealer bank for its own account or for resale to investors. Bank underwriting of corporate securities is carried out through separate holding-company affiliates, called securities affiliates or Section 20 affiliates.

Insurance underwriting[edit]

Insurance underwriters evaluate the risk and exposures of potential clients. They decide how much coverage the client should receive, how much they should pay for it, or whether even to accept the risk and insure them. Underwriting involves measuring risk exposure and determining the premium that needs to be charged to insure that risk. The function of the underwriter is to protect the company's book of business from risks that they feel will make a loss and issue insurance policies at a premium that is commensurate with the exposure presented by a risk.

Each insurance company has its own set of underwriting guidelines to help the underwriter determine whether or not the company should accept the risk. The information used to evaluate the risk of an applicant for insurance will depend on the type of coverage involved. For example, in underwriting automobile coverage, an individual's driving record is critical. However, the type of automobile is actually far more critical. As part of the underwriting process for life or health insurance, medical underwriting may be used to examine the applicant's health status (other factors may be considered as well, such as age & occupation). The factors that insurers use to classify risks are generally objective, clearly related to the likely cost of providing coverage, practical to administer, consistent with applicable law, and designed to protect the long-term viability of the insurance program.[2]

The underwriters may decline the risk or may provide a quotation in which the premiums have been loaded (including the amount needed to generate a profit, in addition to covering expenses[3]) or in which various exclusions have been stipulated, which restrict the circumstances under which a claim would be paid. Depending on the type of insurance product (line of business), insurance companies use automated underwriting systems to encode these rules, and reduce the amount of manual work in processing quotations and policy issuance. This is especially the case for certain simpler life or personal lines (auto, homeowners) insurance. Some insurance companies, however, rely on agents to underwrite for them. This arrangement allows an insurer to operate in a market closer to its clients without having to establish a physical presence.

Two major categories of exclusion in insurance underwriting are moral hazard and correlated losses.[4] With a moral hazard, the consequences of the customer's actions are insured, making the customer more likely to take costly actions. For example, bedbugs are typically excluded from homeowners' insurance to avoid paying for the consequence of recklessly bringing in a used mattress.[4] Insured events are generally those outside the control of the customer, for example (typical in life insurance) death by automobile accident, contrasted with death by suicide. Correlated losses are those that can affect a large number of customers at the same time, thus potentially bankrupting the insurance company. This is why typical homeowner's policies cover damage from fire or falling trees (usually affecting an individual house), but not floods or earthquakes (which affect many houses at the same time).[4]

Other forms of underwriting[edit]

Real estate underwriting[edit]

In evaluation of a real estate loan, in addition to assessing the borrower, the property itself is scrutinized. Underwriters use the debt service coverage ratio to figure out whether the property is capable of redeeming its own value.

Forensic underwriting[edit]

Forensic underwriting is the "after-the-fact" process used by lenders to determine what went wrong with a mortgage.[5] Forensic underwriting refers to a borrower's ability to work out a modification scenario with their current lien holder, not to qualify them for a new loan or a refinance. This is typically done by an underwriter staffed with a team of people who are experienced in every aspect of the real estate field.

Sponsorship underwriting[edit]

Main article: Underwriting spot

Underwriting may also refer to financial sponsorship of a venture, and is also used as a term within public broadcasting (both public television and radio) to describe funding given by a company or organization for the operations of the service, in exchange for a mention of their product or service within the station's programming.

Thomson Financial League Tables[edit]

Underwriting activity in the mergers and acquisitions, equity issuance, debt issuance, syndicated loans and U.S. municipal bond markets is reported in the Thomson Financial league tables.[6]

See also[edit]


External links[edit]