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What makes for the best processes in underwriting large cases?

Susan Kerr, Managing Director, Large and Special Case Operations with Manulife, talks about what defines an ideal underwriting experience.

Large insurance cases can be highly complex, and at the heart is the underwriting process. At Manulife, that’s a true team effort involving many experts from start to finish. 

Specialists from tax and estate planning, wholesaling, field underwriting, underwriting, case coordination, product and pricing all collaborate seamlessly. Our team provides thoughtful guidance and ensures continuous communication. That makes for a positive experience and the best possible solutions for our advisors and their clients. 

It’s all part of The Summit Experience, which we launched in April 2022 as a way to offer personalized support throughout the application, underwriting and delivery processes. 

The Summit Experience is available for all advisors working with Manulife on a large case. We define that as cases where the life insurance has at least a $5 million face amount (or $50,000 of annualized premiums), critical illness insurance has at least a $1 million face amount (or $10,000 of annualized premiums) or disability insurance has a $20,000 monthly benefit (or $10,000 of annualized premiums).

Such cases require creative ways to solve difficult problems. Our underwriters have extensive experience and excellent relationships with our reinsurance partners and are skilled negotiators. 

Manulife is among the few insurance companies in Canada with a proprietary Life Underwriting Manual, backed by a dedicated research team. Our manual helps us to deliver true value to you and your clients. 

Manulife’s commitment to research gives our underwriters the most up-to-date guidelines, tools and resources to manage your large cases efficiently. Our team is dedicated to developing new approaches to underwriting based on advances in medical science. That allows us to make extremely competitive offers.

Throughout the process, constant communication is essential. In some cases, the sale may have been years in the making and Manulife’s underwriters recognize this. We aim for a caring partnership without surprises or gaps in communication. 

How can advisors help the process go as smoothly as possible? Providing a solid cover letter with background on the client and their business and walking the underwriter through the financial planning can set the stage for a streamlined underwriting experience. 

A key challenge on very large cases can be reinsurance gridlock. You can be locked out of reinsurance capacity by submitting applications to several companies and not stating the total line you intend to place, or that you intend to use a lead underwriter.

If making multiple applications for large amounts on the same client to more than one carrier, be sure in the cover letter to: 1) clearly state the total amount the client intends to place; 2) appoint a lead underwriter; and 3) indicate that you intend to use that lead underwriter to gather evidence. 

Our field underwriters help you to develop and package cases before they’re even written and submitted to underwriting. They can tell you what information is required, whether the case will meet our financial underwriting guidelines, address insurability issues and help prepare a cover letter. At your request, they can also speak to your client to gather broader medical history details, provide a more refined preliminary quote and answer any questions about the underwriting process. 

We advocate strongly on behalf of advisors and their clients and keep a significant share of every case. If we do “shop” a case, we advise the reinsurer of our assessment, and we send the case details to several reinsurers to determine if any company will match or improve on our offer. 

Because we retain a significant portion of all risks and have one of the highest retention limits in Canada, we can negotiate more favourable outcomes with our reinsurance partners on your difficult cases.

Underwriting and every other aspect of The Summit Experience takes a group effort. Everyone at Manulife works together to focus on the end-to-end experience and provide customized insurance solutions. That helps you to be more successful in securing insurance coverage for your most important clients.

Learn more about how the experts on the Manulife team can ensure a smooth underwriting experience with the best results.


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