Price the risk or lose the chance

Are you interested in business and risk? Then maybe underwriting is a path for you. If Insurance is now launching a new trainee program for young professionals looking for a career in determining business risks; a bespoke path to create bespoke risk solutions for the largest companies in the Nordics.

Underwriting is about tailoring insurance solutions for large companies according to their business risks and their risk appetite. Individuals and small companies are offered standard solutions, but larger companies with more complex challenges need bespoke solutions.

To provide those, an underwriter must understand the company and its challenges, as well as what the future is likely to throw at it. When calculating insurance terms for a car manufacturer, for example, you need to understand where the industry is going: how will autonomous vehicles change the industry; how will the sharing economy? Are supply chains for electric vehicles more fragile than for fossil fueled cars? How do you put a price on that risk that will make the client assured while remaining a profitable insurance product?

Do you need to be an insurance expert to apply?

– Not at all. You need to understand business and risk – and be able to combine them. To understand the patterns and the long arc of technological transformation. We’re looking for a handful of individuals, across the Nordics, who have the capacity to combine those skills, says Henrik Rahm, Head of Underwriting, Employee Benefits at If.

Henrik Rahm’s own background proves his point. He holds a MSc in Engineering Physics and a BA in corporate finance and joined If a year ago from Nordea, where he was Head of Risk Analytics. Now he is head of underwriting for If’s Industry division, which provides insurance solutions to large companies.

– You don’t need to be an insurance expert to join, but you will become one. Even if you decide down the road that you’d rather work with sales or business development – and If is really good at providing employees with alternate career paths and challenges – you will have developed a deep understanding of the insurance logic. Underwriting goes to the very core of the insurance industry.

– I wasn’t schooled in insurance myself. After a number of years in finance analytics, I found that I had drifted away from the clients and that I missed that connection to the business world. As an underwriter, I get to work close to clients and still focus on data analytics and strategy. I enjoy the combination.

How would you describe the trainee program?

– It is a year-long, paid introduction to the underwriter position. The 4-6 trainees we choose will be introduced to different parts lines of business – property, liability, and personal insurance, to name a few. They will deep-dive into one of these areas during the fall and another during spring. We want our new underwriters to understand the variety of paths, to make it easier down the line to switch field.

– The trainees we hire are offered a permanent position. We don’t know where they will end up, it depends on interest and aptitude.

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So who is it that you are looking for?

– For the trainee program, we’re primarily looking at last-semester master’s students in law, business, or engineering. Insurance experience is not necessary. It is more important to have a certain mindset, to be forward-leaning, willing to learn new things and to be able to combine parts into a big picture. That what you will need to convert risks into a premium.

– Underwriting is a senior role with a lot of responsibility. It’s right there in the name: you will have the mandate to decide what risks and clients to take on and setting a price that makes the risk manageable and profitable over time. That requires a keen understanding of the client’s business, now and in the future.

You joined If quite recently yourself. How would you describe the culture? What kind of environment are you offering?

– If is like a family. I know, right, it sounds like a cliché, but to me, it’s the best way I can put it. Underwriters at If work very closely in client teams: it’s a fast-paced environment, clients expect us to be on our toes, and we meet those expectations together. I’m surrounded by very smart, experienced people, and we have a lot of fun.