The Top Skills Needed in a Surplus Lines Employee

The Top Skills Needed in a Surplus Lines Employee

Every employer wishes there was a crystal ball that could predict who will thrive and succeed in a new position. The surplus lines industry is no different. There is no guarantee that the recently hired person will be a fast-learning superstar, and there is not always a way to know who will end up not being a great fit. At InsCipher, we help agencies file hundreds of thousands of policies each year, and have learned a thing or two about building efficient surplus lines filing teams. We’ve determined many skills that can be good indicators that a Surplus Lines employee will enjoy this unique field.

Attention to Detail 

Working as a Surplus Lines filer or accountant involves dealing with submitting reports where errors in amounts or late submissions can be costly in fines and penalties. It is necessary to reconcile policies, filings, premiums, and taxes – monthly, quarterly, annually, semi-annually. These filings, reports, and payments must be accurate. I once received a late fine of $25/day from North Dakota for being off by 1 penny! With this kind of high-stakes accuracy on the line, attention to detail is critical.

Tech Savvy

Technology is at the center of what we do. A Surplus Lines professional works with 50 different state websites and EFT payments when completing reports and payments. Excel spreadsheets, Google, and Microsoft suites are a regular part of the workday. A successful tax filer must be comfortable utilizing technology. Almost everything is done electronically, including signatures. Mail and paper reports/checks are quickly becoming a thing of the past.      

Eagerness to Learn/Interest in Insurance

Surplus Lines is unique – not many people outside of the industry, and even not many within, are familiar with what Surplus Lines is and how it works. A successful Surplus Lines employee must be willing to learn about tax laws, reporting, filing, and payment. To increase knowledge, it is important to seek out webinars and conferences and obtain designations. Taking classes outside of work will increase knowledge and confidence. Although it is not necessary to have a background in these areas, an interest in and a willingness to learn about insurance and tax law is definitely a plus.

Highly Organized

There is so much to keep track of! Due dates, tax rates, documents, forms, policies, state stamp wording, diligent efforts, etc. Using a platform such as InsCipher’s surplus lines tax software, InsCipher Connect™, keeps track of all of this for you. However, with so many items to stay on top of, a successful Surplus Lines tax filer or accountant is highly organized by nature. It is a high-volume, deadline-driven industry, and being able to look ahead and plan out workflow is critical. Someone once told me when looking for a filer, “You want that person who organizes their spice rack.”

Conscientious and Self-motivated

An excellent predictor of a successful Surplus Lines employee is one who is driven by the satisfaction of a job well done and is intrinsically motivated. By nature, this is not a person who drops the ball. They want to do well because it is the right thing to do, and they derive satisfaction from crossing the finish line without needing the spotlight or external kudos. Using checklists is a part of their nature. The satisfaction that comes from completing a list of important tasks is what drives them. They thrive working on their own and have no trouble focusing on, and digging into, the job at hand. 

Prodding from others to get things done is not needed.

Adaptable to Change/Calm Under Pressure

It is the nature of the beast when dealing with taxes – there are predictable times throughout the year when there are monthly, quarterly, semi-annual and annual deadlines. The volume and workload during these times is increased and can create stress and pressure. Remaining calm during those times and having the ability to maintain balance keeps those moments in perspective. When a project is near completion, and a change is thrown their way, requiring amending or re-creating, how do they handle it? Someone who needs consistency and predictability may get thrown.

The Surplus Lines industry is constantly changing. Adaptability is key. If an employee sees a way to improve a process to increase efficiency, thinking outside the box is extremely helpful.

Team player

Working with state regulators, accountants, filers, brokers, and managers is a regular part of a Surplus Lines employee’s day. It takes a team to stay on top of industry changes and get filings, reports, and payments submitted on time. Having a team that works well together to answer questions, help each other, collaborate, and encourage each other can make all the difference in enjoying the job and motivating to get the work done. It is a must to have go-to coworkers and others in the industry who understand Surplus Lines and all of the nuances of this unique line of work.


Often, it is all too easy and comfortable to “do what you’ve always done” to accomplish a task. Someone new will come along and ask, “Why is it done this way?” A fresh set of eyes and a new perspective can challenge the status quo and help develop solutions and efficiencies. Being open-minded, creative, and inquisitive are needed and appreciated traits in a Surplus Lines employee. There is a lot to know when working in the Surplus Lines, with constant changes and updates. Asking questions to coworkers in other departments or state regulators helps an employee become more educated and well-rounded.

Finding candidates that meet demonstrate these qualities is not always an easy task. If you’re looking for an alternative to building and managing an in-house surplus lines team, InsCipher offers comprehensive Filing Services™ to manage every aspect of surplus lines tax filing, from ensuring policies meet compliance requirements to managing deadlines, calculating accurate tax rates, submit payments, and creating reports. Request your free consultation today!

InsCipher is an insurtech company providing software and services that are revolutionizing inefficient insurance processes. Save your agency time and money by automating surplus lines compliance, filing, and reporting. Want to learn more? Request a free demo today!

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