This article was originally published on InsNerds. It was written by Patrick Wraight and edited by Kelley Lancaster.
To paraphrase a comic from my youth: “Insurance has been good to me. If it had not been for insurance, I would not be working in insurance today.” I’m glad that I got into the industry. (I sometimes wish I had become an independent agent or CAT claims adjuster, but that’s another story.)
My journey in insurance began much like that of other workers in the industry. I don’t have a risk management degree. I don’t have family in the business. I got into insurance the same way I got into fast food and credit card collections: I needed a job. After 10 years in the U.S. Army, followed by college, , my family and I moved from Florida to central New York. We moved because I was planning to start a church in the area. Because it was an independent project, I needed to find a job to make ends meet.
So, I did what I encourage my sons to do when they want a job. I sat at a deli in town, ate a sandwich, drank their soda, and used their Wi-Fi. My job was to find a job. Eventually, I came across an ad for a temp-to-hire position. It paid better than sitting at the deli, so I applied. Surprisingly, I got the job… My title was Policy Analyst, which involved entering data, printing paper, punching holes, and mailing stuff.
I started to understand what I was doing as I looked at policies and entered data into the system. The more information I looked at, the more I “got it.” I was putting together commercial package policies all day. I started to see that these forms worked together. The underwriters used a piece of paper to let us know how to build the policies. I noticed that they were manually changing edition dates, crossing out forms, and adding new forms to this paper.
Here’s when I got hooked…I asked, “Why don’t we just change the paper? It’s in Word, right?” Well, that’s when I was “volunteered” to maintain and repair all of the paper form guides.And that’s when I started to enjoy looking at and reading insurance forms (Hi, I’m Patrick and I’m an insurance geek. I like reading policies).
Not long after that, our office started providing Certified Insurance Service Representative (CISR) classes. When I took my first class, Insuring Commercial Property, I was double-hooked. I thought, You mean, this stuff is complicated enough that we need to spend 8 hours in class and have to take a test? That’s just for commercial property? I’m in! I ate the stuff up! In 2007, I finished my CISR designation, which was just the beginning.
I soon became a commercial underwriter for our home medical equipment dealer program. Eventually I moved over to our fire department program and worked for a while in our outfitters and guides program. I loved it. I learned all about different businesses. I built relationships with a bunch of great insurance agents all over the U.S. Also, I got to work with great people daily. One day, I turned around, and I wasn’t the new guy anymore. People came to me with questions and to have discussions about policy issues.
That’s when it happened. The company promoted some folks to underwriter positions. Since I liked insurance coverage, I had good agent relationships, I was working on my Certified Insurance Counselor (CIC) designation, and I liked to talk, I became the new underwriter trainer. I even got to create the training plans (triple-hooked!). Fast forward to present day. I still work in the industry, but I’m not an underwriter anymore. I’ve been in insurance education for the past 5 years. I’ve picked up a few more letters after my name, and I’m not done. I get to communicate what I love about insurance to other people who are at different places in their careers.
The point is, there are many reasons that I love working in insurance. You may have been able to pick out some of these in my story. Let me lay out the top 5 for you.
1. I love working in insurance because every day is different
Some people think that it’s all about paperwork. But these days,most of the “paperwork” is on the computer screen, even when you need a signature. Some people think that all we do is figure out ways to make things complicated by asking inane questions to make insurance more difficult to obtain… To be fair, we do ask a lot of questions and we might discover a reason not to write a policy. It’s really not your fault. For example, an underwriter may not be comfortable with the guy who twirls a baton and shoots a pistol while riding on a horse on a tightrope. Seriously, in this business we get to see all the odd, unusual, and fun things that are going on around us.
For instance, one day, I got a claim alert that an ambulance was seriously damaged in an auto accident. The ambulance crew had just finished having lunch and were pulling out into traffic. They didn’t notice that to their left, a high-speed chase was going on. The chase ended when the fleeing motorcycle hit the side of the ambulance. The ambulance was destroyed and its rider was launched over it, landing 100 feet away in an empty lot. If that’s not crazy enough for you, let me tell you what happened when the rider regained consciousness later that day. He blamed the ambulance driver for the accident and later filed suit against the ambulance company.
2. I love working in insurance because no two careers are alike
The more people I meet in this business, the more I see the unique paths they have taken in their journeys. I know an underwriting supervisor who came into insurance from a collection attorney’s office. A friend of mine worked his way from working in the mailroom at Florida Wind (back in the day) to becoming a respected insurance educator. I’ve seen people who started working in their parents’ agencies. I’ve seen people go from a desk underwriter to a field underwriter, inspecting and climbing on buildings every day. Hey, I’m an insurance teacher now. Who would have thought of that?
3. I love working in insurance because we help people
Let’s get serious for a minute. Insurance must be focused on servicing our customers. We have the honor of helping people to protect not only their personal items, but more importantly, their families’ futures. A family’s security can be destroyed if they don’t have health insurance. Someone who doesn’t have homeowners insurance may be devastated if their home was lost in a fire. Imagine where you would be without auto insurance if you had an accident, and someone got hurt. It may be very difficult to recover financially from any of these events.
Some people like to think that insurance policies don’t provide the coverage that’s promised. However, if you were to survey insurance policies over history, you would find that many policies provide more coverage today than ever before. There is more insurance available for more risks than at any other time in history. It’s necessary for us as “insurance people” to help the customer understand the massive amount of information contained in these policies and how we are here to fulfill those promises.
4. I love working in insurance because we help the world around us
Have you ever bought a house with a mortgage? If so, what’s on the list of required documents at closing? Proof of insurance, right? Have you ever bought a car with a loan? Again, if so, what do you have to provide before they let you drive it away? Proof of insurance. I have a friend who was recently let go from his job. He’s using this opportunity to start his “passion business” – operating a food truck. Do you know what he needs to get his business license? That’s right! Proof of insurance.
Insurance is necessary to help the world progress. Want a building built? It needs insurance. Want people to build it? They need workers comp insurance. Want a new product innovation? I promise there’s insurance available for that somewhere. A friend of mine often bids for small construction jobs in her county. Those jobs also require specific insurance product purchases.
5. I love working in insurance because of the great tension between stability and change
In 2005, early in my insurance career, I once picked up an insurance magazine, and a particular article caught my eye. The author described a huge technological problem. Microsoft was no longer going to support Windows NT, which appeared to signal tremendous upcoming system challenges (the end of the world, basically!). That was my first clue as to how quickly insurance companies need to make changes. I should have known this at the time because I had to print documents in a single-side format, and we had someone whose job was to copy from single-side to double-side, then stamp signatures, and then 3-hole punch the policies manually.
Yet, insurers sit on the cutting edge of everything. Insurance is evolving to provide coverage for new technologies and the exposures that come along with them. Insurance has to change to find ways to cover jobs that didn’t exist 10 years ago. The iPhone recently turned 10 years old. All those apps on your phone didn’t exist back then, including Facebook, Instagram, Uber, Letgo, and AirBNB. You get the point, right? We throw around the technological terms today without even thinking about it. As technology becomes more part of our lives and language, the insurance industry is working on how it will impact our business.
I love working in insurance. It’s a great career field. It’s been really good to me and to my house. Hey, if it weren’t for insurance, I wouldn’t be writing this (and you wouldn’t be reading it, either.)
About Patrick Wraight
Patrick Wraight is the Director of Insurance Journal's Academy of Insurance. As such, he sees himself as the Senior Brand Promoter of the Academy. His goal is to help the industry to see the Academy the way he sees it, as a valued partner in the training and development of insurance professionals. He started as a commercial underwriter for volunteer fire departments. Most recently, Patrick worked in learning and development for a large Florida property insurer. This experience, coupled with his insurance background has prepared him to lead the Academy. Patrick has earned several industry designations: CIC (Certified Insurance Counselor) CRM (Certified Risk Manager) CISR (Certified Insurance Service Representative) AU (Associate in Commercial Underwriting) AINS (Associate in General Insurance)