Author Archives: drdavidallenbrown

About drdavidallenbrown

Dr. Brown joined the Ferris State University faculty in August, 2013, after several years as an entrepreneur, consultant, and risk management/insurance professional. He designed, launched, and grew a business process outsourcing enterprise serving the risk management and insurance industry, serving several prominent clients such as SPX Corporation, General Motors, Ford, Burger King, City of Tampa, City of Phoenix, and many others. This business was eventually sold to Ebix, Inc. in 2008. He served as a Vice President at Ebix while completing work on his doctoral degree with a specialization in technology entrepreneurship. Dr. Brown has been a commercial insurance underwriter, market research analyst, risk manager, risk management information system consultant, software developer, and entrepreneur. In addition to his corporate ventures, Dr. Brown and his wife Jeannine founded Rivertown Bookstore, a small independent bookseller in their hometown of Portland, Michigan. Dr. Brown and his wife Jeannine have three adult daughters. When not teaching or involved in business projects, Dr. Brown enjoys reading, writing, and exploring the wide open spaces of Wyoming.

New Year, New Opportunities

Just about a year ago, as we were entering “Insurance Careers Month” in February 2019, I shared “my career story” as part of an overall theme for the month.  The unfortunate reality is that risk management and insurance careers suffer from unfair, stereotypical stigmas which cause young people to shun the industry.  For those of us fortunate to have built successful careers in the field, sharing our genuine, compelling career stories is a powerful way to combat the stigmas.

A colleague shared the following brief article which does an excellent job of acknowledging some of the stigmas, and then overcoming them by describing the author’s own career experience.  Please enjoy the article (https://www.iamagazine.com/magazine/read/2020/01/02/why-agencies-need-to-promote-opportunities-for-young-people).

And if you’re a risk and insurance professional, young or old, be bold enough to share your own story.  I know it’s a good one.

Scholarships are Worth the Effort

scholarship_money

Industry leaders often ask me what they can do to help our risk management and insurance program and its students.  Occasionally, before I can even answer, they jump to the assumption that scholarship funding must be at the top of the list.  While I never want to discourage any offers of financial assistance for RMI students, my typical response to this assumption is, “Well, uh, actually there are plenty of scholarships available to RMI students.  We need to convince the students to apply.”  At this point, I am usually met with a blank looking face and rapidly blinking eyes.  The non-verbal communication conveyed by this look is, “What? I’m confused.  Are you kidding me?”

Earlier this year, Money magazine profiled Christopher Gray who applied for hundreds of scholarships as a homeless high school student and won more than $1 million in scholarships.  Mr. Gray went on to co-found Scholly, a scholarship search engine app.  Clearly, his diligence and persistence paid off.  In the article linked to above, Mr. Gray offered four scholarship tips that I will summarize:

  1. Know yourself
  2. Don’t stop applying
  3. Optimize your time
  4. Every award counts

The truth is that scholarships require some effort, as they should.  If someone is going to give a student “free money” to pay for tuition or other school-related costs, the recipient should be willing to complete an application and write a coherent if not compelling essay to justify themselves as a deserving recipient.  For reasons that continue to mystify, too many students seem to view the scholarship application process as “too much of a hassle.”

Ferris State’s RMI program website includes a page listing scholarship opportunities worth thousands of dollars.  I am certainly not opposed to adding more entries to this list, but what I really need is to add more students who are actively applying for those scholarships already on the list.

If you know a young person searching for a degree/career direction, tell them about your wonderful experiences in the risk management and insurance industry.  They need to hear our stories.  And then, they need to be encouraged to put in the effort to pursue the vast scholarship opportunities for financial assistance to launch their RMI career.  It’s there… waiting for them.  Help me push them across the threshold.

Back to School – 2019 edition

Football training camps are open, back-to-school items and dorm room supplies are on sale, and daylight is shrinking.  It must be time for autumn semester classes to begin.  Well, almost.

This is “welcome back” and faculty kickoff week at Ferris State, filled with meetings and final course preparations.  A week from today, classrooms will again be full of eager college students and enthusiastic faculty.  But that does not imply that students and faculty have been doing nothing but windsurfing and playing golf all summer.  Many students took summer classes, and worked at internships or other jobs.  Many faculty were teaching those summer classes, doing research/consulting work, and engaged in planning and administrative work throughout the summer.

Personally, I am as enthusiastic as I’ve ever been for the autumn semester to get underway.  The enrollment momentum for the Ferris State RMIN program remains positive, even in the face of demographic headwinds that are causing enrollment challenges for all of Michigan’s institutions of higher learning.  Career prospects for RMIN graduates remain strong and well above average.  Several great things are on my autumn radar screen.  Yes, it’s time for a tease…

The Ferris State Gamma chapter is looking to organize/sponsor 1-2 events that will be of interest to students and perhaps also industry professionals in the coming year.  Stay tuned.  Ferris RMIN students will again be attending multiple industry conferences and field trips.  Photos will be posted.  Emerging risks will take center stage in our studies.  Blog posts forthcoming.

Speaking of emerging risks, this humble blogger and RMIN faculty member has been paying particular attention to a couple of areas:  The development of blockchain technologies as a beneficial tool for risk management and insurance, and also the emergence of cannabis-related businesses (and risks) particularly here in Michigan.  Both of these rapidly changing topics will certainly merit attention in blog posts in coming weeks and months.  Stay tuned as I share my observations, opinions, and perhaps even the occasional useful insight.

Time to get back to my course preparation duties.  I can’t wait for the fun to begin.

-Dr. Brown

RIMS 2019 Reflections by Hannah

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Ferris State Risk Management and Insurance major Hannah McGlocklin takes her turn sharing impressions of the 2019 RIMS conference in Boston:

I had the opportunity to go to the RIMS conference this year in Boston, Massachusetts and I had an amazing time. Since being back, it has been kind of crazy trying to absorb everything that I have learned and experienced this past week. I met so many different people from many different places and got a wonderful perspective on just how large the insurance industry truly is. The marketplace, which was full of vendors and companies, was a fantastic place to network and learn about what people do and how they impact the risk management and insurance industry. Along with the marketplace, I really enjoyed the educational sessions we were able to attend. I learned about a variation of topics from real estate to marijuana and sex trafficking and how all these subjects affect the insurance industry. Getting to know the other students that also attended as well as Dr. Brown was a positive as well. Networking is one of the best things about these types of conferences, and most of the time, the people in our closest professional circle can be just as important. There were many socials at the RIMS conference that allowed us to talk with many people that are a part of the industry. Not only were they held in the convention center but they were also different places in Boston. Even if the socializing and the educational sessions aren’t your thing, I would still highly recommend the experience of RIMS. Attending this trip was amazing, and even though you have to put money toward the cost, the return on your investment is worthwhile. In addition to the conference, having a chance to explore another city and area was awesome too. I tried new food, met new people, and took advantage of a lot of new opportunities, and for the price that I paid, it was an easy exchange. If the money to go on the trip is something that is holding you back, I would highly suggest you figure out how to make it happen, save over the summer, put a little bit away each month, or get a part time job while attending classes. The trip overall was an awesome experience and I look forward to RIMS Conferences in the future!

Hannah McGlocklin, Risk Management and Insurance Freshman

RIMS 2019 Reflections by Ashley

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Ferris State Actuarial Science student Ashley Sowinski attended the RIMS conference in Boston last week, and she has shared the following reflection on her experience:

The lure of the RIMS 2019 conference began for me with the city of Boston. Actuarial Science is my major, so I figured this event would be mildly applicable at most. I didn’t have an idea of what type of career I wanted to develop. I did feel pigeonholed through my degree; I tried diversifying myself with a certificate and a minor, but I wanted to see what options I could have.

The trip to Boston started out strong, adventuring for a day downtown, but the true adventure began Sunday at the RIMS social. We went to a Dave and Busters-esque entertainment center that had a bowling alley on the top floor. I went to this alone because there were two socials: one for 21+ and the other was for those under 21. It was incredibly intimidating to attend this alone because this was my first experience in the professional world. I met so many faces. Faces I made social connections with, so the following day in the Marketplace, I could go find someone like Ian from Vermont and follow up with my business card (that I hadn’t had at the social.) Plus, there is so much free stuff, it’s practically a college student’s heaven. I came home with aluminum water bottles, pens, phone chargers, stress balls, multiple t-shirts, even an umbrella! There were raffles, and some companies were giving out gift cards too.

As far as intangibles are related, I can confidently say I gained so much more than physical trinkets. I highly recommend this event because of everything I learned; there were many applications of the field that I would never have imagined. I had no idea what opportunities could be opened to me, but after just meeting a few companies and socializing, I was invited to another conference and asked to apply for a job. This was so exhilarating because I never thought I would be someone to be sought out like that. The networking there is real, and there is no way to gauge the opportunities you could reveal in attending this conference. RIMS had such a diversity of both people and companies, it is difficult to explain. The environment speaks for itself, and I hope I have the option to attend this conference through my career in the future.

Ashley Sowinski, Actuarial Science Senior

The Future of Risk

I just returned from the inaugural “Future of Risk” conference sponsored by The Institutes and held in Chicago.  Although there is considerable hype over “Insurtech” and “Risktech” in recent months, much of it is pie-in-the-sky aspirations that will not survive in the real-world of commerce.  This conference didn’t ignore the hype but it refreshingly balanced it with innovations that are already bringing benefit to the risk management and insurance industry, as well as the customers we serve.

Blockchain received significant attention at this conference, no doubt owing to the fact that The Institutes has taken a leadership role with the formation of the RiskBlock Alliance consortium that is preparing to launch a few of its earliest use cases and a software development kit for third party developers in just a few months.  I had the good fortune to participate in some workshop sessions discussing the next blockchain (or more accurately in this case, distributed ledger technology) use cases for the industry.  Certificate of insurance use cases are definitely gaining traction – and that’s good news for this element of the insurance industry that is best described as a necessary evil for many of us.

Other emerging technologies that will have great impact on RMI include artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics, internet of things, quantum computing, and the common threads of security and privacy.  Of particular interest to me is the concept of quantum computing that promises computing power that is an order of magnitude more powerful than anything available heretofore.  The 128-bit password keys that we all rely on to keep our data safe today because it would take even a super computer several years to hack them, will be cracked in milliseconds by a quantum computer.  This means that new methods of security and authentication will need to be developed.  The good news is that they are!

In terms of technologies already making a difference, I attended a session on claim fraud investigation in the age geospatial social media.  We all know (or should know) that we must be careful with our privacy settings on social media platforms, and even then, we must be careful about what we post.  Fortunately, insurance claim fraudsters who cause higher insurance costs for everyone else, are not usually so careful.  It was amazing (and sobering) to learn how much meaningful information to combat fraudulent claims can be gleaned from Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Venmo, and others.

I could go on but I will conclude by saying that it was an enlightening conference that I plan to add as an experiential learning option for our Ferris State RMI students in the future.  They will be the lucky ones to use and further develop these technologies in their risk careers.

MAIA 2019

Five Ferris State students joined Dr. David A. Brown for the 2019 MAIA Convention at the Amway Grand Plaza in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  Students attended sessions to learn about resolving insurance coverage and claim disputes, the future of “InsurTech,” and privacy issues.  In addition, they participated in a networking happy hour, and heard from industry leaders on tax issues and innovation in the insurance industry.  The convention concluded with a trade show exhibition featuring dozens of insurance carriers and service providers.