When John Beckman of QBE North America talks about his role as a chief underwriting officer, the “recovering actuary” and former chief risk officer of CNA repeatedly refers to the need to look for insurance holes.

Executive Summary

The job of a chief underwriting officer at a property/casualty insurance carrier is to create an environment that helps individual underwriters make good decisions. That means making make sure they don't have any blind spots that could leave holes or pricing weaknesses in insurance portfolios for the market to exploit, according to John Beckman. Here, he explains how his prior experience as an actuary and a chief risk officer prepared him to take on the CUO role at QBE North America in 2017, as well as the close ties between underwriting and analytics. He also gives an expansive view of products for which he is responsible, including loss control services in addition to portfolios of policies.

“If your book of business is changing and migrating toward a certain kind of risk, and you’re not doing it on purpose, you should be worried,” he said during a recent interview, explaining what the job of a CUO is all about. This situation arises when “somebody found a weakness in your understanding of a risk, or a weakness in your pricing, or a hole on your policy.”

“You don’t want to be most attractive unless you identify that class of business as something you want to grow.”

Beckman, like an increasing number of CUOs that CM has interviewed in recent years, doesn’t have hands-on experience writing individual risks as a commercial or personal lines insurance underwriter. And it doesn’t matter, because a key focus of the job is about understanding the business at a portfolio level, something for which an analytical background is helpful, he explains.

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