Category Archives: careers

Experiencing the Risk and Insurance Industry

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Just one month ago I was in New Orleans attending the 2015 Risk and Insurance Management Society Annual Conference with Ferris State student Corey Bledsoe.  The conference featured engaging keynotes speakers such as Erik Wahl (pictured here) and Arianna Huffington, and numerous educational sessions and networking opportunities.  I asked Corey to share his thoughts about the RIMS experience from his perspective as a student:

Being able to attend and participate in the RIMS conference was an excellent opportunity for me as a student to experience the insurance industry on a much grander scale than what I get to experience in Big Rapids, MI.  Having companies from all over the country and even the world in one location is an experience I won’t soon forget.

I was able to tour the Superdome on my first day in New Orleans and it was cool getting to see how risk management played a part in helping the Superdome recover after hurricane Katrina.  I was able to hang out with other insurance students from around the country and see how their programs compared with ours here.  I knew many of the students there through the professional fraternity I am in, Gamma Iota Sigma. 

While at the conference I got to see inspirational keynote speakers like Erik Wahl, world-renowned speed painter and Simon Bailey.  After the speakers the exhibit hall would open up and thousands would flock to hundreds of exhibitors showcasing their products there.  As a student it was extremely overwhelming because I had no idea where to start.  Many exhibitors were aimed away from my demographic but it was still nice to see so many people involved in our industry.  The major thing that I took away from this conference is that the industry will be seeing a large part of its professionals retiring in the next few years.  This means that young people like myself will have ample room for growth and experience.

The most fulfilling thing for me was definitely the sessions that the conference offered.  I was lucky enough to be able to volunteer by introducing the CEO panel who were discussing claims and also discussing underwriting.  It was a great opportunity to hear more about what it’s like running a large multinational corporation and all of the things that go into making a company successful.  As an Anita Benedetti Scholar I was welcome to many of the events hosted by companies and even to FM Global’s yearly party that featured a performance by the band Foreigner.  I highly suggest that anyone interested in attending the RIMS conference apply next year for the scholarship as it will be in San Diego.  This conference is a great experience to learn more about the industry and connect with industry professionals from all over.  Having connections is a huge part of this industry and RIMS is an excellent place to do just that.

Corey’s experience attending the RIMS conference exemplifies the experiential learning opportunities that Ferris State strives to offer its students across many of its academic programs.  It is certainly one of my top goals for the risk management and insurance program.  Let’s face it, the risk and insurance industry doesn’t have much of a reputation as an exciting and dynamic career although those of us in the industry know otherwise.  We need to do more than tell our young students about the opportunities – we need to show them through experiential learning.  See you in San Diego in 2016!

Friday Fun

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As I have written on several occasions in the past, the risk and insurance industry is facing a talent shortage.  It also happens to be facing an image problem as well, and the two situations are likely correlated.  So what can the industry do to overcome its image problem with college students and young professionals?  Well, for starters here is Liberty Mutual’s viral video to help young students prepare for job interviews, and perhaps simultaneously casting the insurance career option in a better light.

The Institutes offers another very helpful and comprehensive website, InsureMyPath.org that includes fantastic resources (including videos) highlighting what a risk and insurance  career has to offer.  It includes a tool that maps your education and interests to the risk and insurance careers that may be the best fit.  There is internship information and a collection of enlightening and entertaining videos also available on the site.

As we begin the Memorial Day holiday weekend, have some fun.  Check out some of the videos that may change your perception of the risk and insurance industry.  Most of all, be safe as you celebrate this holiday weekend, and please remember and honor those have served and sacrificed to make our lives better.

Underwriter? What’s that?

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I have a soft spot for the underwriting profession, primarily because that’s where my own career got started.  It has to be one of the least understood professions out there.  My own story is typical.  My senior year at Michigan State University (Go Spartans!) was filled with on-campus interviews with a variety of companies and job types.  With an undergraduate degree in Socioeconomics (a blend of political science and economics), I wasn’t sure what sort of job awaited me.  What I had going for me was a strong set of analytical and communication skills.  As it turns out, that skill-set is well suited to insurance underwriting.  But I didn’t know that then.  When I interviewed with CIGNA (back when they were still in the property and casualty insurance business) I had to do some fast research to have the slightest clue about the job for which I was interviewing.

So what does an insurance underwriter do?  At the very heart of the job, it comes down to deciding which risks the insurance company will accept and at what price/terms.  Staff underwriters typically work in an insurance company home office and set guidelines for the types of risks that are acceptable to the company.  Line underwriters apply those guidelines to the individual risk applications that they underwrite.  That is an oversimplification of the job because underwriting requires thorough analysis of risks, interaction with insurance agents, loss control, claims, management, and more.  Creativity and problem-solving skills are paramount because some risks may not be acceptable upon first review but creative application of loss control measures and insurance contract modifications can make it possible to accept a challenging risk.  A win-win-win for the insurer, the agent, and the insured.

Rather than reinvent the wheel, take a look at this description of effective underwriting.  I remember my early days as a brand new property and casualty insurance underwriter, and the relationships that I built with many commercial insurance agents.  They knew that I was a “newbie” and I appreciated their patience with me, and many of them took the time to contribute to my early career education.  An experienced underwriter is like gold to an agent because they have the stories and insights that help agents to write more business that fit within the underwriting appetite of the insurer.  I moved on to an underwriting/marketing staff position, and then jumped over to a corporate risk management position before launching my own business.  I didn’t spend enough time in my underwriting job to develop the kind of deep expertise that makes an underwriter extremely valuable.  I respect the underwriting professionals who have developed that kind of expertise and make the industry work so well for the insurers, agents, and insureds.  It’s a little-understood job, but a very rewarding and valued job.  Go kiss an underwriter today.

 

“Hottest” Hiring Market in Years

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No doubt about it… the insurance industry is in need of young talent.  I’ve written about this fact several times in the past year, and the evidence continues to point to continued strengthening in the demand for labor in and around the insurance industry.  The latest evidence is provided by a study that you can read about here.  If ever there was a time to consider a career in risk management and insurance, it is now.

Speaking of opportunities, here is one for those with at least some experience in the industry and an interest in an exciting “ground-floor” opportunity:

An independent insurance agency based in Southfield, Michigan is seeking a licensed insurance producer with at least three years of experience to join its firm and help to drive its growth plan. For the right professional with strong motivation and drive, this opportunity could involve some ownership interest in the agency. Individuals interested in exploring this opportunity should contact Souzan Haddad at 248-352-3222.

I am aware of several career and internship opportunities in the insurance industry right now, so the aforementioned opportunity is but one example.  Get ’em while they’re hot!

Oh, and one more thing… the vernal equinox occurs at 6:45pm EDT today (March 20) so this is the perfect time to wish you a happy spring-time!

Congratulations Corey

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This is perhaps one of the most gratifying parts of my job as a collegiate educator.  Recognizing student accomplishments and achievements is the payoff after observing the intellectual growth of students over time.  As the father of three adult daughters, I am very familiar with the sense of pride that comes with recognizing the early successes of young people.

The subject of my pride and congratulations today is Ferris State University student Corey Bledsoe who just learned that he has been selected as an Anita Benedetti Scholar for the upcoming RIMS annual conference in New Orleans.  Corey is a dual major in actuarial science and also risk management and insurance, and he is President of the Gamma Iota Sigma-Upsilon Chapter at Ferris State.  Corey is now making plans to attend the RIMS conference with his costs covered by RIMS and he will participate in a special program track designed for the Anita Benedetti Scholars.

This RIMS program is very competitive and Corey should be very proud of his selection, as am I.  He will represent Ferris State’s Risk Management and Insurance academic programs very well, and I know that he will make some valuable contacts and learn a great deal through his participation in this program.  Well done Corey! Congratulations!

Selling Insurance

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Sales.  Insurance.  For some, these two words used in close proximity will send them running far, far away.  Let me be clear about one thing – A career in insurance is not restricted only to selling.  Risk and insurance careers are as wide and varied as one can imagine.  The industry needs underwriters, customer service reps, information technology experts, business analysts, claim adjusters, premium auditors, risk managers, finance and accounting, loss control reps, just to name a few.  And yes, sales.

Every business and every industry has a sales function.  For whatever reason, insurance sales gets a bad rap, right up there with used car sales.  To be sure, it is a challenge selling an intangible product that is basically a contract full of promises based only on the remote possibility of bad stuff happening.  But here’s the thing… everyone needs this product in some fashion or form.

I was meeting with a group of insurance professionals earlier this week and the irrational fear of a career selling insurance came up.  One of the esteemed insurance professionals offered a very astute observation about insurance sales.  Businesses must have insurance of various types to comply with bank requirements, contract stipulations, and just to secure their own survival.  Individuals must have insurance if they drive a car, get a mortgage to buy a home, or act responsibly toward their dependents.  His point was that businesses and individuals will write a check to someone for insurance, and all you have to do as a seller of insurance is convince them that they should write that check to you.

This is not to say that selling any product or service is easy, but when you consider the open-ended, long sales cycle challenges that face many sales professionals for other products, the insurance product/service has an advantage.  In my former life, I owned a firm that provided risk management services which certainly provided value to my customers, but they were rarely mandated by any legal or contractual conditions.  Consequently, my sales team found that many prospective customers kept putting our services on the “back burner” as more pressing issues grabbed their attention.  We had prospects who never did “pull the trigger” and sign up for our services, and others took 2-3 years before they finally decided that they would buy our services.  Long sales cycles like that are not fun.

Insurance protection for most consumers and businesses is not something they can put on the back burner, at least not for long.  They are going to write a check.  Become an insurance sales professional and convince them to write that check to you.  It’s a good life and a good career.  Honest, I’m not kidding.