In our last article, we discussed how having a clear underwriting appetite leads to improved growth and lower expense ratios. A lack of a clear underwriting appetite is a self-inflicted wound.

But agents tell us that carriers inflict even more egregious self-harm. One agent described it very clearly.

“Respond to emails or phone calls.  The carriers have missed opportunities just from lack of response.”

Wait…what? After all the time, effort and expense expended by agents and carriers to attract new business opportunities, nobody even picks up the phone or calls back? This can’t be a common occurrence. How can this level of inefficiency exist on a routine basis? Someone would surely notice such an obvious obstacle to success!

Someone did notice. Across the board, agents tell us that this is indeed the environment that exists, that they commonly receive very late responses to their inquiries—or none at all.

Lack of response is a broad-based problem for the industry, and it is not improving.

Data from thousands of agents indicates that improving underwriting responsiveness is the greatest opportunity for carriers to earn more business.


Agents tell us that, for many carriers, underwriters are too difficult to reach. This is a very representative comment.

“[CARRIER] underwriter hardly ever available.”

This is a major hurdle to closing business. The underwriter is often the key position needed to authorize the transaction and assist the agent in the final pricing and coverage structure.

Even relatively routine transactions often require some communication between the agent and underwriter. We see a high demand for underwriter responsiveness even from agents who routinely self-service online.

Here is a comment from an agent describing how important an underwriter is to them.

“I need to be able to depend upon my underwriter to be there for me.”

Imagine how frustrating it is when you need just a little bit of information to finalize a policy and then can’t get a response.

Carrier executives should be even more frustrated than their agents by lack of responsiveness. This situation creates tremendous inefficiency and places a drag on your ability to grow. Think of the lost opportunity cost to your business.

Worse, unresponsive carriers lose out on competing for the best opportunities because successful independent agents have many carriers to choose from. Like water flowing downhill that strikes a rock, they will just pivot to the carriers that will respond and keep moving. Agents turn to unresponsive carriers only when the responsive carriers don’t want the risk.


This comment pretty much sums up what the agents are looking for:

“Have underwriting easily available to discuss issues, get clarification and make decisions.”

Easy to say, but not so easy to achieve.

To seize the opportunity, carriers need to measure their responsiveness against key competitors, analyze how they can improve, prioritize and implement changes, measure their progress, and repeat. The most successful carriers target responsiveness as a key metric for continuous improvement.

Every situation is unique, but common barriers to responsiveness can include:

  • not realizing there is a problem
  • not providing clear expectations
  • incomplete training
  • inadequate or inefficient organization of the team
  • insufficient alignment of the technology tools
  • poor motivation
  • lack of measurement

A carrier’s goal should be to develop a team and foster an environment that allows for a prompt and competent response. Something that fulfills the need expressed in the following agent comment:

“The main thing is to get back to us promptly – doesn’t matter if it is a yes or no – we just need to know asap.”


Some carriers do a pretty good job of responding to their agents. We see them amongst the top carriers on the DCC Index. They are known to be successful at growing and remaining profitable.

Here are the key elements their agents experience.


The underwriters are very accessible and very timely. Here is a comment from an agent describing what they can expect when they work with the best.

“[CARRIER A’s] underwriter never fails to respond within half an hour.  [CARRIER B’s] underwriter generally answers on the spot when I call them.“


The best carriers have decisive underwriters who give competent responses. This comment is from an agent describing the carriers that most often win their business.

“We get assigned to their top underwriters. We need experienced underwriters who have underwriting authority.”


Competent underwriters become trusted by the agents. Once the trust is established, they want to keep the relationship.

Agents express that they value consistency in their underwriters. Here is a representative comment:

“Retain and maintain great underwriters and give them the authority to decide without having to elevate it. This is key for quick response and trusting our clients with these carriers.”


Even the most competent of underwriters will need help from the team. In fact, the most competent are the busiest and need great support to remain responsive. Therefore, the best carriers are thoughtful about how they provide backup underwriting support.

Carriers need to have formalized, tested backup systems to avoid their agents having experiences like those outlined in the following comments:

“Just feel we can get shipped all over the place and not know who we are to deal with.”

“Don’t make us look for an underwriter – if you are our underwriter, have a backup or something that we need to do if you are out.”


The P&C Insurance industry is struggling when it comes to responding to agents. Responsive carriers have a differentiating advantage over their competitors.  The most successful carriers develop a responsive group of team members and foster an environment that allows for a prompt and competent response.