Tag Archives: careers

Millennials Need to Hear Our Stories

millennials

The drumbeat continues… Anyone remotely paying attention to the risk and insurance industry these days cannot avoid the parade of articles and speeches lamenting the looming talent crisis in the industry.  Industry leaders are expressing both the critical need to attract Millennials to careers in the industry, and warning of the hurdles that the industry must clear to do so.  Articles in Business Insurance and Carrier Management both address these issues quite well.

One of the challenges in attracting Millennials to careers in the risk and insurance industry is the perception that insurance is stodgy and boring.  Those who have worked in the industry  can refute this perception, but you have to gain the attention of Millennials to do that, and then avoid blowing the opportunity.  There’s a reason the industry is perceived as boring and stodgy… it’s because we in the industry get excited about using the industry jargon and discussing technical coverage nuances of “exclusions” and “retentions” and “retrospective rating programs” and blah blah blah.  Boring.

We need to become storytellers.  Millennials want to do meaningful work that has purpose.  Pushing paper and plunking on computer keyboards and reading underwriting files doesn’t feel all that meaningful.  Rebuilding lives that are broken by catastrophe is meaningful work, and we need to do a better job of telling stories focused on that.  From a risk management perspective, we need to focus on the work that we do to make people safer and employers more secure.  Insurance struggles with public relations problems that arise from claim situations gone awry, but the most meaningful and powerful message is the positive story of the insurance agent who shows up at her client’s house as the flames are being extinguished and consoling the client, reassuring them, and getting the claim process underway immediately.  Those are the stories that Millennials need to hear from us.

When I was young commercial underwriter, I had a boss who told me that my job wasn’t to say “no” to certain risks, but rather to find a way to say “yes.”  Declining or non-renewing a risk was a defeat for my carrier employer, for the insurance agent, and for the client who then had to find a new carrier for their insurance program.  We need to tell Millennials about the underwriters who find creative ways to say “yes” and create win-win-win scenarios.  That is meaningful, and exciting – because creativity and problem-solving are exciting.

 

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Underwriter? What’s that?

underwriting

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.

 

Career Possibilities Abound

INVEST_banner_logo

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.

Happy Labor Day

labor_day

It’s Labor Day weekend which marks the official end of summer for most students and workers.  Vacation season is pretty much over as students return to school and workers begin to re-focus on work routines that have typically been somewhat disrupted by the distractions of warm summer months and the vacations taken both by themselves and co-workers.  For those of us in the upper Midwest, having experienced one of the coldest and snowiest winters in several years just a few months ago, we bid summer farewell with considerable trepidation of what the months ahead hold for us.

Nevertheless, this Labor Day weekend is our opportunity to enjoy one final extended weekend of warm weather, outdoor fun, and of course the celebration of the contributions of labor.  It is in the spirit of Labor Day that I would like to highlight the many types of career opportunities afforded by the risk and insurance industry.  Many people view insurance employment in just one dimension – the insurance salesperson.  That seems patently unfair since virtually every industry includes a sales component, and yet people don’t identify these other industries solely by their sales component.  For example, if someone says that they work in the automotive industry, it could be manufacturing, marketing, finance, design, or any number of careers other than automotive sales. Automotive industry careers do not automatically conjure “salesperson” as the default occupation, but insurance does.  Let’s face it, automotive salespersons (especially used cars) have had some public relations challenges as much as insurance sales, so why is the insurance industry occupational perception so biased towards sales?

Don’t misunderstand – the sales function is necessary in the insurance industry, just as it is necessary in any industry.  Without sales of the product, nothing else matters.  It requires talented people to perform this function.  My point is that there is so much more to the insurance industry than sales, contrary to public perceptions.  So on this Labor Day weekend, if you’re curious about other types of labor that comprise the insurance industry, please take a moment to explore the Gamma Iota Sigma Career Resources page.  There is a treasure trove of career information there, and it may just broaden your perception of all that a laborer can do in the insurance industry.

Have a happy and safe Labor Day!

Developing New Insurance Talent

INVEST_banner_logo

A few weeks ago I wrote about and highlighted MIFuture.org and its efforts to develop young insurance talent for the Michigan (and beyond) insurance industry.  Now I would like to highlight another organization that has a nationwide reach and a plethora of resources for both students and educators.  INVEST has a forty-year history of advancing the education and development of talent for the insurance industry.

I strive to convince young people that the risk management and insurance industry is a viable career option that is not as staid and boring as some think it is.  In fact, it is one of the most stable industries going, and offers a wide variety of career options.  The stability of the industry is illustrated by my first employer straight out of college many years ago: I worked for CIGNA Property & Casualty which at that time included a subsidiary known as the Insurance Company of North America, which happens to be the oldest U.S. stock insurance company tracing its founding back to 1792.  Insurance is an industry that is here to stay and its employment opportunities are not as susceptible to the economic winds as are many other industries.

With that in mind, young students who care to explore the industry should peruse a few of INVEST’s resources that are specifically geared towards those interested in learning more.  I highly recommend INVEST’s LearnInsurance.org website.  Students can explore the different insurance career options and find where their interests may best fit.  They may also learn some insurance fundamentals and find scholarship opportunities.

For those already in the industry, or in education positions devoted to teaching insurance content, the INVEST website offers many great resources as well.  I encourage you to check it out, and support this organization.

One graduate’s perspective

graduation_caps

Happy Independence Day!  This holiday is a celebration of the birth of our nation with the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.  However, this morning I am thinking of “independence” in more general terms.  I am thinking about the journey to independence taken by many young college students as they complete their degrees.  It’s a time of much personal and cognitive growth as they pursue knowledge and social growth working towards a chosen career path.  I’ve seen this growth and journey toward independence in my students and in my own daughters.

Recent Ferris State graduate Ethan Henderson discovered that he had a passion for the risk management and insurance industry while attending Ferris State.  Ethan has now begun his insurance career and he shared the following words about his Ferris experience:

Ferris State University is the reason I am graduating college with a job doing what I want to do. To further explain, I need to talk about the recently reinstated risk management and insurance degree at Ferris. I made the switch from Finance to Insurance after my sophomore year at Ferris, mainly because I did not want a typical desk job, preferring something more interactive and social instead. I liked the idea of math and risk assessment, but wanted to tie that in with marketing and personal selling. The program was like nothing else I had learned up to that point.  As soon as I started in the assigned curriculum, it was obvious that the material was very specific. With courses ranging from the specifics of property and casualty insurance, all the way to the broader business management and law type courses.

About two months along in the insurance program an opportunity for an insurance internship with State Farm in Big Rapids came across my email from my advisor. I immediately responded, was interviewed, and hired within two weeks. Through the internship I was able to receive my producer’s license in property, casualty, life, accident, and health, as well as become bank certified. Without a doubt I could not have passed any of those exams without the current curriculum and information I was learning in my insurance courses at Ferris.

The internship turned into a part time sales job that I held for the rest of my time at Ferris State. In December of my senior year, I began to apply all around the country for a commercial underwriting position, post-graduation. Deciding that I wanted to start my career in underwriting was something that I had decided upon learning about the job in my insurance courses, and wanting to get out of sales, at least for a while.  I had multiple phone interviews, and ended up getting to the last in person interview for two different companies by February of my senior year. I drove down to Cincinnati, as well as Farmington Hills, Michigan to interview. Within three weeks I was called back and offered a commercial underwriting position at both companies! So not only was I still two months away from graduation, but I had two amazing job offers to choose from. Both companies stressed the appeal of my Insurance degree from Ferris, as well as the internship that I was set up with through the program. I ended up taking the commercial underwriting job for the Farmington Hills company, and they have located me in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  I could not be happier with the education and opportunities this University and the risk management and insurance degree have provided me.