Is Getting an Insurance Designation Worth My Time? Here’s What Professionals Say
Imagine walking into an ice cream shop with a craving for a chocolate sundae and being served vanilla. It’s still an adequate treat, it just didn’t fulfill your initial craving. When it comes to exceeding the expectations of insureds, insurance designations are the industry’s cherry on top.
When brokers and underwriters aren’t up-to-speed with client demands and the industry’s ever-changing needs, they can’t deliver the most satisfactory results possible.
While insurance designations, such as an Associate in Risk Management (ARM) or an Associate in Reinsurance (ARe), aren’t required, fleeting market stability means insureds don’t want their policies to be vanilla.
From property & casualty to business and commercial lines to health insurance, there are dozens of insurance designations for professionals to pursue as they strive to perfect their knowledge of the industry and provide exceptional services to their clients.
To better understand the impact and value of a designation, Risk & Insurance® sat down with half a dozen insurance and risk management professionals across multiple sectors to discuss their designations, what they brought to their career, how they’ve affected the industry and why individuals are better off because of them.
Students of the Industry
The best insurance brokers become students of their sector and pursue designations as a journey of continuing knowledge. As a counter to talent gap fears, designations are a way to showcase the excitement and intricacies of the sector to young professionals.
According to one young underwriting assistant, it was his journey to pursue designations that showed him just how diverse and exciting insurance can be.
“There are so many paths that young insurance professionals can walk down,” said Keyson Dingle, who in addition to his P&C license, holds a plethora of designations including CPCU, RPLU, ARe, AU-M, AIS, AINS, ARC and AIAF.
At just 23 years old, Dingle wants to explore as many of these paths as possible. With a love of learning and a vision of opportunity, he has obtained nine insurance designations and plans to go for more.
“It’s a great industry to stay in, especially now when there are so many different career paths that you can gain fulfillment from. You might not like underwriting, but you might like sales, or you might like claims,” said Dingle, who pursued and attained the Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter (CPCU) designation in just eight months.
“The designations have allowed me to speak to my customers with confidence, to know what’s going on, and to have the technical background to understand the language and even speak the language. There’s no conversation that I can’t get involved in,” he said.
The Bread and Butter of Commercial Insurance
Unlike Dingle, who learned about insurance opportunities during his freshman year of college, other professionals leverage designations in order to better integrate themselves into the industry.
After a few years at Marsh, Jason Santini, senior vice president, decided it was time to deepen his knowledge by pursuing the CPCU and ARM.
“Not having a background in insurance meant I was starting something new,” Santini recalled of his mindset when he started at Marsh.
In terms of the designations value to the commercial insurance industry, Santini equates the ARM and CPCU designations to undergraduate and master’s degrees of commercial insurance, respectively.
The certifications are offered by the Malvern, Pa.-based The Institutes, of which R&I is an affiliate.
“Especially because I didn’t have that undergraduate insurance and risk management background, the best way that I could’ve accelerated the learning curve was to go get these designations. I needed them to reach a certain playing field of general knowledge and then help me advance in my role,” he explained.
Knowledge Integration Is the Future
Julie Reinhardt, CIC, CRIS, CRM, OTA, CRIS, ERIS, senior vice president, Marsh, views designations as a badge of dedication, passion and interest.
“Designations are always a positive conversation. You never know when someone is going to come into a meeting or job interview and have the same designation,” Reinhardt said.
A reason for her appreciation is that pursuing designations gave Reinhardt the ability to understand a wide range of coverage topics. “I appreciate that while I am specific to a specialty and an area, I have worked with a multitude of different backgrounds and applications earlier in my career.”
“I think, right now, it is the era of so-called ‘knowledge integration’,” said Bing-Syin (Benson) Ye, CPCU, ARM, LSSGB, CCP, SCLA, claims specialist, Mitsui Sumitomo Marine Management.
Ye’s job is to help his clients be more competitive in global trading strategies with regard to claims and working across multiple industries, which is a large function of insurance.
“If you do global trading, you cannot just know economics, or just finance or just legal, you need to know more,” he explained.
As the regional director of a Certified Claims Professional Accreditation Council, Ye was invited to be a conference panelist for the Transportation and Logistics Council, an opportunity he described as life changing.
“I’ve never had experience in the trucking industry, but because I have these designations [CPCU and CCP], they know me, and they approached me to join this panel. That was beyond my original expectations.”
Dedication, Passion, Interest
Some may be dissuaded from pursuing a designation due to high costs, rigorous commitments or continued education requirements. But Reinhardt views the pursuit of designation maintenance as an opportunity to “proactively and aggressively learn.”
Designees also benefit from being a part of a broader community within the insurance industry. As individuals take on new sectors and learn the lay of the land, the relationships attained can help maintain successful careers.
“I was personally not aware of the depth of the networking and the educational opportunities that the CPCU awards,” said Santini, who is a member of the Philadelphia chapter of the CPCU Society, which offers monthly breakfast meetings and webinars.
Dingle, who is also an underwriting assistant at USLI, added: “I’m part of the Valley Forge CPCU Society, and the people I met there and at the annual meeting put me on a whole new level of the insurance industry.”
Newfound knowledge and relationships can be leveraged over the course of one’s career, but it’s the confidence needed to better serve customers that is invaluable.
“Designations are supposed to make you a little bit uncomfortable and push your learning process,” said Reinhardt.
“Once achieved, you have the benefit of expanded knowledge and new perspectives on risk, rather than just reinforcing what you felt you already knew.” &