Risk Insider: Mary Ann Cook

Exceeding Expectations

By: | January 16, 2018 • 2 min read
Mary Ann Cook is SVP of Knowledge Resources and Content Development for The Institutes. Her team designs the curriculum that guides many of The Institutes’ designation programs and custom products. She writes about and presents on a variety of topics including insurance coverages and the agent and broker marketplace. She can be reached at [email protected]

The risk management and insurance (RMI) industry has been talking about it for years: there simply are too few qualified college graduates to fill job openings.

Employers spend considerable resources on recruitment, only to settle on new hires who have some industry knowledge and experience but are often unprepared for the day-to-day work the positions require. Employers get stuck in a cycle of excessive (and expensive) onboarding and immediate training to get young employees up to speed.


Students at most universities today feel the pull between scholarly learning and gaining on-the-job skills to land positions and pay off student loans after graduation. While universities have made efforts to prepare graduates for the working world, business graduates, even those with RMI degrees, don’t always know what employers’ expectations will be.

That’s where we, as an industry, must come in. We’ve already made strides. Today, RMI students at nearly 60 schools can take college courses providing partial credit toward the Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter (CPCU®) designation through The Institutes’ Collegiate Studies for CPCU program, which embeds key industry learning into class curriculum.

Insurance organizations are driving outreach efforts too. Many employers partner with groups like MyPath and Gamma Iota Sigma (GIS) to provide background about the insurance business and put students and recent grads on a sound career path.

Faculty can bring in insurance industry employees to expand the discussion beyond “Here’s what I do” to include “Here’s what we need you to do.”

But the lingering gap between open positions and work-ready graduates is a clear sign greater collaboration between employers and universities is needed.

Apprenticeships, essentially internships updated for today’s job market, are one growing way to forge connections between industry and academia. Employers play a significant role designing the curriculum, supported by colleges. Student apprentices are paid for their work and are guaranteed a job after graduation.

Faculty can build on partnerships in the classroom, typically by bringing in insurance industry employees and ensuring they expand the discussion beyond “Here’s what I do” to include “Here’s what we need you to do.”

Additionally, faculty and industry can partner in research projects to enhance understanding of the business environment and how colleges and universities can work with employers to better meet those needs.

But acquiring new knowledge must continue once an employee starts on the job. Employers that continue to develop the skills of the employees they recruited will see greater loyalty and that culture of learning will result in more innovation and happier teams.


Of course, this training should be tied to strategic objectives with demonstrable results. But organizations can start with informal initiatives, such as lunch-and-learn sessions, which get employees excited about sharing knowledge and learning new things.

Being motivated by learning is one of the great thrills and privileges of a college education. As an industry, it’s our job to foster that enthusiasm in our students and future leaders while providing a framework to help them learn the skills they’ll need to be successful risk and insurance professionals.

If we can do that, there’s no doubt we’ll all benefit from a return on that investment through their continued engagement and commitment.

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

2018 Power Broker

To the Ends of the Earth

From the frozen Arctic to the inferno of a high net worth divorce, Power Brokers go to extremes to find solutions for their clients.
By: | February 20, 2018 • 2 min read

Looking for the Power Broker Winners? Click Here.

Picture this: A bitter divorce so heated that the principals are only communicating through their attorneys. Then their house burns down. Imagine walking into that situation and trying to find solutions that will please both parties.

But that’s exactly what 2018 Power Broker® Jeff Kaplan, family office practice leader, Risk Management Strategies, did.

Kaplan, who won in the Private Client category, negotiated the sale of the property — forget the rebuild, let the new owner take that on, he counseled his clients — orchestrated a 30-day auction for its sale, and achieved a profitable result for every party in the transaction, each half of the feuding couple and the developer of the sold property.

To the client, Kaplan’s work, including his high degree of emotional intelligence, released him from the “seventh circle of hell.”

From that doused inferno, let us now cast our eyes to the frozen north.


The owner of a barge learned their property sank off of Nome, Alaska, (average temperature 27 degrees Fahrenheit). With an approaching freeze threatening to seal off the harbor, the owners, Phoenix Marine, risked losing valuable equipment.

Into action sprang George Andersen, a 2018 Power Broker® in the Marine category. With precious little time to lose, Andersen negotiated the claim and communicated proactively with the U.S. Coast Guard and other officials. Then he commissioned salvage divers from New York to travel to Alaska and retrieve the valuable equipment from the sunken barge.

Before we depart the Arctic, let us consider another 2018 Power Broker® from Aon, Christian Wise. To arrange cover for a defense contractor’s radio installations in a remote Arctic location, Wise dispatched a loss control engineer, complete with instructions on the use of a shotgun should polar bears interlope in temperatures that registered negative 29 degrees Fahrenheit.

One of the radio installations had already burned to the ground due to scant local fire protection, culminating in a $20 million loss. Despite that, working with London underwriters, Wise and his team were able to shave $1.3 million off an initial property premium cost of $1.8 million.

Power Brokers are judged by a team of Risk & Insurance® editors and writers over a three-month period each year. After interviews with hundreds of sources, winners are picked for their creativity and resourcefulness, their excellent customer service and their industry knowledge.

Not every Power Broker® required one of their associates to tote a shotgun. But many of them went to extremes for their clients; some of them waded into hurricane ravaged neighborhoods to document damage; others put their personal lives on hold, including one Power Broker® who delayed his honeymoon to attend a meeting on behalf of his client.

This year, 158 Power Broker® winners were chosen, as well as 55 finalists, spanning 25 industry categories. Congratulations to every one of these exceptional individuals. Click here to begin reading the profiles of this year’s winners. &

Dan Reynolds is editor-in-chief of Risk & Insurance. He can be reached at [email protected]