This ‘hidden’ industry is often overlooked by college graduates, but it offers variety, financial security and the satisfaction of helping people when the unexpected happens.
By Annie Buelow and Joe Rosario | February 2021
When searching for a rewarding career, every professional should consider the insurance industry because of all of the benefits and opportunities it affords.
Unfortunately, however, this message can be difficult to advance. Consider you’re an insurance underwriter explaining your career to family or friends, whose response is eyes glazed over. Most people won’t understand, don’t care or will run away, thinking you’re about to sell them something.
Insurance often feels like a hidden industry, overlooked by college graduates and young professionals. Many people typically discover the field later in their careers. This is particularly unfortunate given the wealth of opportunities in an industry that, according to the Insurance Information Institute, is looking to fill about 400,000 positions “at all levels, and in all areas,” with a fresh pool of talent.
Admittedly, the industry can be overwhelming with its vast variety of roles that fall under the insurance umbrella. From marketing and claims management to risk analysis and sales, countless positions offer not only the ability to earn a good living, but the opportunity to challenge oneself and expand skill sets on a daily basis.
For example, as an underwriter of professional liability insurance in the construction market, you could one day be in the office doing investigative work to analyze a contractor’s risk profile, and the next day be on-site watching a project move forward with the help of a policy that enabled the contractor and owner to overcome potentially debilitating losses.
The insurance industry offers the potential for great professional growth—and the privilege to positively impact individuals, businesses and communities when unpredicted events happen.
Where to Start
Culture is everything. Walking into a large insurance company or even a niche brokerage firm for the first time can be confounding.
There’s the language—in which policy terms, conditions and exclusions can differ greatly among the many carriers, even if they serve the same market. There’s the dynamic relationship between insurance carriers, brokers, prospects and policyholders. And there’s the individual business style for each carrier and broker, all of whom are governed by a strict set of guidelines and regulations.
That’s why culture is especially important for those who are either new to the field or starting their first job after school. Finding an educational, rewarding and supportive atmosphere is essential to learn, grow and succeed.
The entire situation can be a bit daunting without the proper training and mentoring. The need to ask questions, to be heard and to receive answers from both colleagues and managers is fundamental to feeling valued and psychologically safe. It also is important for finding your place within an industry that employs 2.8 million people doing everything from handling claims to creating innovative products for clients.
And while there really isn’t a clear-cut pathway to success, a business degree supported by courses in data analytics and risk management is an ideal starting point. Middle Tennessee State University, Saint Joseph’s University, Temple University and University of Georgia were the leading colleges for insurance and risk management programs according to Best’s Review’s 2020 survey of industry professionals, including hiring managers and human resources professionals. There also are other institutions of higher learning to consider.
However, a solid education is only a stepping stone for ongoing growth in a field that is constantly evolving. Be prepared to start fresh in an environment that often feels like you’re learning a foreign language. The learning curve can be steep and the shortcuts few, but there are steps to help you create a skill set that will be in demand for years to come.
Follow Your Interests
Many college programs, including those offering business degrees with a major in insurance or risk management, include internships at companies big and small. This is the time to get a real sense for the industry. Are you interested in sales and working as a broker? Or analyzing risk as an underwriter? Would you be more comfortable in marketing, finance, human resources or customer service? This is the time to get a taste of the many opportunities that exist in this industry. Insurance companies are constantly searching for trained, experienced and dedicated professionals to fill a multitude of roles.
We are underwriters in construction-related insurance. That’s just one of the many specialty markets within the industry. Some form of insurance protects nearly every business imaginable, and this doesn’t even take into account traditional personal lines—such as homeowners, health, auto—that help individuals overcome challenges every day. Insurance is present in almost every industry, so follow your interests to find the niche market you’d like to pursue.
To become a specialist in an area of interest, familiarize yourself with the diverse roles within a particular organization. Be hands on. Learn as much as possible about the product and the policy forms from both the insurer’s and insured’s perspectives.
For those already employed in the industry, the advice and insights of insurance professionals outside your company can be invaluable, as these people can help you expand your knowledge of the marketplace and the needs of the businesses and clients they serve. Also, participate in associations that represent the many facets of insurance as well as the markets where you work.
This industry favors autonomy, so being self-sufficient is essential. Much of the work can be done over the phone, by video call or through email. Understand that relationships can be just as important as in-depth knowledge of a policy’s terms, conditions and exclusions.
Maybe it’s the word “insurance” or just the connotation, but few realize that this industry—never static, filled with opportunities for growth and education—can be the ideal destination for those looking for a rewarding position that makes a difference.
Best’s Review Contributors:
Annie Buelow, Construction Risk and Insurance Specialist, is an underwriter at Berkley Construction Professional, a Berkley company. She joined Berkley CP in 2016 and is responsible for growth of the small-to-midsized firm portfolio as well as large-firm opportunities across all product lines. She can be reached at [email protected].
Joseph Rosario, Construction Risk and Insurance Specialist, is an underwriter at Berkley Construction Professional, a Berkley company. He joined Berkley CP in 2017 and is responsible for growth of the midsized-firm portfolio as well as large-firm opportunities across all product lines. He can be reached at [email protected].
As seen in Best’s Review. Reprinted with permission from the February Issue of Best’s Review.
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