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Capitalize on Program Business Opportunities: How to be a Trusted Advisor to Your Insurance Program Partner

Glenn Skrynecki, Senior Vice President, Programs, QBE North America 

Companies continue to look for ways to minimize risk, drive efficiency, and build on underwriting expertise. These opportunities are why we’re seeing the Program business on the rise – and success is all about finding the best collaborations. 

The better the collaboration, the better the program. Ultimately, a successful relationship between a program administrator and program manager will bring strong and tailored insurance solutions for insureds. It is important to remember that the quality of these relationships makes a difference.

Partnership is a Two-Way Street

Just as external program administrators pursue close associations with a select number of insurance carriers based on financial stability and reputation, internal program managers seek long-term relationships with external program administrators that have a successful track record in specific target markets. Given expectations for similar income going forward, program administrators need smart, sophisticated and dedicated program managers, and vice versa. When a partnership is strong, program business can flourish. 

Underwriting Expertise 

Program managers need to know their stuff. Proficiency in underwriting is the key attribute to the overall success of a niche program. To ensure the quality of the business underwritten, they must stay on top of changes in a niche program’s aggregate exposure trends and underwriting considerations, in addition to evolving insurance policy forms, regulatory filings, and legal and financial matters. To build these long-term profitable partnerships with program administrators, program managers must be able to closely collaborate with their back-office functions like actuarial, claims and loss control, as well as successfully navigate their own company’s operating structure.

Program managers must also develop and adhere to detailed underwriting guidelines that define the appetite and the authority of the program administrator. In this regard, they must carefully evaluate the quality of risks referred by the program administrator to the carrier, especially in situations where the program administrator is given legal authority to underwrite, rate, quote, bind, issue, and service policies behalf of the carrier. Carriers with the best program managers are the most capable of balancing and positioning their specialty books of program business to withstand complex regulatory or adverse economic impacts, ushering in long-term profitable business for the insurer and the program administrator. Carriers with inferior program managers will either have unprofitable business or will suffer the loss of good business.

Choose Your Partners Carefully

Program managers need to be highly selective in their partnerships. In their due diligence before working with a company, the best program managers assess a potential partner’s underwriting expertise, industry specialization, distribution prowess, program tenure and operational history. To undertake such in-depth analyses, program managers must have an equal or better grasp of the niche segment, insofar as its underwriting, claims and loss history, and overall profitability.

In gauging these factors, they also must be proficient in using state-of-the-art technology solutions to capture and analyze diverse data elements. Program managers are the gateway to reliable, trustworthy, and profitable program administrators. We envision our program managers as conductors of an orchestra, due to their ability to manage different specialty programs and third-party relationships in concert, culminating in optimal financial outcomes.

Recruiting and Retaining Top Talent

Look for the cream of the crop and value the relationship. Since program managers are largely responsible for the financial performance of the program book of business, best in class program carriers take great care to ensure they have recruited and retained the best talent around.

Carriers that are in the program business should never underestimate the worth of best-in-class program managers and never lose sight that good programs will follow good program managers. When you have these things in place, the outlook for programs is excellent.