Comprehensive UNITED STATES CASUALTY Resource Directory and Information Network

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The act of underwriting, or the process a large financial service provider uses to determine the eligibility of a customer to receive equity, capital, insurance, credit or a mortgage -- encompasses a  practice going back to Babylonian times at least. Its name, however, first appeared back in the 1680s when Lloyd’s of London, then operating out of a Tower Street coffeehouse, began to accept risk on certain ventures. As the nascent firm was almost exclusively engaged in insuring sea voyages against the possibility of piracy or shipwreck, the financial backers of these ocean-going enterprises would sign their names directly under the risk information spelled out on a Lloyd's document created for the purpose.

How then to refer to them as anything other than underwriters?

Today underwriting is a multi-billion-dollar business necessary to the securities, banking, insurance and real estate industries. It is for these enterprises that underwriting performs everything from raising investment capital to the detailed credit analysis (and in the case of real estate, the additional evaluation of properties) requisite for granting a loan. Insurance underwriters, for instance, will evaluate the risk and exposure of potential clients to enable insurers to determine first, whether to undertake the risk of insuring a particular client; then, the extent of any coverage that client should receive; and finally, the cost to the client for his coverage in the form of a premium. In the instance of casualty insurance  -- a form that comprises automobile, aviation, boiler and machinery, crime (including terrorism), earthquake, fidelity and surety bond, and even the modern incarnation of  Mr. Lloyd’s seventeenth-century marine insurance under its increasingly elastic rubric – the risks than must undergo evaluation are many and varied. 

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