I was on vacation recently in London. On a tour, I heard an interesting story about how the term underwriter came to be. The term has to do with the insurance company, Lloyd’s of London, and dates back to 1688! We all know about mortgage underwriters and how it’s their job to underwrite the risk of the loan, and either approve or deny each loan application.
The tour leader told us that Lloyd’s started as Lloyd’s Coffee House, opened by Edward Lloyd around 1688 in London. This establishment was a popular place for sailors, merchants, and ship owners, and Lloyd catered to them with reliable shipping news. The shipping industry community frequented the place to discuss deals among themselves, including insurance.
The word “underwriter” is said to have come from the practice of having each risk-taker write their name under the total amount of risk that they were willing to accept at a specified premium for each event. These individuals would literally write their names under the text describing the event for which Lloyd’s was assuming some risk; hence, the term “written under” or underwriting.