Mining for Scholarships

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Understatement alert…  A college education is not an inexpensive commodity.

Fortunately, there are literally thousands of scholarship opportunities available to students who are willing to seek these opportunities and apply for them.  For those students interested in pursuing an education and career in the risk management and insurance profession, there are several scholarship opportunities from a variety of groups who recognize the need to attract young talent to the industry.

I want to personally and publicly congratulate two Ferris State University students who have earned scholarships from the Michigan Adjusters Association: Sarah Scobey and Scott Sawyer.  Both Sarah and Scott continue to excel in their Ferris State academic work and they should be proud that an association of insurance industry professionals recognizes their potential and is willing to invest in them with these scholarship funds.

Scott Sawyer also earned another scholarship a few months back.  Scott was awarded a scholarship from the Westran Insurance Scholarship Foundation.  This is another testament to Scott’s academic achievements and potential as a future insurance professional.  Congratulations to Sarah and Scott!

There are many other scholarship opportunities available to students of risk management and insurance.  Gamma Iota Sigma provides a handy scholarship deadline tool.  There are also scholarships available from the Insurance Scholarship Foundation of America, InVEST Program, and Spencer Educational Foundation, just to name a few.

Go get some money!

Rebuilding Lives

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One aspect of the insurance industry that I believe is undersold in the recruiting process is the opportunity to rebuild broken lives.  On several occasions in recent months, I have written in this forum about the opportunities for a good and stable career in the insurance industry.  But it’s more than just a stable industry with appealing compensation and growing opportunities.  Much more.

When you boil it all down to the basic mission of the insurance industry, it’s all about rebuilding lives that have been disrupted if not turned upside down by an unfortunate event.  It could be as minor as a fender-bender auto accident or as major as the destruction of a home by fire or storm.  Everything we do in the insurance industry comes down to the moment that we help the customer to recover from the fender-bender or rebuild the family home.  We sell the policies with an eye toward covering these loss exposures, we underwrite to offer the coverage that is proper and fair and responsibly priced, we loss control risks to prevent as many losses as possible, we analyze the data to develop proper coverages and rates, and we settle the loss to put the customer’s life back together.  What an awesome mission and privilege.

I have to credit Auto-Owners Insurance Company Chairman and CEO Jeff Harrold who did express this appealing mission to the attendees of his company’s recent career day event which I wrote about here.  Much has been written (here and elsewhere) about the “graying” of the insurance industry with reports that perhaps 25% of the current insurance workforce will retire in the next 4-6 years.  That fact adds some urgency to industry appeals for young talented people to consider an insurance career.  But Millenials want more than a good job.  They want a meaningful job, and so part of the industry’s appeal for young talent must emphasize the noble mission of rebuilding broken lives.  What an incredible opportunity… make a good living, working in a stable industry with significant advancement opportunities, while helping your customers through perhaps the toughest days of their lives.  Sign me up.

Auto-Owners Insurance Company Career Day

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Michigan is home to many excellent insurance firms, including carriers, agents, brokers, and service providers.  Last Friday, I took the time to journey to Lansing, Michigan to attend the annual Career Day event hosted by Auto-Owners Insurance Company at their headquarters.  A number of Ferris State University students also made the trip, and I think that they were duly impressed with what they saw and heard.

This post isn’t intended to be an endorsement of Auto-Owners Insurance Company, and by no means do I intend to convey that Auto-Owners is superior to other insurance entities.  I simply want to take this opportunity to describe the day and reinforce some sentiments that have been previously expressed in this forum.

The event began with remarks from Auto-Owners’ Chairman and CEO, Jeff Harrold.  Mr. Harrold also happens to be a Ferris State graduate, so okay, maybe I do have a little bias in favor of his company.  Mr. Harrold spoke to the students about the long history (98 years) and continued growth of Auto-Owners Insurance Company.  He also described the culture of opportunity and personal development for employees at Auto-Owners, and he mentioned the simple demographic truth that there are many aging insurance professionals approaching retirement and that young talented individuals will find significant opportunities to make a career in the insurance industry.  Naturally, Mr. Harrold is hoping that many of the students will seek to begin that career journey with Auto-Owners.

The group heard from people in the actuarial, information technology, and underwriting areas of the company.  Everyone had the chance to take a brief tour of the corporate headquarters and have lunch with the senior officers of the firm, followed by a wrap-up panel session of questions and answers.

It was a well-organized experience that I believe made an impression on the students in attendance.  One thing is clear… excellent companies such as Auto-Owners recognize the need to attract excellent young talent if they are to continue their growth and success.  The insurance industry is rife with stable and challenging career opportunities for today’s young professional in a variety of areas that include actuarial science, information technology, underwriting, business analysts, quality analysts, and more.  It’s anything but boring.

Baby Girl

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The primary intent of my social media posts is to highlight topics related to the risk management and insurance industry.  I have tried to mix it up and keep things interesting by occasionally introducing topics that may not immediately seem to be related to risk and insurance, and then making some sort of connection.  Today’s post is not one of those posts.

Sometimes, it’s just good to consider the blessings and miracles of life, and a new baby is at the top of the list when it comes to blessings and miracles.  Well, today I am a very proud first-time grandfather as I welcome Kendall Nicole into the world.  Words cannot describe the feelings and emotions right now.  I close this post by sharing this which describes 25 things that we take for granted but that my new granddaughter may never know in her lifetime.  It’s a testament to how rapidly the world changes with each generation.

Welcome to the world little Kendall.

Big Data – Big Risk?

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It’s a match made in heaven – or so it seems.  “Big data” is the term commonly used to refer to the incredibly massive (and still growing) pool of data generated from the digital footprints of our daily lives.  It has evolved beyond the basic retail point-of-sale data on what we buy and where.  Now, big data includes many of our online actions, mobile phone activity, health information from our fitness trackers or smart watches, and all manner of information from the “internet of things” that increasingly permeate our lives.  Surely, all of this data can be used to more accurately assess risk and therefore more efficiently underwrite the insurance of those risks.

This recent Business Insurance article highlights the possibilities of big data and touts the potential benefits of reducing premium costs to consumers while simultaneously improving insurer loss ratios.  Last year, I read Eric Siegel’s book, Predictive Analytics: The Power to Predict Who Will Click, Buy, Lie, or Die, which I highly recommend.  Mr. Siegel described how big data and the associated predictive analytics methodologies were used in President Obama’s successful 2012 reelection bid, and in improving Netflix’s movie recommendations.  Mr. Siegel included several examples of big data and predictive analytics at work, including the Target public relations snafu when they predicted a teenage pregnancy based on buying patterns and inadvertently informed the girl’s father of his daughter’s pregnancy before she did.  The book also described a life insurer who used big data to predict the likelihood of death within 18 months for its elderly policyholders.  Fascinating.  And a little creepy.

My purpose in raising this topic is that I believe we are in the midst of one of those historical moments when our technological capabilities have outpaced the evolution of our societal norms. We clearly have the data and the methods to predict more outcomes more accurately than ever before, but we struggle with the “creepy factor” which is just another way of expressing the inherent privacy concerns.  Do we really want to know when grandma is likely in her final 18 months of life?  Will we rejoice in lower life insurance premiums enough to live comfortably with the fact that our daily activities (and perhaps even our whereabouts) may be reported directly to the insurer by the device we wear on our wrist?  As an industry, is the appeal of big data so great that insurers will accept the cyber risk when a hacker steals sensitive detailed health information for nefarious purposes such as blackmail?

Oh, and don’t even get me started on semi-autonomous driverless cars… That’s a topic for another time.

Career Possibilities Abound

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I had the opportunity to meet with a couple of representatives of the InVEST organization this past week.  It was an exhilarating conversation about the tremendous potential for young people to find stable, rewarding, and lucrative careers in the risk management and insurance industry. Although I have written about this organization before, I want to take a moment to highlight a couple of excellent resources offered by InVEST.

First, the InVEST online Career Center offers many resources for students and other curious folk to check out.  Second, within the Career Center is a link to a free Caliper personality profile that will provide some very insightful guidance regarding insurance careers that may be a good fit with the student’s personality.  The Career Center web page actually has two different links for the Caliper personality profile – one for entry level (ideal for students) and one for people already in the industry.  I assume that the latter profile is for insurance people looking for a change of focus in their career, or perhaps just looking for confirmation that they’re on a career path that is consistent with their personality.  I intend to try this free tool to see if my personality still fits the underwriter persona that got me started in the industry back around the time that the last dinosaur passed away.  I’ll post my results.

Federal Terrorism Backstop Delayed?

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Business Insurance reports that the bill to extend the current terrorism insurance backstop may be delayed until after the mid-term elections.  Although the current program doesn’t expire until December 31st, it just seems like there should be more legislative urgency to put this matter to rest and reassure insurance carriers and buyers alike.  After all, terrorism is very much in the news right now and we’re coming up on the September 11th anniversary.