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Insurance Selling


Women’s Bureau Bulletin 279

U.S. Department of Labor
Arthur J. Goldberg, Secretary

Women’s Bureau
Mrs. Esther Peterson, Director

U.S. Government Printing Office : 1961

sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office
Washington 25, D.C. - Price 20 cents


Life insurance is a vast and expanding industry, employing almost
one-half million persons. Women constitute about one-third of this
employment and are engaged primarily in the numerous clerical op­
erations so essential to the industry’s smooth operation. Thus far,
however, women have accounted for only a small proportion of some
200,000 full-time life insurance underwriters (as the agents are
called) and number about 6,000. Nevertheless, many of them are
successful and highly regarded within the industry.
Life insurance underwriting is a field open to mature as well as
younger women, since experience, stability, good judgment, and a
sense of responsibility are recognized as valuable characteristics. It
therefore seemed appropriate and timely for the Women’s Bureau
of the U.S. Department of Labor to cooperate with the Committee
of Women Underwriters of the National Association of Life Under­
writers by surveying opportunities for women in this field and pub­
lishing the findings as one of its series of career bulletins. The project
was undertaken and completed during Mrs. Alice K. Leopold’s term
of office as Director of the Women’s Bureau. It is our hope that coun­
selors, teachers, parents, and the women themselves will find useful
information in this bulletin in assisting others in their decisions or
for their own consideration of possible vocational choices.

Esther Peterson,

Director, Women’s Bureau.



TJiis report was prepared by Sylva Beyer, who participated in its
initial planning and in the collection of data, and by Sarah F. Leiter,
who was responsible for the analysis and presentation of the material.
They worked under the general direction of Stella P. Manor, Chief
of the Division of Program Planning, Analysis, and Reports in the
Women’s Bureau of the U.S. Department of Labor.
Special acknowledgment is due the Committee of Women Under­
writers of the National Association of Life Underwriters which
cooperated closely with the Women’s Bureau from the inception of
the project. With the Committee’s assistance, pertinent data on
women life underwriters were obtained by questionnaire from women
members of the National Association of Life Underwriters.
Grateful acknowledgment is also made to the following associa­
tions and organizations whose members and staff variously provided
the Bureau with statistical data, other information, and review of the
manuscript: National Association of Life Underwriters, Institute
of Life Insurance, Life Insurance Agency Management Association,
American College of Chartered Life Underwriters, and Life Under­
writers Training Council.
A number of individual companies were most cooperative in re­
sponding to the Bureau’s request for statistical data and related
The Women’s Bureau is indebted to the National Association of
Life Underwriters for the pictures included in this bulletin.



The Life Insurance Industry..................................



Importance of the industry..................................
History and recent trends..................................
Types and changing emphasis of life insurance

G i C Oi

II. Women in Life Insurance .............................................. ....
Women life underwriters...........................................
Demand for and supply of women agents limited


IV. Requisites for Success in the Field........................
Personality a significant factor..............................
Education increasingly important..........................
Work experience may be helpful..............................
Age specifications flexible......................................





III. Some Facts About Life Underwriters...................
Nature of work............................................................
Brokers sell for more than one company ....
Full-time and part-time agents..............................
Women not restricted to special markets ....
Life underwriters sell other insurance.................


V. Income and Methods of Compensation
Earnings depend on production . . .
Earnings of surveyed women ....
Financing new underwriters.................
Business expenses of underwriters . .
Supplementary benefits available . .


VI. Hours of Work................................................
Wide range in working hours ....
Relationship of hours to earnings . .
Evening and weekend work common .


VII. Place of Employment and Working Arrangements .
Geographic distribution and type of community . . .
Types of working arrangements......................................





How To Get Started....................................................


Market for life insurance................................................................
Turnover creates demand for personnel.......................................
Outlook for women.........................................................................
How to get started in the industry...............................................
Choice of company and agency important..............................
Licensing requirements.....................................................................





Training Opportunities



Company-sponsored training........................................................
Institutional programs.....................................................................
Women underwriters urge training...............................................
Advancement to other positions....................................................



X. Life Underwriters Organizations....................................................


National Association of Life Underwriters..............................
American Society of Chartered Life Underwriters.................


In conclusion............................................................................................................


Selected references for additional reading........................................................



The Life Insurance Industry

Importance of the Industry

By all standards life insurance is one of the great industries in
our economy. Its activities reach into every community; its contribu­
tion to the financial security of individuals and families is widespread
and increasing; and its assets provide one of the largest sources
of investment capital.
Life insurance is an industry of big figures. In this country, 127
million policy holders owned life insurance amounting to $600 billion
in 1959.1 About 90 percent of them were insured by legal reserve
companies (those operating under State insurance laws specifying
minimum financial reserves to be maintained on policies). The re­
mainder were insured by fraternal and assessment organizations,
savings banks, and the United States Government’s veterans’ insur­
ance program. The legal reserve companies at the close of 1959
also accounted for 90 percent of the insurance in force, the aggregate
face value of all active policies.
In 1959, private companies had assets totaling almost $113.7 billion
and paid $7.5 billion in life insurance benefits and annuities to policy­
holders and their beneficiaries.
More than 1,400 life insurance companies (considered legal reserve
by their respective States) were operating in mid-1959. They ranged
in size from very small companies to very large ones. Most of the
sales and service activities, however, are conducted in the field through
the medium of thousands of local agencies, which generally are fairly
small units.
The Institute of Life Insurance estimated life insurance employ­
ment in 1959 at about 450,000, exclusive of part-time agents who are
numerically not insignificant.
< These and subsequent statistics relating to the Industry as a whole are from the 1960
Life Insurance Pact Book, Institute of Life Insurance, New York, N.Y.


History and Recent Trends

The notion of group sharing of risks, the underlying concept of
all types of insurance, is probably as old as man. But life insurance
as we know it today is of fairly recent origin. The first life insur­
ance company in the United States was founded in Philadelphia in
1759. Known as “A Corporation for Relief of Poor and Distressed
Presbyterian Ministers, and of the Poor and Distressed Widows and
Children of Presbyterian Ministers,” it obviously offered coverage
to a very restricted few. The company still exists and is now known
as the Presbyterian Ministers Fund.
It. was not until close to the middle of the 19th century that life
insurance organizations bearing greater resemblance to current ones
began to develop. It was the period when mutual companies (which
the policyholders own), as distinguished from stock companies (which
the stockholders own), were formed. The mid-1800’s also saw the
emergence of the sale of life insurance through individual agents,
the key people in the impressive growth of the industry. Soon after,
general agencies were established as expanding companies sought to
do business in other States and found it legally desirable and other­
wise convenient to delegate power to local representatives.
Industrial insurance, which is issued in small amounts almost al­
ways less than $1,000, and with weekly or monthly premiums gen­
erally collected by the agent in the policyholder’s home, was first
issued in this country in 1875. This method of selling life insurance
was introduced some decades earlier in England where it was designed
to meet the needs of industrial workers. It is still a popular program
among lowr-income groups.
Total life insurance in force with legal reserve companies has risen
every year since 1900 with the exception of 1932 and 1933, although
the 1931 level was not attained again until 1937.
Group insurance, which insures a group of people—predominantly
employees of one establishment or company—under one policy, with
each person covered receiving a certificate, has been a very important
stimulant to the 20th century rise in life insurance in force and life
insurance purchases. The first such contract was introduced in 1911.
From that time on group insurance became increasingly significant
in the total life insurance picture.
Types and Changing Emphasis of Life Insurance

There are four general types of life insurance—ordinary, industrial,
group, and credit. Of these, the oldest type is ordinary, which is is­

sued in units of $1,000 or more with premiums payable annually,
semiannually, quarterly, or monthly. Ordinary insurance includes
the following three basic types of life insurance:
Under this plan the policyholders are insured for their
entire lives, with premiums payable throughout life, for a specified numher of years, or at one time and with the face value of the policies payable
at death.
2. Endowment. Under such a plan the value of the policy is paid to the
policyholder in a specified number of years. If the policyholder dies
before that date, the beneficiary receives the value of the policy.
3' of veflr«UwnnrmhlS ?lan a P<T*on iS; in.sured only for a specified number
ot years w ith insurance payable only if death occurs during that period.

1. Whole

There are probably thousands of different combinations of these
three basic kinds of life insurance available in the innumerable poli­
cies offered by life insurance companies. Ordinary insurance can be
purchased on the life of an adult, a juvenile, or an infant. It is virtu­
ally always sold by individual life underwriters or agents 2 and may
be used for family or business protection.
Industrial insurance is also sold by agents.3 It is written in modest
amounts determined by the size of the weekly or monthly payment.
The average policy written in 1959 amounted to $560. Industrial
insurance- like ordinary—may be whole life, endowment, term, or
combinations of these.
Group life insurance is generally in the form of term insurance.
Although over 80 percent of the total amount of group insurance
m force was with the groups of 500 or more, these large transactions
accounted for only 8 percent of the contracts. More than 70 percent
of the contracts cover groups of fewer than 100 members,4 Group
insurance is sold by individual underwriters, usually to small or
moderate-size firms, but home offices generally assist with and partici­
pate in larger sales.
Finally, there is credit insurance, which is issued by life insurance
companies, on individuals who have incurred financial obligations
such as cash loans or installment purchases. First issued in 1917,
credit insurance began to be widespread only after World War II.
This type of insurance is sometimes sold by individual agents, usually
with the assistance of a home office representative.
Record highs for the number of policies and the amount of insur­
ance in force were noted for ordinary, group, and credit insurance in
2 The two designations are used interchangeably in this report as they frequently are
tn the industry, although the term “underwriter” may also apply to home' office employees
who review life insurance applications to determine whether they meet the company’s
standards of insurability.
3 Industrial underwriters are known as debit or more often as combination agents, since
most of them sell ordinary as well as industrial insurance.
11959 Life Insurance Fact Book. Institute of Life Insurance, New York, N.Y.
581566 O—61------ 2


1959. The rate of growth since 1950 was more marked in group and
credit, both having, of course, a smaller base from which to register
their gains. In absolute numbers, however, ordinary insurance (with
legal reserve companies) rose from 64 million policies in 1950 to 92
million in 1959; the amount of insurance in force rose from $149
billion to $316 billion over the same period. This increase dwarfed
the actual rise from 1950 to 1959 in credit insurance (from $4 billion
to $27 billion) and considerably outstripped the gain (from $48
billion to $160billion) in group insurance (see table).
Industrial insurance, however, seemed to be tapering off with slight
declines in the number of policies and the amount of insurance in
force in the past few years. This is probably due in part to increasing
coverage under group and ordinary insurance programs, particularly
monthly debit ordinary which is written as ordinary insurance but
with monthly premiums collected by the agent.
Ordinary insurance in force at $316 billion in 1959 was overwhelm­
ingly predominant, although industrial insurance policies accounted
for a larger proportion of the policies. Group insurance certificates
in 1959 comprised 15 percent of all policies and nearly 30 percent of
the life insurance in force.
Number, Amount,


Percent Distribution








Life Insurance Policies


Policies and certificates
Type of insurance


Percent distri­
bution i


100. 0






S542, 128


1 Based on data rounded to thousands.
2 Total somewhat higher than sum of detail because of rounding.
Source: 1960 Life Insurance Fact Book. Institute of Life Insurance, New York, N.Y.


Percent distri­
bution i

100. 0


NA^omen in Life Insurance
Women Life Underwriters

How do women fit into this vast and still expanding industry ?
Women constitute a significant proportion of the industry's employ­
ment. In 1956, they numbered 133,200 and comprised almost a third
of life insurance personnel, according to the Institute of Life Insur­
ance. They accounted for more than 90 percent of the agency cashiers
and clerks and 65 percent of the home office staff, typically, but not
entirely, in clerical jobs.
Women agents numbered 5,900 or about 3 percent of the 195,800
full-time underwriters in 1956. At the same time, women made up
only 1 percent of the agency managers and assistants. Combination
or debit agents accounted for 56 percent of all women underwriters;
44 percent were “ordinary” agents.5 The number of women agents
in combination agencies increased from an estimated 2,000 in 1950 to
3,300 in 1956. During the same period, women ordinary underwriters
declined from 2,800 to 2,600.
Insurance employment has risen since 1956. The Institute of Life
Insurance estimated total personnel at the close of 1959 at about 450,­
000 and the number of full-time agents at 200,000. Data on women
agents are not available for 1959.
The high point in the utilization of women as life underwriters
occurred during World War II when acute manpower shortages
prompted special recruitment of women, many of whom became debit
agents. In some cases, wives took over their husbands’ insurance
activities when they entered military service. Even in 1945, how­
ever, women full-time agents accounted for only slightly more than
o percent of the total number of life underwriters.
Tally of Life Insurance Statistics: March 1957; Institute of Life Insurance. It
should be noted that debit agents usually sell ordinary insurance and sometimes sell group
as well as industrial insurance; ordinary agents sell group in addition to ordinary insurance
but do not handle industrial.


Demand for and Supply of Women Agents Limited

Although life underwriting is an occupation well suited to women,
traditionally, very few have been in this area of work. Why this situ­
ation prevails is not clear. Women in the field are enthusiastic about
life underwriting as a career. Of approximately 450 women who par­
ticipated in the survey of the National Association of Life Under­
writers (NALU) and the Women’s Bureau, only 4 specifically re­
marked that they would not recommend this field as a career for
women because the work was too hard or the competition too rugged.
Many companies are quite proud of their outstanding women under­
writers and offer “woman of the year” and similar awards. Rela­
tively few have imposed restrictive recruitment policies regarding
women. But the actual recruitment of local staff, including under­
writers, is done by agency managers, whose attitudes have a bearing
on opportunities for women to enter this field. While many welcome
a suitable woman applicant, some do not give her consideration. Few
of these company-authorized representatives make a positive effort to
recruit women agents. At the same time it appears that the idea of
life underwriting as a possible career occurs to few women. It is very
likely that far more women would be life underwriters if they were
aware of the opportunities available to them.
This is overwhelmingly a man’s field, largely by custom and not
because of any demands of the job itself. The relatively few women
life uderwriters are accepted by their companies, by their clients, and
by their fellow agents according to the same criteria as are men.
Their success depends, as with men, on their ability to serve with in­
telligence, resourcefulness, and application.


Some Facts About Life Underwriters

Nature of Work

Life underwriters or agents are the field representatives of the com­
panies to which they are under contract either directly or through the
general agent, who operates a local outlet for a company. Their role
in the industry is to sell life insurance. The many other activities they
engage in, apart from sales interviews, are designed to improve the
volume and the quality of sales.
Agents spend much of their working time consulting with prospec­
tive clients in their homes or places of work where the actual sales are
made. Underwriters must know and be able to describe in clear, non­
technical language the variety of policies their companies offer.
Underwriters should be able to counsel their clients regarding the
suitability of different policies to meet individual needs. They must
inspire confidence in their judgment and honesty. They should
achieve a good personal relationship with their clients, since an ap­
propriate sale depends on having an intimate knowledge of the cli­
ents’ financial status and requirements.
The underwriter assists in preparing the application form, collects
the initial premium, arranges for a medical examination, and delivers
the policy to the client. Thereafter, underwriters provide service for
their clients, such as assisting with the settlement of benefit claims,
changes in beneficiaries, conversion of policies, and similar matters.
Agents also spend time in their own homes or offices preparing re­
ports, keeping records, developing lists of prospects, making ap­
pointments, and sending out information and promotional literature.
Underwriters inclined toward the more complex aspects of life in­
surance spend time at their desks planning and designing insurance
programs of a more difficult nature including the creation, conserva­
tion, and distribution of estates; business insurance; group insurance;
and pension plans. In the course of developing such programs they
may cooperate with the client’s attorney, accountant, and broker.



Members of four professions—a CPA, a life underwriter, a trust officer, and a lawyer—
pool specialized skills and ideas to design a business life insurance program fora mutual

Combination or debit agents spend part of their time collecting
weekly and/or monthly premiums in addition to selling insurance
policies. They are rarely concerned with developing elaborate insur­
ance programs for the sale of industrial insurance since the amount of
insurance involved is modest.
Most full-time underwriters devote some time to agency or branch
office training meetings and other work conferences; many read and
study extensively the ever-changing legal, social, and economic aspects
of life insurance; and many participate in company, and in local, re­
gional, or national conventions and meetings of the NALU.
Brokers Sell for More Than One Company

Life insurance brokers are independent operators who represent
their clients and buy insurance for them from any one of several
companies, as distinguished from agents who represent specific com­
panies and sell only their companies’ products. Although many
brokers concentrate their business with one or two companies, others
may distribute their sales among a number of companies.

A great many life insurance agents, on occasion, operate as brokers
placing “surplus” business with other companies, when their own
company does not offer or lias a higher rate for some types of policies
or does not accept a particular risk.
Full-Time and Part-Time Agents

The life insurance industry has three types of contracts for those
who sell insurance—a part-time contract, a full-time contract, and a
broker’s contract. Unlike most workers, insurance agents’ full-time
or part-time status is not determined primarily by the number of
weekly hours they work but by the type of contract they hold.
In general, the industry considers full-time agents as those who
devote their total work time and effort to selling insurance for any
one company, except as they incidentally and occasionally place busi­
ness with other companies on a brokerage basis. Part-time agents
are commonly viewed by the industry as having other employment as
their primary occupation.
In actual practice, however, there are many deviations from these
general concepts. Some companies require their full-time agents to
meet specific production levels (usually modest), and thus they estab­
lish volume of business as the distinguishing characteristic between
the full-time and the part-time underwriter.
A good many agents with full-time contracts do not devote their
total work energies to selling life insurance. Occasionally, the reverse
Members of National Association of Life Underwriters Committee of Women Underwriters
discuss contributions women can make to further professional standards of the industry.



is true. For example, if an underwriter is by virtue of bis or her age
or for some other reason not eligible for the company’s retirement
program, which may be available only to full-time agents, the under­
writer must accept a part-time contract regardless of how much busi­
ness is produced or how many hours are worked.
Full-time underwriters enjoy certain advantages over part-time
agents. For example, their compensation provisions set by contract
may be at a slightly higher top level. Renewal commissions may not
run for the full number of years if contract-specified production
requirements are not met, which may easily be the case with part-timeagents. Generally, part-time agents are not eligible for the small
lifetime service fees some companies offer or, in many cases, for the
various fringe benefits such as company sponsored life insurance,
health insurance, and pension programs.
Many persons in the industry feel that life insurance is too im­
portant and too complex to be sold by casual agents who do this as
a sideline to other work. Despite the preference for full-time under­
writers, the part-time agent has by no means disappeared from the
It should be emphasized that many part-time agents have much
more than a casual attachment to this field of work. Thus, for ex­
ample, in small communities or sparsely settled areas, the life insur­
ance sales potential may be sufficiently limited to make it both neces­
sary and desirable for agents to supplement their life underwriting
with other work. And, in the case of women, many with part-time
contracts probably have no other job commitments but devote less
than full time to life insurance selling because of home responsibilities.
Just, how many women had part-time contracts compared with the
5,900 women who were full-time underwriters in 1956 is not known.
Industry representatives believe, however, that the number of women
part-time agents is fairly substantial.
Among the NALU survey respondents, more than four out of five
wTere full-time agents in 1957. The overwhelming majority of both
full-time and part-time women underwriters surveyed devoted their
total work allegiance to the insurance industry, and concentrated
their efforts on life insurance selling.
Of the 450 women life agents participating in the survey, only 28,
or about 6 percent, held additional jobs not associated with the in­
surance industry, and a good many of these appeared to take up
relatively little time compared with the insurance activities. Some
of these occupations were owners or partners of other businesses,
teachers, realtors, sales-persons, and secretaries. In only a very few
cases did life insurance selling appear to be a secondary occupation.

Women Not Restricted to Special Markets

Women are considered by some agency managers to be especially
valuable in selling insurance to other women. Some of the surveyed
women underwriters felt similarly, but not too many reported the
major portion of their sales to women clients. Three out of five of
those submitting information indicated that fewer than a fourth of
their sales in 1957 were to women; only one out of five reported at
least half of their sales were to women. The survey data also revealed
that women agents in the higher earnings brackets tended to make
proportionately fewer sales to women.
Women, as well as men agents, can choose their clients and develop
their own markets. Some do not concentrate on any special groups;
others may direct a great deal of their selling to particular age or
occupational categories.
More than half of all full-time women life underwriters are associ­
ated with combination agencies and sell industrial as well as ordinary
life insurance. Among surveyed women NALTT members, about
three-fourths sold ordinary insurance only; another 16 percent also
sold group. Only a fourth of the small number of reporting combi­
nation agents handled industrial insurance exclusively; the others also
sold ordinary policies and a few negotiated group contracts. Women
agents also sold individual annuities. Although not strictly life in­
surance, annuities are handled by life insurance companies.
There appeared to be no limitation on the types of life policies
women underwriters sell. The surveyed agents occasionally and
variously indicated their own specialties and these included family
protection and juvenile insurance, endowments, business insurance,
retirement income, and estate planning. Some felt women were par­
ticularly suited to handle (1) family protection programs, because
of their understanding of the financial needs of a widow; and (2)
retirement income for professional and business women, because they
can be more readily approached by a woman agent. Others saw no
need to limit their activities and a fair-size number who were success­
ful in estate planning and conservation felt more women agents should
choose this financially rewarding specialty.
Life Underwriters Sell Other Insurance

Health insurance, one type of insurance other than life, is fre­
quently sold by life underwriters. Life insurance companies account
for about 80 percent of the health insurance business. Many offer all
or some forms of health insurance and expect and encourage their
agents to sell such policies. Others, which do not offer health in581566 0—61------ 3


surance usually permit their underwriters, operating as brokers, to
place such business with other companies. Many life underwriters,
if their companies permit, also sell casualty insurance as a service to
their clients. Such business is usually handled on a brokerage basis.
Among NALU survey respondents, about BO percent of the women
agents sold no insurance other than life in 1957. Of those who did
some business in other types of insurance, some 63 percent wrote
health insurance only (almost entirely policies on individuals with
a. negligible number of group contracts). Another 28 percent wrote
health and casualty, whereas 9 percent wrote casualty only, in addi­
tion to life.

The bulk of an agent's sales is made in the home. Here a woman life underwriter, seated
between a husband and wife, discusses the benefits of life insurance.


Requisites for Success in the Field

Personality a Significant Factor

Too much stress cannot be placed on the importance of personal
traits, interests, and aptitudes in the success of the life underwriter.
Education, training, and hard wmrk are not enough, according to the
surveyed women underwriters. The potential life insurance agent
should also have or be able to develop—

.4 genuine liking for people, an interest in their problems, a desire to help
and serve as well as the ability to get along with others.


Aggressiveness without being brash or rude so that contacts are made
with confidence; an outgoing personality.
Facility for speaking because there is no product to demonstrate, no other
means of making a sale.



Integrity to put the client’s needs before the size of the premium, to respect
a client’s trust and confidence.
Ambition to motivate the agent to a desired level of achievement.
Patience, persistence, and resilience to keep at it and not get discouraged
and to bounce back from disappointments.
Self-discipline and organization in order to boss yourself, to organize your
time, to establish and follow a schedule, to avoid diversions and delays.


Willingness to work hard, to get out and hustle.


A firm belief in the value of life insurance so that others may be similarly
convinced and persuaded to buy.
A thorough knowledge of life insurance and related fields to permit topnotch counseling and to inspire confidence in the agent’s advice.
An alert, receptive, and inquiring mind for acquiring knowledge in this and
related fields. A willingness to continue learning and studying throughout
one’s career.



Good health because this is hard work entailing physical strain.


Resourcefulness and imagination to sell more insurance, to serve clients
better, and to solve the problems that are bound to arise from time to time.

These are not rare qualities but they are all needed in great abun­
dance for a successful life underwriting career.


Education Increasingly Important

Educational requirements for the field continue to be flexible.
Although many companies prefer college graduates, none limit their
recruitment to college people. A college degree has greater weight
among young appointees who lack a background of work experience
that might be helpful to an insurance underwriter’s career.
Women members of NALU included in the survey reflected a higher
level of schooling than generally prevails in the industry. Virtually
two out of three respondents had some college education. About 45
percent of the college women had received at least a bachelor s degree,
about 27 percent had also done graduate study, and 10 percent held
graduate degrees. Only 10 percent of all the surveyed women had not
completed high school.
Although survey respondents with different levels of education
were represented in all earnings brackets, a far greater proportion of
the college women reported incomes of $10,000 or more. Twelve of
the fifteen women respondents who sold $1 million or more of life
insurance in 1957 had at least some college background.
The young woman looking ahead to a career in life underwriting
will find courses in insurance offered by many universities. It is
also helpful to take courses in related fields such as economics, govern­
ment, sociology, psychology, and business law.
The NALU college women included in the survey reported a great
variety of fields of concentration. Those with degrees had majored
rather numerously in English and education. The social sciences w ere
represented by economics, history, political science, business admin­
istration, sociology, and psychology; the physical sciences, by
agronomy and chemistry. Still other disciplines were mathematics,
journalism, speech, home economics, physical therapy, and law.
Work Experience May Be Helpful

Unlike many occupational fields there is no preemployment train­
ing or educational major which can completely prepare a person
for a career in life underwriting. Certain courses of study are help­
ful, but specific on-the-job training is needed. For this reason,
previous work history (and the industry recruits mature people) is
In general, companies look with favor on those who have success­
fully held jobs that involved dealing with people. Past experience in
sales work is an asset. General agents and managers look for a
record of progress, achievement, and stability in the applicant s
previous employment.

NALU’s women participating in the survey were in a wide variety
of occupations prior to becoming life underwriters. Some had been
clerical workers, typists, receptionists, bookkeepers, secretaries, and
salespersons. From the professional rank were accountants, dieti­
tians, dent d hygienists, lawyers, librarians, nurses, social workers,
statisticians, and many teachers. Women also moved to careers in life
underwriting from jobs in banks, in factories, on newspapers, in
government, and from other jobs in insurance. They came from
managerial and executive posts, from the Armed Forces, from their
own businesses. Many, however, were housewives with no previous
work experience.
Age Specifications Flexible

Unlike many fields of work, which, because of employer specifica­
tions, offer few opportunities for mature women, life underwriting is
a career available to them. Although efforts to recruit young agents
directly from the colleges have been stepped up in recent years, this
practice has not restricted recruitment of suitable mature persons.
The responses of NALU surveyed women members on this subject
were particularly revealing, although how representative their experi­
ence is cannot be determined.
Age on Becoming Life Underwriters


and under 25 years..
and under 30 years.
and under 35 years..
and under 40 years.
and under 45 years.
and under 50 years.
years and over____










About < out of 10 of these women became life underwriters at or
after age 35; more than 4 out of 10 were at least 40; and almost 1 out
of 12 was at least 50 years old.



Income and Methods of Compensation

Earnings Depend on Production

Experienced ordinary life underwriters are paid on a commission
basis and therefore their earnings are directly related to production.
Insurance selling is a field of work in which women consistently earn
at the same rate as men. Compensation schedules are fixed by each
company. They appear in the contract and apply equally to both
Combination or debit agents also earn commissions on the life insur­
ance they sell, as well as a commission against their debit which is the
aggregate of their weekly and monthly premiums. Some companies
have established guaranteed minimum compensation to the combina­
tion agent for servicing the debit, which mainly involves the collection
of premiums. Such guaranteed minimums are sometimes considered
There are many variations in the schedule of commissions among
the different companies. First year commissions for popular insur­
ance plans may run about 50 percent of the premium, and renewal com­
missions may then be about 5 percent of the premiums for each of the
following 9 years. It is not uncommon to have lower or higher first
year commissions with corresponding adjustments in amount and
duration of subsequent commissions. In the long run, these differ­
ences tend to be eliminated. After renewal commissions cease, some
companies pay a small annual service fee as long as a policy is in force.
Debit agents’ earnings from servicing debits range from about 10 to
15 percent of the weekly premiums and 6 to 8 percent of the monthly
premiums. If companies provide a guaranteed minimum compensa­
tion, this compensation replaces commission-type payments when they
fail to meet the minimum.


Some 85 percent of surveyed NALU women members were compen­
sated on a straight commission basis. Only about 5 percent were oper­
ating under a drawing account arrangement. Most of the others
worked on a salary and commission basis with the salary usually rep­
resenting earnings for managerial and related responsibilities and
guaranteed minimum payments to debit agents.
Renewal commissions which build up after a few years of selling,
constitute a fairly important factor in the earnings of life under­
writers. Renewals not only supplement new commissions to raise the
level of earnings, but represent current income requiring relatively
little current expenditure of time and effort. They provide a contin­
uing source of income in periods when new sales may drop off because
of personal circumstances such as illness or slacken because of unfavor­
able economic conditions.
Comprehensive data are not available on the income of life under­
writers, but earnings are known to range from very modest to very
substantial sums.
Earnings of Surveyed Women
Some facts on earnings are available for the women NALU members
who participated in the survey. The distribution of income from life
underwriting in 1957 was reported as follows.

Percent of



Under $2,500-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------$2,500 to $4,999
$5,000 to $9,999----------------------------------------------------------------------------------$10,000 to $14,999
$15,000 and over---------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Included among those with lower incomes were some part-time
agents who had managerial or other responsibilities, a goodly num­
ber who had been selling insurance for less than 3 years, and a num­
ber who because of advanced age were tapering off their activity.
For the group as a whole, higher earnings were reported by those
with more years of selling experience. More than 70 percent of the
women in insurance for 6 or more years earned at least $5,000, while
one-fourth of those with 10 or more years’ experience earned at least

It must be remembered, however, that the number of respondents
compared with the total number of women agents is very small and
that these data may not reflect the picture for all women underwrit­
ers. Nevertheless, the figures do offer some indication of what might
be achieved in the way of earnings.


Financing New Underwriters

An estimated 80 percent of the new agents are financed by their
companies for periods ranging from 1 to 3 years. But industry rep­
resentatives believe that a smaller proportion of new women agents
are financed as compared with men. Financing is usually deter­
mined according to budgetary needs.
Financing may take the form of (1) the simple advance against
commissions; (2) the simple advance against commissions plus a train­
ing allowance which is not repayable; and (3) straight salary with
no obligation* to repay. There are many variations to these plans,
but in all of them specified minimum production requirements must
usually be met.
Business Expenses of Underwriters
Fife insurance companies absorb to a varying degree some of the
business expenses of their agents. The companies through their field
offices typically, but not uniformly, provide office space and supplies,
clerical and secretarial assistance, promotional materials, postage, and
some financing of educational costs. Nevertheless, most life under­
writers incur business expenses which are not reimbursed by the com­
panies. Such expenses may include a car, office space in the home,
additional secretarial help, promotional activities beyond those taken
care of by the company, attendance at conventions and seminars, edu­
cational costs, and others.
Since some of these expenses are incurred at the option of the under­
writer, they understandably ranged from relatively small to quite sig­
nificant proportions of the agents’ earnings. More than a fourth of
the NALU women members who provided information on this topic
reported that their unreimbursed expenses amounted to no more than
10 percent of their income. For about two-thirds of the women sur­
veyed, unreimbursed expenses did not exceed 25 percent of their
earnings; for the remaining third unreimbursed expenses amounted
to more than 25 percent and in a few cases exceeded 50 percent.
Supplementary Benefits Available

Most full-time agents are covered by one or more types of benefit
programs which the companies finance in varying degrees. Cover­
age and extent of benefits may depend on meeting certain production
The questionnaire sent to NALU women members included an item
on insurance and pension programs. The responses indicated that al­
most half the full-time agents were covered by group life and health

insurance and by group pension plans. More than 20 percent had
life and health insurance; another 7 percent were under life insurance
and pension plans. Some 15 percent had protection in only one of
these three programs. Relatively few were not covered by any bene­
fit plans, and included among these were some who had not yet met
qualifying production goals.
Part-time agents were covered to a much lesser extent, with vir­
tually half the responding part-time underwriters not receiving any
type of protection under company-participating programs.





■V i



A national committee of NALU in session. As members, women underwriters participate
in making policy recommendations. These committees play an important role in furthering
NALU’s program.


Hours of Work
Wide Range in Working Hours

It is often emphasized that life underwriters, as independent opera­
tors, punch no time clocks. Their time is committed by others only to
the extent that they may have to attend agency or branch office confer­
ences.6 Otherwise, experienced underwriters put into their work as
much time as they choose, as long as their production is acceptable to
the companies. Career life underwriters, women as well as men, em­
phasize that this is a full-time activity calling for full-time effort.
Census data for 1950 show that 88 out of 100 men insurance agents
and brokers (including casualty) worked at least 40 hours a week;
30 out of 100 worked more than 48 hours. Corresponding hours for
women were somewhat lower; 63 out of 100 worked 40 hours or more
and only 7 percent worked more than 48 hours.7
Data on average weekly hours worked are available for NALU
women members who participated in the survey. The few combina­
tion agents included reported longer average weekly hours than the
ordinary agents. No combination agent worked fewer than 30 hours
a week on the average during the year, with the median number, 44.6.
About three-fifths of the full-time ordinary agents averaged 35 or
more hours a week during 1957; one-fourth averaged weekly hours in
excess of 40; 17 percent reported that they worked 50 hours or more.
At the other side of the scale, two-fifths of the full-time agents aver­
aged fewer than 35 hours a week, which is commonly considered part­
time work in our economy. The median number of hours worked by
surveyed ordinary full-time women agents was 37.8; for part-time
agents, 16.0.
6 This is less applicable to combination agents who have a definite commitment to collect
premiums, but their new sales are made whenever they choose.
7 Figures exclude part-time agents whose major occupation is in another field.


Relationship of Hours to Earnings

Survey data revealed, as might be expected, that there is some cor­
relation between hours and earnings. Among the women under­
writers responding, earnings were higher as hours were longer al­
though there were many exceptions to this general pattern.
Of those earning $2,500 during 1957, three-fourths averaged fewer
than 30 hours a week, and a large majority of these, fewer than
20 hours. Three-fifths of those earning between $2,500 and $4,999
averaged fewer than 40 hours a week, one-fourth averaged 40 hours,
and relatively few reported longer hours. Three out of five earning
$5,000 to $9,999 worked from 30 to 50 hours a week on the average,
although in this earnings interval about as many reported fewer than
30 hours as did more than 50 hours.
The high-income women underwriters, earning at least $10,000 in
1957, were well represented among those reporting short-to-average
workweeks, but more than three-fifths of them worked at least 40
hours and almost a third reported an average of 50 hours or more.
Evening and Weekend Work Common

The great majority of life underwriters conduct some of their sales
interviews, and many of them do much related work, evenings and
weekends. But there is great variation in the extent to which eve­
nings and weekends are taken up by insurance activities—at least
among NALU women members who provided survey information.
Many of these women tended to limit their evening and weekend
work; for about half it amounted to fewer than 10 hours each week.
A third spent from 10 to 19 hours on evening and weekend work; a
few' reported that they did most of their work at these times. A
greater proportion of the debit agents, among the respondents, ap­
peared to devote more hours to evening and weekend work.
Although well-established women underwriters may be quite suc­
cessful producers and earn a good income working fewer than 35
hours a week, and with a minimum of evening and weekend hours,
many NALU respondents warned that the new agent must be prepared
to work long hours, including many in the evenings and weekends, in
the early years of her career.
One advantage life underwriting offers women is the flexibility in
working hours, particularly for the ordinary agent. It is possible
to schedule interviews at hours mutually convenient to the agent and
the client, with desk work fitted in accordingly.


Place of Employment and Working Arrangements

Geographic Distribution and Type of Community

Since life underwriting is a service to people, underwriters sell
insurance in all populated places. Consequently, agents are more
numerous in the States and areas with the greater concentrations of
An analysis of the geographic distribution of all NALU women
members shows an unusually high proportion of women life under­
writers in the South (42 percent), with particular emphasis in the
South Atlantic States, and proportions lower than might be expected
in the Northeast and West. The NALU survey data follow a similar
pattern, as shown in the following tabulation.
Percent distribution of—


North Central_____________
West ____________________



1. 5

NALU women members live in more than 600 cities and towns and
sell insurance in these and surrounding areas. Again, the South is
represented strongly with the largest number of different communi­
ties—257, compared with 119 in the Northeast, 153 in the North
Central States, and 91 in the West.
These figures seem to point to the greater prevalence of women
life underwriters in the South, but since the data relate only to NALU
members, the evidence is not conclusive.
Women life underwriters sell insurance in large cities and small
communities; in urban centers, and in suburban and rural areas.
Many NALU members (42 percent) who returned questionnaires

worked in cities of 100,000 to 999,999 population. Another 31 per­
cent were in communities of 5,000 to 99,999 population; only 12 per­
cent were in cities with 1,000,000 or more people.
About two-thirds of the surveyed women agents limited their sell­
ing activities to city and/or suburban areas, 3 percent handled rural
business exclusively, and the remainder had some rural customers
along with urban clients.
Types of Working Arrangements

In addition to the home office, all the large companies have either
general agencies or branch offices. A company’s home office per­
forms many centralized activities, but the selling and servicing func­
tions are decentralized to the thousands of local agencies which are
in the field. Most of these field offices are of modest size with a staff
of perhaps 10 agents. Large offices may have as many as 50
underwriters, whereas many small ones have only 2 or 3.
The Branch Office System. Some companies direct their field
operations through branch offices. These serve a specific territory
and are run by company managers who are salaried employees.
Managers and their assistants recruit, train, and supervise the field
staff and are responsible fior the operations of the branch offices. The
branch office usually provides office space, office supplies, promotional
materials, some clerical and secretarial assistance, and other services
for its full-time agents.
The General Agency System. A general agency is more of an
independent business run by a general agent who is not a salaried
employee of the company. These agencies may or may not have
exclusive rights to represent a company in a specified area. Most
general agents are now subsidized in varying degrees by their com­
panies and are supervised rather closely in many cases. They have
much the same responsibilities as the branch manager—recruiting,
training, and supervising the field staff and directing the field opera­
tions. The general agency, like the branch office, also provides
facilities and services to its agents.
Direct Reporting Agents, Brokerage Firms. Some of the smaller
companies have all their functions and responsibilities emanate from
the home office. Underwriters under contract to such companies are
direct reporting agents. They comprise a small proportion of all
A small number of life insurance underwriters are attached to
brokerage firms which handle business for more than one company.


Outlook and How To Get Started

Market for Life Insurance

All indicators point to a continued rise in life insurance sales in
the coming years, and to a continued need for additional agents. Our
population is increasing. There are more families who need protec­
tion, more young people going to college, more homes being pur­
chased, more elderly people who want retirement income.
There is still a vast potential market among those not covered by
life insurance and those who have some life insurance but, by their
own admission, feel that they are not adequately covered.
Agency outlets have increased considerably since World War II,
as population has risen and shifted to new areas. There is a trend
toward more and smaller agency and branch office outlets outside
metropolitan centers.
New agencies recruit new underwriters, of course, but most wellestablished general agencies and branch offices are constantly recruit­
ing as well.
Turnover Creates Demand for Personnel
Even more numerous than openings resulting from expansion, will
be those resulting from persons who leave the field. Turnover among
life underwriters is high despite increasing attempts to achieve suit­
able appointments. A study conducted by the Life Insurance Agency
Management Association covering selected companies reveal that of
each 100 full-time agents hired in 1950 only 45 were still with their
companies after the first year; 28, after the second year; 21, after the
third year; 16, after the fourth year; arid 14, after the fifth year.
Turnover rates varied considerably among the individual companies
surveyed, with some reporting a far lower rate of agent personnel
loss. Unquestionably some of the underwriters who leave their com­
panies continue their attachments to the industry as agents with other
companies, but just what proportion is not known. Nevertheless,

replacement needs for those who quit life insurance selling create
many opportunities for new personnel to enter the field.
In an effort to reduce turnover many companies and their agencies
have become very selective in their recruitment. It is not uncommon
for agency managers to interview many applicants in order to place
a few under contract.
Outlook for Women

The preceding statements in this section apply to both women and
men potential underwriters. But women are not sought after in
quite the same manner as men.
Agency managers, who do most of the recruiting (usually subject
to the final approval of the home office), entertain widely different
attitudes regarding the desirability of utilizing women as life under­
writers. Some wax enthusiastic; others consider them on the same
basis as men; still others although uncertain may give them a try;
whereas some refuse to have women underwriters associated with their
agencies. Although many agency recruiters would not encourage a
woman’s entry into this career, there are many others who are recep­
tive to the idea.
These differences of opinion generally reflect no company bias, no
geographic origin. Just as in other occupational fields, recruitment
practices depend on the attitude of the hiring official, in this case
the individual general agent or branch manager. At the same time,
few companies appear to have made serious efforts to encourage
the recruitment of women or to dissipate current barriers to their
Perhaps the most effective encouragement a woman needs is the
succesful performance of women underwriters already in the field.
And after she becomes a life underwriter, a woman has equal oppor­
tunity with men in pursuing her career.
How To Get Started in the Industry

Women interested in life underwriting should seek advice from
those in the field—friends, relatives, their own or their families’
agent, and officials in the local associations of the National Association
of Life Underwriters. They should learn first hand from other agents
what the job is like and should attempt to get introductions to general
agents or branch managers.
Large metropolitan areas have many general agencies and branch
offices and a direct request for an interview with the agency manager
can be made. Public and private employment offices sometimes have


openings for life underwriters. Newspaper classified advertising is
commonly used for recruitment, although, at times, “blind” ads are
difficult to identify as openings for insurance agents.
Women still in college should arrange to see the recruiters who
represent insurance companies when they visit the campus.
If a woman is interested in becoming associated with any particular
company, information may be obtained from its home office, or from
the general agency or branch office in the local community, if there is
one. State insurance commissioners have available the names and ad­
dresses of all companies authorized to operate in their States.
Aptitude tests are now used by most companies to determine appli­
cants’ suitability for this work. The most widely used test is the
one developed by the Life Insurance Agency Management Association.
Choice of Company and Agency Important

A great many of the surveyed NALU women members emphasized
the importance of becoming associated with a company that offers a
comprehensive training program and with an agency that, in turn,
applies the training program effectively.
Good training and supervision can make or break an agent in the
early stages of her career. Furthermore, experienced as well as new
underwriters benefit from continued assistance and encouragement
from their agency managers. The professional tone they set and the
emphasis they place on topnotch career standards may mean the dif­
ference between a run-of-the-mill job or an outstanding career.
The woman who is considering a life underwriting career should be
particularly careful in the selection of an agency and should attempt
to become associated with one w'hose manager or training supervisor
has a constructive attitude toward women underwriters.
Licensing Requirements

Agents must be licensed in each State where they sell insurance. In
41 States and the District of Columbia the regulations covering the
qualifications and licensing of agents provide for written examina­
tions, although in several States an applicant may offer the comple­
tion of an approved company course in lieu of the examination. Some
States permit temporary licensing without examination varying in
length of time from 30 days to 6 months. Agents must be sponsored
by the companies they represent in order to obtain a license. The
companies generally pay the licensing fees.


Training Opportunities and Advancement

Company Sponsored Training

At one time in the history of the industry an agent was put under
contract, given a rate book, and sent out to sell. No such situation
prevails today. Potential agents may be given some precontract
training, new agents are given intensive company-developed training,
and both company- and industry-sponsored courses are available to
the agent of limited experience and to the advanced underwriter.
Precontract Orientation. A recent survey reveals that quite a few
companies have in recent years introduced precontract training curriculums or outlines.8 Adapted mostly from basic training materials,
this orientation program is designed to give agency managers a
means of further evaluating applicants and eliminating potential
misfits. The training also gives applicants a better picture of what
their work as agents will be.
Study items are more prevalent than field work, but many com­
panies include observing or delivering sales talks. Most precontract
training is of short duration, consuming fewer than 25 hours. Pre­
contract training is not required by all the companies which have
developed such programs, but most either require or encourage it.
On-the-job Training. Life insurance companies have a compulsory
basic training course for their new agents which is usually conducted
at the agency level, and which may be of fairly short duration or
take up to a year to complete. In this stage of training, agents study
the needs for and the uses and functions of different kinds of life in­
surance ; learn to conduct sales interviews, to develop lists of prospects,
to establish wTork schedules, and to know the variety of policies of­
fered by their companies.
Intermediate or follow-up training offered by companies is not
always compulsory; often the underwriter is recommended for such

Precontract Orientation—1959, Life Insurance Agency Management Association.


training. Advanced training is usually limited to “select” agents
meeting specified production requirements and other qualifications.
Intermediate courses may be conducted locally or at the home office
or a combination of both. Advanced courses are often given at the
home office or by some large companies at regional training
Intermediate and advanced training variously include insurance
programming, estate planning and conservation, business insurance,
pension planning, benefit trusts, and taxation (including lederal
estate taxes, State death taxes, gift taxes).
_ .
Although the tripartite division of training into basic, inter­
mediate, and advanced curriculums has been used here for conveni­
ence, many companies do not classify their training programs in this
fashion. Nor do all companies, once past the basic induction train­
ing, offer additional training with equal thoroughness, emphasis, and
Institutional Programs

Life Underwriters Training Council. The Life Underwi iters
Training Council (LUTC), founded in 1947, is an independent
organization established and originally financed by the National As­
sociation of Life Underwriters, the American Life Convention, the
Life Insurance Agency Management Association, and the Life Insur­
ance Association of America.
The LUTC, supported by company and agent organizations, offers
a 2-year classroom training program at an intermediate level. The
courses emphasize practical selling techniques. The first year’s work
covers such topics as the underwriter s job, product, customer needs,
programming, sales process, and selection of a market. The second
year includes expanding one’s business, problems of business owner­
ship, the corporate client, estate creation and conservation, estate dis­
tribution, and total need selling.
To be eligible for the first course, the students must have at least 1
year’s experience as a life insurance agent, have completed company
training required during the first, year, and be recommended by the
agency manager. For second year admission, the student must have
successfully completed the first year’s course or have had 2 years
experience in life insurance selling and have met a specified minimum
Students attend classes for 2i/2 hours each week for 25 weeks in
each of the 2 years, generally from October to May. Instructors are
drawn from successful local life underwriters and agency or home
office officials. Citation certificates are awarded to those who suc­
cessfully complete both years of the course.


Underwriters in a local agency get together for training.
exchange of ideas.

Here a group engages in an

During the first year LUTC was in operation, 5 pilot classes, with
a total of 133 students, were set up in 3 cities. In the 1959-60 school
year, 647 first-year and 410 second-year classes were offered in 590
cities and were attended by almost 20,000 students, including 160
women. The LUTC program had graduated 31,580 students by the
spring of 1960. This phenomenal growth attests to the important need
filled by this form of institutional training. Students usually pay
the moderate cost of this program of study. Occasionally, compa­
nies may finance the training.
Insurance Marketing Institutes. Two universities, Purdue and
Southern Methodist, offer courses in life underwriting on campus
combined with field wTork to agents under contract.
The programs at both universities take about a year and include
several 4-week periods of classroom work on campus alternating with


periods of several months of supervised selling experience in the
student’s agency. Most of the students, but not all, are first-year
The Institutes were founded in the mid-1940’s and have since been
attended by several thousand students. In addition to the on-campus
programs, the Institutes also conduct seminars, generally of 1-week’s
duration, in various sections of the country. Both Purdue and South­
ern Methodist have held seminars for women underwriters. These
seminars have been sponsored by The Women Leaders Bound Table
with an outstanding woman underwriter joining the university pro­
fessors who make up the teaching staff.
American College of Life Underwriters: The CLU Designation.
The American College of Life Underwriters was founded in 1927 by
the National Association of Life Underwriters under a separate
charter to establish high standards of education which would provide
underwriters with the knowledge and attitudes to serve their clients
on a professional level. The college also encourages research in life
insurance and related fields and promotes life insurance education in
colleges and universities. It offers no instruction, but acts as an
examining board.
The educational program for underwriters consists of a comprehen­
sive course of study usually extending over a period of 4 and often
more years. It involves college-level study for the passing of five
examinations keyed to the following programs of studies:
I. Fundamentals of Life Insurance and Annuities
II. Business Life Insurance, Health Insurance, Group Insurance and
III. Law, Trusts, and Taxation
IV. Economics and Finance
V. The Practice of Life Underwriting ; Comprehensive.

Candidates may prepare for the examinations in any manner they
choose, although the college recommends study in formal courses
offered by many cooperating colleges and universities, or in study
groups sponsored by local chapters of the American Society of
Chartered Life Underwriters and/or local associations of the NALU.
Many companies finance the cost of C.L.U. study entirely or in part.
Candidates who pass all examinations and have at least 3 years of
insurance experience are awarded the designation of Chartered Life
Underwriter (C.L.U.), the highest educational distinction which can
be bestowed on a life agent. It is the symbol of professional achieve­
ment in the industry. The C.L.U. designation also entitles the under­
writer to membership in the American Society of Chartered Life Un­
derwriters and to participate in its activities. The designation had

been awarded to 7,989 persons, including 157 women, by the end of
Although C.L.U. study is considered the most advanced life insur­
ance training program, occasionally college students and graduates
who have taken appropriate courses may take all or some of the exam­
inations before meeting the 3-year experience requirement. In such
cases, the C.L.U. designation is not awarded until the candidate has
acquired 3 years of experience.
Women Underwriters Urge Training

More than four-fifths of the women who participated in the NALU
survey had completed company basic training programs. That not
all had participated in such programs reflects the fact that a goodly
number of the women had entered this field of work many years ago
when company training was not so widespread. In addition, some
had become underwriters during World War II when manpower short­
ages were so stringent that the pressure to go into selling directly was
very great. Furthermore, there was also a great shortage of train­
ing staff.
More than half of the surveyed women reported that they had
completed both LUTC courses of study, and another 17 percent indi­
cated that they were currently taking such training.
Almost 3 out of 10 of the respondents reported having participated
in C.L.U. training, and, of this group, nearly 1 in 3 had completed
the training.
Surveyed women underwriters again and again stressed the impor­
tance of taking as much training as possible. They pointed out that
those in the field must keep abreast, through continuous study, of
social, economic, and legal changes affecting life underwriting.
Advancement to Other Positions

Life underwriting is an occupation which offers ample opportuni­
ties for financial advancement without moving into other positions in
life insurance. Some salaried agency and home office posts offer
advancement potential to agents who have administrative talents and
who find managerial and executive work attractive. However, most
successful underwriters are not especially interested in transferring
to these salaried positions.
There are a few women general agents who own their own busi­
nesses. Some women underwriters, but not many, have moved from
life underwriting to supervisory and executive agency and home office


Life Underwriters Organizations

National Association of Life Underwriters

The National Association of Life Underwriters is made up of State
associations which, in turn, are made up of local associations in cities
and towns having enough life insurance agents to support a local
organization. Membership is confined to underwriters, general agents,
and managers. The NALU and its affiliated State and local associa­
tions are active in all areas affecting the interest and welfare of its
members. It participates vigorously in sponsoring training and en­
couraging educational programs on insurance in public schools and
colleges. It works for effective insurance legislation. In 1960, mem­
bership in local associations affiliated with the National Association
totaled about 80,000, including 1,500 women.
The Association promotes professional career attitudes, and its
members subscribe to a code of ethics which call for conduct of high
standards in handling their responsibilities to clients and companies.
Members receive the Association’s official monthly publication, Life
Association News.
With the National Association setup, there is a Women’s Committee
of Life Underwriters which is concerned with matters of special
interest to women members.
The National Quality Award. The Committee on Conservation of
the NALU and the Quality Business Committee of the Life Insur­
ance Agency Management Association sponsor the National Quality
Award (NQA), with emphasis on quality of production rather than
To qualify for the award in any year, candidates must show a
persistency record of 90 percent by amount or number of lives insured.
This means that 90 percent of the paid business not terminated by
death or term conversion must still be in force for that year and the
one immediately preceding. For each year the applicant must have
sold $150,000 of insurance on at least 15 lives. Certificates are

A distinguished woman life underwriter achieves a great honor. As president of the
American Society of Chartered Life Underwriters, the national organization of career life
underwriters, she presides at a Board meeting.

awarded successful candidates. Ten-year winners of the award re­
ceive a laminated plaque; 15-year winners a trophy.
The NQA program was initiated in 1945. Based on 1958 and 1959
production records, about 15,000 underwriters applied and qualified
for NQA in 1960.
Women Leaders Round Table. Organized within the framework
of the NALU, the Women Leaders Bound Table was founded to recog­
nize the achievement of women underwriters producing a considerable
volume of business, to promote a friendly relationship and to provide
for an exchange of ideas among these women. To qualify for member­
ship, women must sell at least $250,000 of insurance in 1 year, credited
according to specified criteria. A woman may become a life member if
she qualifies for 3 consecutive years or for 4 out of 5 consecutive years.
In 1960 (based on 1959 production), 302 women were in the Women
Leaders Bound Table; more than half sold well over the minimum
amount required for membership. The Women Leaders Bound Table
does not include all women who sell a quarter-million dollars or more
of insurance, however; some do not apply for membership.


Million Dollar Round Table. Also organized within the frame­
work of the NALU is the Million Dollar Round Table, which is an
organization of outstanding life insurance underwriters who produce
large volumes of business—namely $1 million or more in a year,
credited as specified by the organization. In 1960, the Million Dollar
Round Table had 3,040 members including some outstandingly suc­
cessful women underwriters.
American Society of Chartered Life Underwriters

Membership in the American Society of Chartered Life Under­
writers is limited to Chartered Life Underwriters. The Society’s ac­
tivities include sponsoring further education on a graduate level,
providing its members with various professional services, and promot­
ing increased public recognition of the significance of the C.L.U.
designation. The Society conducts annual C.L.U. Institutes which
are held at prominent universities and at which new ideas in advanced
life insurance practices are studied.
The C.L.U. Journal is the official professional publication of the
Society. In 1960, there were 118 local chapters, many of which were
active in establishing and conducting local C.L.U. study groups.

In Conclusion
It has often heen said, and quite correctly, that there is no ceiling to
a life underwriter’s earnings. By the same token, there is no ceiling
to the underwriter’s efforts. Hours can be long; evenings and week­
ends are frequently devoted to sales interviews. There is hard work
and some unrewarded effort. There is much to learn and study never
seems to end. There is competition. Mistakes are made. Beginning
earnings may be low.
However, if one is willing to continue study and discipline oneself
to work effectively and discuss financial needs with many well-selected
prospects, the career of life underwriting offers unlimited opportu­
nities for earnings and for service—as reporting women agents
pointed out repeatedly and emphatically.
They like the challenge and stimulation life underwriting offers.
They find insurance a prestige career which brings them respect in the
community. They enjoy being their own bosses and choosing as
clients people they want to deal with.

They emphasize the security this work offers, the fact that in most
instances agents can continue to sell insurance with no compulsory
retirement. Economic recessions bring no layoffs.
Finally, they stress that for the woman with the needed qualifica­
tions and with the determination to succeed, life underwriting is a
career whose potential compares favorably with many others in finan­
cial reward and in satisfaction of service.


Anderson, Kenneth L. Invitation to a Career. Indianapolis, Ind. The Research
and Review Service, Inc. 1955. 45 pp.
Institute of Life Insurance. 1960 Life Insurance Fact Book. New York, N.Y.
128 pp. Published annually.
--------------- Invitation to Youth, Careers in Life Insurance. New York, N.Y.
32 pp.
Kelsey, R. Wilfred and Daniels, Arthur C. Handbook of Life Insurance. New
York, N.Y. Institution of Life Insurance. 1949. 87 pp.
Life Insurance Agency Management Association. Do You Fit Into This Picture?
Hartford, Conn.
--------------- Career Underwriting, A Life Work. Hartford, Conn. 63 pp.
U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employment Outlook
in Insurance Occupations. Bull. No. 1255-39. U.S. Government Printing
Office, Washington, D.C. 15 cents. 18 pp.