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What Is Underwriting Risk in Insurance and Securities?


Underwriting risk in insurance and securities refers to the potential loss a firm experiences due to inadequate, incorrect or non-achievement of underwriting objectives during the evaluation and acceptance process of applicants for coverage or investment. In insurance, it could mean the risk of insuring someone, who ends up making a claim that exceeds their premium. For securities, it’s the risk of failing to sell at the ideal price in an offering, often shouldered by the underwriter.


The phonetic transcription of the phrase “What Is Underwriting Risk in Insurance and Securities?” is:/wʌt ɪz ʌndər.raɪtɪŋ rɪsk ɪn ɪn.ʃʊr.əns ænd sɪ.kjʊr.ɪ.tiz/

Key Takeaways

  1. Definition: Underwriting risk in insurance and securities refers to the possibility that the costs incurred by an insurer or an underwriter will outweigh the premiums earned. In other words, it involves the risk that an underwriter might experience financial losses due to inaccurate evaluation of the risks when setting the price for insurance policies or issuing new securities.
  2. Factors Contributing to Underwriting Risk: Several factors contribute to underwriting risk, including the severity of claims, frequency of claims, and pricing risks. Unforeseen events like natural disasters can greatly increase the frequency and severity of claims, causing higher risk. Pricing risks occur when underwriters do not accurately determine premiums based on risk assessment, which may result in insurer or underwriter losses.
  3. Risk Management: Effective risk management strategies are integral to mitigate underwriting risk. These could include comprehensive assessment and pricing of risks, diversifying risk exposure, setting limits on coverage, and regularly reviewing and adapting policies based on changes in risk exposure or market conditions. Reinsurance, where another insurer takes on some of the risk in exchange for part of the premium, can also be used to manage underwriting risk.


Underwriting risk in insurance and securities is a crucial concept because it directly impacts the profitability and financial health of companies in these sectors. It refers to the potential loss or gain experienced by insurance underwriters and investment banks when they take on risk through issuing policies or underwriting securities. For insurance companies, underwriting risk can arise from an incorrect assessment of the risks associated with insuring a policyholder, possibly leading to incorrect premium pricing and financial losses if claims paid out exceed the income from premiums. In securities, underwriting risk is associated with the possibility that the price at which securities are bought by underwriters from the issuer might be higher than the price at which they are subsequently sold to investors. Both scenarios can harm the financial stability of the institution, proving the importance of effective risk management strategies.


Underwriting risk in insurance and securities serves a significant function in the financial world essentially as a protective measure against potential losses. It involves an evaluation conducted by institutions such as insurance companies or investment banks when undertaking a financial venture. Underwriting is crucial to the insurance industry as it allows them to assess the level of risk associated with insuring a particular individual or entity. Based on this risk evaluation, they can determine the right pricing for insurance policies to offset possible financial losses.In terms of securities, the underwriting process assures the successful issuance of securities such as bonds or stocks to the market. An underwriting risk comes into play as the underwriter, usually an investment bank, agrees to buy the newly issued securities for a specific price and resell them to investors. If the underwriter cannot sell these securities at a profit on the open market, it can result in a loss, that’s the underwriting risk. Therefore, underwriting serves to allocate and manage risk in both the insurance and security markets, making it a crucial part of the financial landscape.


1. Hurricane Insurance Policies: An insurance company that provides homeowner protection policies in an area prone to hurricanes takes on significant underwriting risk. They are assessing the chance of a major hurricane hitting and causing significant damage to multiple homes they insure. The company may end up paying out large claims in case of the occurrence of hurricanes.2. Investment in High-risk Corporate Bonds: In securities, underwriting risk can be related to an investment bank that decides to underwrite a new issue of corporate bonds for a struggling company with weak financials. The investment bank assumes the risk that they may not be able to sell all the bonds to investors, thus losing money. This risk increases if the economic condition worsens or if the company’s standing deteriorates further.3. Health Insurance for Pre-existing Conditions: From an insurance perspective, assume an insurer provided health insurance to an individual with pre-existing medical conditions. The insurer bears the underwriting risk here, as they need to factor in the possibility that they might end up paying more in claims than they receive in the premiums. The uncertainty related to the individual’s health condition can cause a higher financial burden on the insurer than initially envisaged.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is underwriting risk in insurance and securities?

Underwriting risk pertains to the possibility of loss incurred by an insurer or investment bank when creating, selling, or pricing insurance policies or securities. These risks arise due to incorrect pricing or improper evaluation of the risks associated with issuing a policy or underwriting a security.

How does underwriting risk occur?

Underwriting risk primarily occurs when the premiums or fees earned are not sufficient to cover the claims or losses that an insurance company or investment bank faces. It can also arise if an underwriter incorrectly assesses the risks associated with a particular policyholder or if unforeseen events result in more claims than the company had predicted.

How is underwriting risk managed?

It is managed through the careful assessment and pricing of risks associated with each potential policyholder, security, or investment. Insurers and investment banks employ actuaries and analysts who use statistical models and data analysis to evaluate these risks. Another method is through reinsurance where insurers spread their risks by purchasing insurance policies from other companies.

Can underwriting risk lead to loss of profits?

Yes, high underwriting risk can lead to significant losses to an insurance company or an investment bank. If the company undervalues the risk of a claim occurring and sets a too low premium for an insurance policy, or if more claims are made than anticipated, it can lead to a loss in profits.

Is underwriting risk exclusive to the insurance and securities industry?

While the term is predominantly used in the insurance and securities industries, the principles of underwriting risk can be applied to any industry that involves risk assessment and management – for example, banks evaluating the risks associated with providing a loan.

How is underwriting risk different from investment risk?

Underwriting risk pertains to the risk that the premiums or fees earned would not be enough to cover the losses. Investment risk, however, refers to the uncertainty about the returns expected from an investment.

Related Finance Terms

  • Underwriting: This refers to the process through which insurance companies or investment banks evaluate the risk and potential of applicants.
  • Risk Assessment: An integral part of underwriting, risk assessment is the process of identifying potential risks to determine their impact on the client or business.
  • Moral Hazard: A term used in the insurance industry, moral hazard refers to the increase in risky behavior when individuals or institutions do not bear the full cost of their actions.
  • Actuarial Science: This field of study is used by insurance underwriters to calculate and mitigate potential risk using mathematics, statistics, and financial theories.
  • Reinsurance: It is the practice of insurers transferring portions of their risk portfolios to other parties. This helps insurance companies mitigate their underwriting risk.

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