The process of classifying, rating and selecting risks that conform to an insurer's risk appetite is a simplified way of describing the bare bones of an underwriter's job. If you asked an underwriter to provide their own job description, you may hear words such as statistician, investigator, psychic, tightrope walker and even politician. No doubt the stakes are higher than ever, as underwriters scramble to "get it right," protecting his/her company against adverse selection and associated financial reckoning in one of the worst economic climates in history.

By line of business, the underwriting function is both distinct and similar. Distinctive differences exist between medical underwriting and virtually any other type, especially as the industry faces health care reforms that will create a retail selling environment for many carriers. Further differences exist in underwriting between life or personal lines property/casualty and commercial lines, largely tied to complexity, exposure and pricing.

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