MetLife's National Underwriting Manager, Simon Dent, explains why the company's underwriting approach gives them an edge over the competition – and the benefits for both advisers and clients.
What is MetLife's approach to underwriting?
We've placed an enormous emphasis on exceptional customer service and adviser communication. As a result, all cases we receive before 3pm are underwritten the same day and the adviser is contacted to explain the rationale behind our decision. We've also targeted and recruited the most experienced and customer centric underwriters in the market. The average underwriting experience across our retail team is more than 15 years.
How is this different from other insurance companies?
We're seeing other companies turning underwriting into a back-office function, which means communication and customer service is taking a backseat to volume. Advisers see enormous value in having access to experienced underwriters who can answer their questions, so that's what we've given them.
How has MetLife adapted it’s underwriting approach post COVID?
We are finding that many medical practices are now refusing to complete doctor’s reports for insurance as they are too busy. As a result, we have significantly reduced the volumes of doctor’s reports being requested and will source the information required from the adviser or direct from the client. We are spending more time on the phone discussing applications direct with clients allowing us to make informed and timely decisions on applications.
What underwriting options are available to advisers?
We have two options. One is an online personal statement, which the adviser completes in person with their client. The second is a tele-underwriting personal statement, which the client completes over the phone with a dedicated MetLife Tele-Underwriting team member.
What happens if an adviser needs help?
We have underwriters in every state on the eastern seaboard (QLD, NSW and VIC) and our team services SA and WA. Every one of them is easily contactable by phone or email. We've made a commitment to advisers that we'll respond to calls or emails the same day we receive them. We have enough underwriters to handle the volume while remaining accessible to advisers. The business is committed to a same day turnaround.
What factors contribute to a positive underwriting outcome?
Advisers having easy access to underwriters during the pre-application process helps with a positive outcome. We have a pre-assessment service that enables advisers to collect additional information that can help streamline the application process. If the data-collection process reveals certain health conditions, advisers can call or email us before they submit an application and ask if this is likely to cause an underwriting problem.
How long does the underwriting process take?
We can accept an application and underwrite a policy in 30 minutes if the client has no real health issues. With clients who have a complex medical or financial history that requires doctors' reports or financial statements from accountants, it takes longer. The main cause of delays is the time it takes to get medical reports sent to us.
What's your top tip to help advisers make the underwriting process easier for clients?
Use the pre-assessment process to work out if there's likely to be a problem with the application. Ask the client if they have access to medical reports and results, because having those documents ready for the underwriter will significantly speed up the overall underwriting process.
Tell us a little about yourself and the underwriting changes you’ve implemented within the industry
Working for over 25 years in underwriting, I’ve learned the crucial importance of developing a trusted relationship with adviser and their support staff to deliver the best possible underwriting outcomes for their customers.
Back in 2000, I recognised a gap in the service proposition for underwriters. I developed a way underwriters could work more closely with advisers and take our knowledge into their office for valued clients. This gave rise to the development of the first field underwriting role in Australia which today is still very popular with advisers. Over time we learnt more about the efficiency challenges advisers faced with compliance and the complexity of delivering advice, so I led the launch of the first Tele-underwriting team in 2005. This has delivered a whole new model for advisers to engage clients and move them quickly and effectively through the underwriting process, while strengthening their disclosure position for compliance both with the insurer and their client.
Other service models which have been born from these initiatives are; dedicated state based underwriters and new business case managers. In more recent times, the integration of electronic underwriting rules engines all aimed at making the adviser and customer experience seamless with the insurer.
For more information about how Metlife helps advisers visit metlife.com.au/partnerships/advisers/