In challenging economic times, it is more important than ever that your business can count on its trading partners. That’s where a well-structured, robust trade credit insurance policy can add confidence to your strategic outlook, safeguarding the business against delayed payments, defaults and bankruptcies.

At Allianz Trade, our commercial underwriting teams apply a deep understanding of your company and its trading environment to create the protection the business needs – no matter its complexity or uniqueness.

We asked two of our underwriting leaders – Craig Ironside, Group Head of Commercial Underwriting, based in France, and Nicolas Marchenoir, Regional Head of Commercial Underwriting in Allianz Trade in France – to share their perspectives on the role and the value it consistently delivers to Allianz Trade customers. 

Craig Ironside,
Group Head of Commercial Underwriting
Allianz Trade
Nicolas Marchenoir,
Regional Head of Commercial Underwriting
Allianz Trade 

“The scope of day-to-day activities of a commercial underwriter can be broad – they can be involved in devising new  products, supporting account teams, managing the portfolio, visiting customers. However, there is one fundamental that defines the role,” says Craig. “At its core is the ability to gain a deep and full understanding of the customer’s business – how it operates, its commercial trading environment, its sector and local or international context. And to translate its need to protect the business and its cashflow into a compelling value proposition – in the form of trade credit insurance policy – that is structured and priced to suit their circumstances.”

In many cases, underwriters are increasingly able to put together the best fit for the customer by drawing on a set of building blocks. But in a number of cases, the level of complexity, the size of the business or its particular industry circumstances requires a more tailored approach, with the underwriter crafting a solution with specific endorsements to meet its specific needs.

Endorsements can take many forms: they might relate to how a company structures its payment terms, its international exposure, its specialist industry or countless other situations. In any case, they typically involve a higher level of risk and require an even deeper dive into the customer’s world.

“Commercial underwriting comes into its own when dealing with exceptions,” says Nicolas. “Exceptions that makes for some fascinating encounters. We might be confronted by a new business model, new legislation, a newly emerging market. And we have to quickly become experts in such new areas, to accumulate knowledge, ask the right questions, and come up with answers that make sense. The goal is to be able to craft policy wordings that cover those non-standard endorsements and addresses the specific needs of the clients.”

But there are risk considerations on both sides, he stresses. “We have to safeguard the sustainability of our portfolio – to find the right balance between addressing the needs of the client and protecting and ensuring we are not taking on more risk than we are happy to accept.”

In reaching that understanding, underwriters don’t just delve into the customer’s business. They draw on a broad set of expertise and perspectives from across Allianz Trade.

“The role is essentially transversal in nature,” says Craig. “Depending on the case, underwriters might be talking to our credit intelligence or claims colleagues; they might be working with our economic research teams to get information on the outlook for a particular or market; they might be getting country-specific updates from some of their colleagues around the globe.”

As that suggests, commercial underwriters have to be technically strong on all facets of the insurance products they are proposing. They need to be able to draw on real depth of experience so they can identify and create the right products for the customer. But increasingly a vital skill is the ability to engage with and interpret data, says Craig. “It’s about aligning deep technical knowledge with the right data to build the right product.”

Having access to high-quality information from multiple, often-unique sources processed by risk underwriters, empowers commercial underwriters to create and price the best value proposition for customers. Evaluating risks together with our customers ensures that they will be covered by the policy, fulfilling their need of security and to grow their business at the same time.

“In conjunction with a deep understanding of their business, an underwriter is bringing all that data together and interpreting it to create a coherent offering that supports the client and engage in long-term relationships with our customers,” says Craig.

He suggests that, like a chef, when you have access to the very best ingredients you can combine them to create the best results. “As the market leader in trade credit insurance, we have the broadest portfolio. So, we’re naturally gathering more information from more sources than others and bringing all that data together. If our team have access to the best products and the best data, we can provide the best offer for our clients,” says Craig.

That leadership position is also reflected in an ability to leverage expertise and data at both international and local levels. “Our global spread means we have risk and commercial underwriters in all key markets giving us a key proximity to the risks we are facing” says Craig.

The challenging economic climate in recent few years have certainly made the challenges of getting individual policies right even more important both from a commercial and risk perspective, Craig highlights. “It comes down to a depth of experience and expertise in the team and being able to use the best data to steer our portfolio, to modelling risk at a country and international level, to ensure we have the right strategies in place, and can adjust those when necessary so we continuously support our clients.” All in all, in a fast-moving business world, full of uncertainties, Allianz Trade commercial underwriters are committed to bring peace of mind to our customers.