I Love Insurance So Much That the Draw of Hawaii was Secondary to my Attendance at CPCU16!
You’ve probably read more than one story about how a member of the insurance community came into their career by accident or without intention to stay long. Well I tried a few other fields before insurance: retail, veterinary medicine, radio and even law enforcement. But I eventually started working in insurance because my mom told me to! Sometimes I tell people I was destined for insurance: my mom, her mom and her sister all worked in the industry for several decades each.
I started as a temp in the Commercial Lines department; my primary focus was entering thousands of policy declaration pages into a new imaging system. They were working on a large project that would last several years, ending in a paperless policy system. They were in such need of help, that they didn’t have a desk ready for me when I started, so I worked at my mom’s desk for a while as she was out on medical leave. Working at an insurance company gave me an incredible amount of emotional and financial stability at a time when I needed it most. I started working directly with many of my mom’s co-workers, including her sister. A few months later, my mom passed away. I not only had a secure job, and one that I was very interested in pursuing advancement, but I also gained a new support system from people who cared a lot about my mom and subsequently, me.
I caught on and learned fast in my new job, not just how the declaration pages were organized, but what the coverages meant. I was encouraged to start courses through what was then called the Insurance Institute of America. From 2002 to 2014, I finished AINS, AU, AIC, and CPCU. I was very close to my mom. I always knew she was proud of me, but earning the CPCU designation was bittersweet as I knew she would be more thrilled than anyone that I finished the courses. She would truly understand why I’ve grown to love attending the meetings, seminars and conferences surrounding the insurance industry.
As I’m typing this, a few weeks back home from Hawaii, I realize it has been a year since I attended my conferment and first CPCU Society Annual Meeting in Indianapolis. It far exceeded my expectations, so much so that I still share stories about the people I met and the sessions I attended. Indy will always have special meaning to me!
After my first CPCU Society Annual Meeting, I realized that I wanted to go to the next meeting, too. One catch, 2016’s Meeting was going to be in Honolulu: I thought Hawaii was far outside my means, but when I did some research, talked to others that were going or had been there, and I decided I needed to seriously consider getting there. I knew the costs would be high and there would be no other assistance since I wasn’t a new designee anymore. But my husband and I agreed it would be the trip of a lifetime. He knows very well my enthusiasm for continuing education opportunities as well as networking with others in the insurance industry.
I wanted to go to Hawaii for the conference first, and the destination second. Did I get any employer assistance? Not really. (I’m grateful they paid my CPCU Society dues which resulted in almost $500 off the full conference fee.) When I told co-workers and others that I was going to Hawaii, but not as a new designee, the question I heard most was “why didn’t you put off your last exam to go to Hawaii as a new designee?” The simple answers were that I didn’t want to wait (I finished 9/13/14) and that I actually wanted to go to Indianapolis. There was still a large group of people, but compared to Hawaii, it was much less intimidating, so it was a sort of primer for Hawaii. I gained experience talking to people I’d never met before, which was far outside my comfort zone! I remembered how it felt in Indy when people saw my new designee ribbon and said “congratulations!” I knew another reason I wanted to go to Hawaii to meet new designees and congratulate them, and then see the same pride and happiness that I felt in Indy. I sought out those opportunities while in Hawaii. I started a new job only 6 months ago, and learned shortly after starting there would be 5 people attending as new designees. I was excited to attend the conferment ceremony with them and celebrate their accomplishment.
Returning to the meeting in Hawaii this year has given me more inspiration to stay involved with the Society, both in my local chapter, and nationally, specifically for new designees. I firmly believe that CPCUs have to get involved and stay involved in order to shape the future of the Society for CPCU candidates and designees.
Meeting the new designees and hearing about their careers thus far, I am glad that I’ve been fortunate to work in two big areas of P&C Insurance: Underwriting and Claims. Both of which are excellent ways to learn about coverage, both in theory, and in the real world. I saw an opportunity to help educate customers about their insurance when I worked in claims. I already had worked with several independent agents while in underwriting, and I used those relationships and made new ones when I went to claims, encouraging the agent and the insured to learn more about how their policy could work better for their needs.
I’ve read so many great articles geared towards millennials encouraging them to consider insurance careers and I agree with so many of their viewpoints. Most of my career, I haven’t worried about job security or stability, I’ve enjoyed generous benefit packages, time off for illness and vacation, annual merit raises, and 100% reimbursement and generous bonuses for all the programs I completed through The Institutes. I’ve made numerous friends, who have supported me in some tough personal times. They’ve also helped me celebrate great milestones in my career.
Insurance is more than sales, underwriting and claims. There are numerous opportunities in marketing, data analytics and actuarial, finance and even legal departments. Since I’ve finished CPCU and gotten involved in the CPCU Society, I’ve found a new view on the insurance industry and I’m excited to look for more opportunities. I think every student and young professional needs to look into possibilities in the insurance industry. As the Dr. Suess book says, “Oh, The Places You’ll Go!” and that’s certainly true for the insurance industry.
“You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”
About Melissa Stream
Melissa began her insurance career in 2001 at General Casualty Insurance (now known as QBE North America.) Her mom wisely told her to apply for a temp-to-hire position in the Commercial Lines processing unit and the rest is history. She is a very proud graduate of Wisconsin Lutheran College, earning B.A. in Communications in 2000. (She’s not kidding; her license plates say WLC GRAD.) She’s a proud CheeseHead; she’s lived in Madison, WI almost her whole life with the exception of the four years at WLC. Since her start at GC/QBE, she’s earned AINS, AU, AIC, CPCU and AIC-M designations and attended the Indianapolis and Hawaii CPCU Society annual meetings. She has worked in both underwriting and claims, and in both Commercial and Personal lines. She currently works as an underwriting consultant at Wisconsin Reinsurance Corporation. After meeting Tony and Carly in Indianapolis in 2015, Melissa was motivated to get involved with her local CPCU Society chapter and she is a director on the board.
Melissa wanted CPCU ASAP, so she didn't wait until Hawaii. She went to CPCU Indy and loved it. Loved it so much she came back for seconds and went to CPCU Hawaii the next year. Cute personal story, hard to summarize. We're glad she went and enjoyed both conferences! Key point: If you can go to more CPCU Annual Meetings after your first one make it happen, it's worth it!