AskDefine | Define underwriter

Dictionary Definition



1 a banker who deals chiefly in underwriting new securities [syn: investment banker]
2 an agent who sells insurance [syn: insurance broker, insurance agent, general agent]
3 a financial institution that sells insurance [syn: insurance company, insurance firm, insurer, insurance underwriter]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. An entity assuming a financial risk.
  2. A person working for an insurance company who arranges and authorizes an insurance policy with a broker or insured.
  3. An entity undertaking to market newly issued securities.
    They were the underwriters of the company's shares, but only on a "best efforts" basis.


Extensive Definition

Underwriting refers to the process that a large financial service provider (bank, insurer, investment house) uses to assess the eligibility of a customer to receive their products like equity capital, insurance, mortgage or credit to a customer. The name derives from the Lloyd's of London insurance market in London, United Kingdom. Financial bankers, who would accept some of the risk on a given venture (historically a sea voyage with associated risks of shipwreck) in exchange for a premium, would literally write their names under the risk information which was written on a Lloyd's slip created for this purpose.
In banking, underwriting is the detailed credit analysis preceding the granting of a loan, based on credit information furnished by the borrower, such as employment history, salary, and financial statements; publicly available information, such as the borrower's credit history, which is detailed in a credit report; and the lender's evaluation of the borrower's credit needs and ability to pay. Underwriting can also refer to the purchase of corporate bonds, commercial paper, Government securities, municipal general obligation bonds by a commercial bank or dealer bank for its own account, or for resale to investors. Bank underwriting of corporate securities is carried out through separate holding company affiliates, called securities affiliates, or Section 20 affiliates.

Securities underwriting

Securities underwriting is the way business customers are assessed by investment houses for access to either equity or debt capital.
This is a way of placing a newly issued security, such as stocks or bonds, with investors. A syndicate of banks (the lead-managers), underwrite the transaction, which means they have taken on the risk of distributing the securities. Should they not be able to find enough investors, then they end up holding some securities themselves. Underwriters make their income from the price difference, or underwriting spread, between the price they pay the issuer and what they collect from investors or from broker-dealers who buy portions of the offering. When a dealer bank purchases Treasury securities in a quarterly Treasury bond auction, it acts as underwriter and distributor. Treasury Securities purchased by a primary dealer are held in a dealer bank's trading account assets portfolio, and often resold to other banks, and to private investors.

League tables

Underwriting activity reported in Thomson Financial League Tables (numbers in $ billion) (number of issues in parenthesis):
Global Debt, Equity & Equity-related

Insurance underwriting

Underwriting may also refer to insurance; insurance underwriters evaluate the risk and exposures of potential clients. They decide how much coverage the client should receive, how much they should pay for it, or whether to even accept the risk and insure them. Underwriting involves measuring risk exposure and determining the premium that needs to be charged to insure that risk. The function of the underwriter is to acquire—or to "write"—business that will make the insurance company money, and to protect the company's book of business from risks that they feel will make a loss.
In simple terms, it is the process of issuing insurance policies. Underwriters often refer to themselves as "Police-persons of Insurance."
Each insurance company has its own set of underwriting guidelines to help the underwriter determine whether or not the company should accept the risk. The information used to evaluate the risk of an applicant for insurance will depend on the type of coverage involved. For example, in underwriting automobile coverage, an individual's driving record is critical. As part of the underwriting process for life or health insurance, medical underwriting may be used to examine the applicant's health status (other factors may be considered as well, such as age & occupation). The factors that insurers use to classify risks should be objective, clearly related to the likely cost of providing coverage, practical to administer, consistent with applicable law, and designed to protect the long-term viability of the insurance program.
The underwriters can either decline the risk, or may decide to provide a quotation in which the premiums have been loaded, or in which various exclusions have been stipulated, which restrict the circumstances under which a claim would be paid. Depending on the type of insurance product (line of business) insurance companies use automated underwriting systems to encode these rules, and reduce the amount of manual work in processing quotations and policy issuance. This is especially the case for certain simpler life or personal lines (auto, homeowners) insurance.

Underwriting in the EU

Following Council Directive 2004/113/EC on gender equality in access to services, insurance underwriting in the EU has been slightly modified, specifically in respect to motor/auto insurance. This directive does not allow policies to be underwritten on the basis of gender without current and thorough research qualifying the difference in prices available to men or women.

Real estate underwriting

In evaluation of a real estate loan, in addition to assessing the borrower, the property itself is scrutinized. Underwriters use the debt service coverage ratio to figure out whether the property is capable of redeeming its own value or not.

Forensic Underwriting

Forensic underwriting is the "after the fact" process used by lenders to determine what went wrong with a mortgage. Forensic Underwriting refers to a borrowers ability to work out a modification scenario with their current lien holder, not to qualify them for a new loan or a refinance. This is typically done by an underwriter staffed with a team of people who are experienced in every aspect of the real estate field.


Underwriting may also refer to financial sponsorship of a venture, and is also used as a term within public broadcasting (both public television and radio) to describe funding given by a company or organization for the operations of the service, in exchange for a mention of their product or service within the station's programming. For more on underwriting in public broadcasting, please see underwriting spot.
underwriter in German: Underwriter
underwriter in Hebrew: חיתום
underwriter in Dutch: Acceptant
underwriter in Russian: Андеррайтер (на рынке ценных бумаг)

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

accident insurance, actuary, annuity, approver, assurance, aviation insurance, bail bond, bailsman, bond, bondsman, business life insurance, casualty insurance, certificate of insurance, certifier, confirmer, cosignatory, cosigner, court bond, credit insurance, credit life insurance, deductible, endorser, endowment insurance, family maintenance policy, fidelity bond, fidelity insurance, flood insurance, fraternal insurance, godfather, godparent, government insurance, guarantee, guarantor, guaranty, health insurance, industrial life insurance, insurance, insurance agent, insurance broker, insurance company, insurance man, insurance policy, insurer, interinsurance, liability insurance, license bond, limited payment insurance, mainpernor, major medical insurance, malpractice insurance, marine insurance, mortgagor, mutual company, notary, notary public, ocean marine insurance, party, permit bond, policy, ratifier, robbery insurance, signatory, social security, sponsor, stock company, subscriber, surety, term insurance, theft insurance, upholder, warrantor
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