Underwriting Risk

DEFINITION of 'Underwriting Risk'

The risk of loss borne by an underwriter. Underwriting risk generally refers to the risk of loss on underwriting activity in the insurance or securities industries.

In insurance, underwriting risk may either arise from an inaccurate assessment of the risks entailed in writing an insurance policy, or from factors wholly out of the underwriter's control. As a result, the policy may cost the insurer much more than it has earned in premiums.

In the securities industry, underwriting risk usually arises if an underwriter such as a investment bank overestimates demand for an underwritten issue or if market conditions change suddenly. In such cases, the underwriter may be forced to hold part of the issue in its inventory or sell it at a loss.

BREAKING DOWN 'Underwriting Risk'

Underwriting risk is an integral part of business for insurers and investment banks. While it is impossible to eliminate it entirely, underwriting risk is a key focus for risk mitigation efforts. The long-term profitability of an underwriter is directly proportional to its mitigation of underwriting risk.