Hi there, my name is Bill Berthiaume, underwriting manager (recent) and this is my first time writing for the LOGiQ3 blog! My aim with this blog post is to share with you my journey from a production underwriter to becoming an underwriting manager and how it has inspired me to be a better leader. I will of course be honest with you in what I’ve learned along the way on this journey, however, there will be no charts or graphs… nothing fancy. I’ll simply be sharing what worked and what didn’t. My own reflections and opinions. And in this process, I hope that you will gain insight into some of the things one should consider when deciding if underwriting management is right for them. I’ll be providing updates as the months roll along as this is part 1 of my series of blog posts to come.
In previous years, I had been involved in underwriting management before but at the team leader level. Becoming an underwriting manager was a whole different ball game. When I first started reviewing the qualifications for the position I felt somewhat intimidated and thought to myself, “Do I really want to get involved with all this? Why not just keep life simple and continue to do production underwriting? No wonder no one wants to be a manager!” Also, I had been involved with a direct carrier for over 18 years prior to joining LOGiQ3 and their way of doing business as a “professional service provider” was a new concept for me.
I remember back to when I was first joining the team as manager. “What were the folks like?” I thought to myself? Going through the managerial qualification list was daunting. As I scrolled down the list, I remember thinking that “I can do ABC but not XYZ” … or “I’ve never done that before and there’s no way that I want to especially do that!!! ”Proficiency in Excel" was a requirement… yet I was still developing this skill. I then sat back and started to really assess where I was and what I wanted to do. Also, I knew I had a desire to pass along some of my knowledge and wisdom I’ve gained throughout my career. Of the things that I didn’t think that I could do or that I had concerns about, perhaps I could do them but may have been too apprehensive to try.
Of all the qualifications the role of underwriting manager required, I felt that I could do most and if I at least didn’t try and give it my all in the other areas, then how would I know if I wouldn’t succeed?
This became a fantastic challenge for me to find out more about myself. I figured that this opportunity and environment afforded me a wonderful chance to learn and succeed. I was a little nervous when I was given the position but I’ve had awesome support from my peers, mentors and upper management and so far I’m still employed and smiling. Below are some of the areas that I felt needed to be first addressed as I transitioned into the role and began this journey.
- Getting an understanding of the process/procedures.
- How is the team viewed within the organization – what has the history been like to date?
- Understanding the organization itself – who are my internal and external clients? As we are an insurance and reinsurance “professional services” provider, how does this differ from my previous experience?
- Familiarizing with our vision, strategies and lines of business.
- Who are our underwriting clients and what types of services do we provide to each? – Understanding the expectations and deliverables of each client.
- What is the Culture here? Yes, Culture does exist here and it’s important. It became obvious it was superior service to our clients, quality, innovation, and high performance.
- What is my role and how do I as a manager bring value?
- Taking a look at the individual people on your team and assessing their experience levels both in terms of number of business years and overall industry experience.
- Team dynamics - getting to know your team, assessing their personalities, what the team environment or vibe is like, what is each person’s role on the team both in terms of work and team dynamic?
Underwriting Management, was it right for me? Is it right for you?
If I can leave you with any pieces of advice if you’ve recently entered a new role or are considering to advance in your career, here are my top ten tips and key things to consider and remember on your journey:
- Don’t try and do too much all at one time... take small steps.
- Ask yourself: Is being a mentor and coaching your team something you're willing to invest in?
- Watch, listen and learn.
- Ask questions… don’t assume and always be organized.
- Be yourself.
- Help your team become the best they can be – make them become successful in their role! Are there areas or gaps in your team's expertise that you can help fill?
- Communication and transparency – over-communicate if needed and be as open as you can.
- Try not to get too overwhelmed – one thing at a time.
- Recognize limitations.
- Be patient.
- Roll up your sleeves, when required.
- Above all… have fun and keep smiling.
Many of these above areas are still being worked on in my case and some will always be in a constant state of change or improvement. Some will also never change. To date I feel inspired every time I walk in our door. Inspired not only by the work and its challenges but more importantly by those on my team and the organization. For now, this is where I leave you, but stay tuned for the next part in my series!
Curious to hear more from our senior Underwriting team? Have a look at our recently published eBook that myself and two of my colleagues jointly wrote. Underwriting Managers need Succession Plans too, and here’s why!