10 Reasons Why Insurance and Risk Management Is a Great Career

Insurers, brokers and risk managers agree there are endless opportunities in this field. Here’s what they want young professionals to know.
By: | August 1, 2019

Do you remember the first time you heard the phrase “risk management and insurance?” Do you remember what your initial reaction was? How you felt and what you thought?

A good portion of people in this thriving industry are likely to tell you they had no idea what risk management was and had never dreamed they would “end up” in insurance. But after entering the insurance world, they love it.

And for good reason.

There are countless lines of insurance, covering a vast number of industries and areas, from private automotive collections to vintage wines, from amusement park rides to deep-sea diving research.

“With insurance and risk management, you can take what you’re passionate about and turn it into a career,” said Heather Malone, talent acquisition manager, EPIC Insurance Brokers and Consultants.

“Insurance has everything you could be looking for in a career, and there is always a job opening wherever you look,” added Zach Brown, partner, Orion Risk Management.

“If you can make it past the first couple of years learning the basics and grinding through the foundational stage, you will ask yourself, ‘Why didn’t I do this earlier?’ ”

Brown himself had an interesting start to his insurance career: Out of college, he spent time working as a commercial lawnmower salesman in Indiana. One day, he decided to risk it all.

At 23, he rented a truck and drove to California to pursue a career in insurance. He didn’t have a job lined up when he left, but he knew he wanted to be a part of this lucrative and growing profession.

“What I liked about insurance was that it was required, and it had to be bought every year,” he said.

That stability is just one reason why so many young professionals are beginning to pursue risk management and insurance as early as their undergraduate years.

More and more universities are offering risk management tracks through their schools of business, with several working to create lasting relationships with insurance companies, partnering to create internships, scholarships and more.

But just because they have these opportunities does not mean every student is well versed in risk management before they get to school.

Here are 10 reasons why young professionals are likely to find boundless success in insurance and risk management.

1) Opportunity Abounds

Anyone fresh out of college or considering a new career is excited about the opportunities a job can bring. In risk management and insurance, those opportunities can be endless, especially for those looking to climb the ladder of success.

Monica Ningen, CEO and president, Swiss Re Canada

“There’s a need for leadership in our industry,” said Malone. That’s because the retirement rate of senior leadership is the highest she’s seen in any industry.

In fact, data shows one-third of active professionals in insurance are between the ages of 55 and 64. These individuals are set to retire in the next 5 to 10 years, leaving spots to fill by the up-and-coming professionals looking to make a name for themselves.

Jack Hampton, professor of business, St. Peter’s University, agreed: “With the near-term graying and expected retirement of so many underwriters, claims adjusters, brokers and risk managers, we can anticipate bright careers in insurance/risk management for skilled professionals.”

However, he cautioned, “It’s not a free ticket. The new people have to be good. Property and liability risks, not to mention cyber, climate change and the internet, do not manage themselves.”

It’s not just about titles though; many entering into risk management and insurance know the opportunities for personal growth are never-ending as well.

“In today’s economy, people are wary of unstable opportunities,” said Malone. But stability is a driver in insurance, she said, and so is opportunity.

This is an industry bursting with options, from a growing cyber security market to the medical marijuana industry. These areas aren’t necessarily new, but they are consistently growing and changing, which means the people in charge of them have to learn and adapt alongside them. They need innovative people behind these opportunities to continue to grow.

2) Making a Difference

Young professionals aren’t just looking to climb the ladder of success; they want to leave behind a legacy that impacts the people, colleagues and companies they touch.

“That’s what I love about the young generation of professionals,” said Mike Cirillo, president, myMatrixx. “They think about making the world better. They’re about helping people when they’re in a time of need.”

It’s true; work that has meaning, that serves a higher purpose, is essential for newly minted professionals.

According to The Society for Human Resource Management, one study showed that 94% of the up-and-coming generation want to use their skills to benefit a cause. Of the respondents, 57% wish there were more company-wide service days.

In risk management and insurance, young professionals can find that purpose: “Insurance helps individuals and organizations recover from the crises in their lives,” explained Hampton, who is also a Risk & Insurance® Risk Insider.

“Like first responders, its people make a difference. The fire fighters or police officers get you to safety. The insurance professionals get you back to a stable life,” he said.

Risk management and insurance are forces for restoration and protection for people, communities and companies. They make people whole again after tragedy, providing a safety blanket for workers, offering security for companies to stay in business, and protecting from the numerous threats out there.

“I want to live in a resilient community,” said Monica Ningen, CEO and president, Swiss Re Canada.

“The higher the insurance penetration is in a community, the faster it will get back on its feet after a catastrophe. The industry collaborates closely on efforts to close the insurance protection gap — the difference between economic losses and insured losses,” she said.

“Not only do we put time into closing the protection gap, we also focus on mitigation. Our industry is here to help people through challenging situations.”

3) A Stable, Sustainable Career

“Students are looking for a career they enjoy and can be financially rewarded for,” said Rob Drennan, department chair, RIHM and associate professor, Temple University.

“They’re also looking for something that’s stable.”

Stability can refer to two main points: (1) Knowing the compensation matches the effort; and (2) knowing that there are jobs available.

“The young generation of professionals … think about making the world better. They’re about helping people when they’re in a time of need.” — Mike Cirillo, president, myMatrixx

In risk management and insurance, it’s not just the CEOs who are well compensated; professionals throughout the risk management and transfer chain make salaries in the six figures and beyond.

According to Recruiter.com, the average new insurance underwriter could make anywhere from $48,000 to $72,000. Payscale, an online compensation platform, further noted the average per-year salary of an entry-level insurance underwriter is $52,829. And it can only grow from there.

“I wish I would have started in this industry straight out of college or even before that,” said Orion’s Brown. “The pay is excellent and there isn’t any cap on what you can make, generally speaking.”

But, he added, “I always say that insurance is incredibly simple, but incredibly difficult. Your compensation directly reflects the amount of effort applied, and there is always opportunity to move up.”

As for the other part of stability — knowing that jobs are in abundance — risk management and insurance touches almost every aspect of every business. There’s no shortage of opportunity.

“Over the long term, [the industry] is always growing good profit margins, low capital needs, lots of recurring revenue with high retention rates,” said Ed Page, president and COO, Relation Insurance.

“It’s a great business — there is a reason why Warren Buffett has so much of his portfolio in the insurance sector,” he added.

4) Development and Training Opportunities

Stories of young executives in insurance seeking development and taking on large responsibilities early in their careers abound, and nearly a quarter of the wave of talent entering the market list professional development as a top goal.

“I feel every day is different. You never stop learning on the job,” said Brown. From conferences to certificates, on-the-job training and more, risk managers and insurers are constantly learning.

And professional development can start as early as the undergraduate years: “When companies come and ask to recruit from us, we always bring up that internship programs are a great way to bring in students and hire out from the program,” said Temple’s Drennan.

He added that students love the personal touch of meeting with those already in the business and learning directly under them.

Insurance companies investing in these strategies to develop and train their employees as early as the internship level tend to continue to invest in their professional growth.

“And the insurance industry genuinely can fund and support its employees,” added Malone.

5) Stimulating, Engaging Work

From predicting solar storms to learning all about a client company, insurance minds are creative, curious and engaged. There’s truly never a dull moment.

“I am often asked to reflect on the qualities that make someone successful in the insurance industry,” Ningen said. “There’s one quality that stands out well above the others: a growth mindset.”

According to Carol S. Dweck, professor of psychology at Stanford University and author of several books on the topic, a growth mindset is “the understanding that we can develop our abilities and intelligence.”

Ed Page, president and COO, Relation Insurance

For Ningen, “A growth mindset leads to a focus on learning and a willingness to learn from mistakes. The insurance industry attracts curious minds, people who want to learn and evolve. The concept of an insurance policy is centuries old, yet the world is changing around us and how we do business is changing. This creates a fantastically stimulating and engaging industry to work in.”

“You are challenged every day, but everything is solvable,” added Brown.

“The resources of knowledge [you gain] are abundant and everything can be customized. Insurance feeds people’s creative needs.”

Every client is different, and every challenge requires its own tailored solution.

6) Flexible Work Schedules

The gig economy is growing. In fact, one survey found 43% of the U.S. workforce is expected to go freelance as early as next year.

Many insurance professionals set their own schedules, frequently working in the field or working at home as their personal needs and professional demands dictate.

Malone, who has worked across a number of industries herself, ranging from information technology to  entertainment, said insurance is the best place for growing professionals to find job flexibility.

“There’s flexibility in going from client to client,” she said.

“And there’s an added ability to develop your own book and self professionally — those opportunities exist here in insurance.”

7) Relationships

Insurance leaders are famous for saying that nobody is in this business alone. The key to success in managing risk or providing risk transfer capital is friendly collaboration.

“For me, I love the people and the company that I work with — that is really the most important thing,” said Relation Insurance’s Page.

“In some jobs, it’s all about data or routine procedures. In risk management, it’s about your reputation and relationships. Honesty and integrity are paramount. Trust is essential,” added Hampton.

“It’s a rewarding career field for conscientious individuals who seek a positive career experience working with others.”

8) Flexible Locations

The very cool thing about insurance and risk management is that every company needs it. From the local bookshop all the way to the top dogs on Wall Street, these businesses need people who understand their insurance needs and can make the magic happen.

“No matter where you go, insurance is an option for a career path,” said Brown.

Read More: These Risk Managers Are Adding Value to the Risk Management Profession; Now You Can, Too

Insurance touches every aspect of the economy and society. If you are in the insurance business, you can call almost anywhere home, from Los Angeles to Biloxi, Miss.

“Things happen in life and can take you to some unexpected places,” said Brown. “It is good to know that your skills are transferable anywhere in the world.”

9) Challenge After Challenge

Analyzing risk and negotiating the terms of an insurance coverage deal are not passive exercises. They require determination, superior people skills and stamina to arrive at solutions that work for all parties.

If you like to confront different challenges throughout your career, insurance/risk management is the place, said Hampton.

“If you’re looking for the same duties day-after-day, this is not the best place for you,” he added.

Mike Cirillo, president, myMatrixx

myMatrixx’s Cirillo likened each challenge to a new opportunity for personal growth and professional development: “Look at opioids, as an example. Our young pharmacists know that if we don’t manage this crisis appropriately, people could die. These pharmacists take that to heart, and they make sure that they face it head on and get their patients the care they need.”

“Every day there is a challenge with something you are not well versed in, or you have never seen before,” said Brown.

“Stretching your limits helps you grow and think about things differently. Even seeing something for a second or third time, there is typically a different angle, with different parties involved, different perceptions, new ideas and different details of the situation,” he continued.

“So even repetitive events are thought provoking and educational.”

10) Technology Focused

There’s little denying it: It’s a tech world these days, from innovations in Insurtech and blockchain to advancements in data analytics and analysis, and the world is embracing the digital age with open arms.

“Technology is still not nearly as pervasive in the industry as it should or will be and there are tons of places to innovate,” Page said.

But technology and insurance were made for each other.

“With much of the current workforce aging out, there is a tremendous opportunity for someone early in their career who is hungry to innovate, grow and build success,” Page continued.

“I envy someone in their 20s or 30s entering the industry with drive, energy, a technology focus and creative ambition. They can have an absolute field day.”

As more tech-savvy generations mature and enter the workforce, they are bound to strengthen the tech knowledge considered so vital to underwriting and claims management.

“Technology used to be a skillset where you would have to take a class to learn,” said Cirillo. “Now, tech skills are inherent.”

A “simple” data portal — what once took months to build — can be done in hours today.

Things like blockchain, Insurtech, even the cyber market itself, did not exist 30 years ago when Cirillo first entered the industry. Over time, these innovative and essential pieces of the insurance puzzle had to be invented.

“Tech-savvy people saw a need. These new businesses were happening in the insurance world, and they had a need for technology advancements,” he said. “That’s an opportunity for the new generation. They can create and build [technology platforms], because the tech skills are there.” &

Autumn Demberger is a freelance writer and can be reached at [email protected].

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