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Insurance Industry - A Career Path for Graduates (Underwriting)

Laws of attraction – Insurance, a career for young talent or are we still in the mindset that people just fall into the insurance industry?

My name is Amanda, I have been recruiting within the General Insurance industry for four years, and more of my clients are asking daily where the graduates are and why aren’t they interested in a career within Claims, Broking or Underwriting? I have decided to speak to graduates, juniors and senior professionals currently working within the insurance space to gain an understanding and to get an insight on their journeys in building a career in Insurance.

This week I have spoken to three people that specialise in underwriting about building an attractive long-term career in insurance.

Person A
Position: Technical Underwriting Assistant 
Company: Talbot Underwriting Australia 

Person B
Position: Underwriter - Professional & Financial Lines
Company:QBE Australia & New Zealand 

Person C:
Position: Senior Underwriter – Professional Lines
Company: QBE Australia & New Zealand

How did you land on this opportunity?

Person A: Amanda and Sam at Kennedy Reid assisted me with this role. Having been in my previous role for nearly 2 years (as an Assistant Underwriter) I felt it was the right time to take on a new challenge and given Talbot are still looking to grow their brand in Australia I saw this as an excellent long-term opportunity with plenty of room for progression down the track, so it was an easy decision for me.

Person B: I got this role through a recruiter – Kennedy Reid. Amanda had contacts with QBE.

Person C: Landed this role through a graduate program. 

Did you always want to get into insurance?

Person A: Honestly, I never thought about insurance as a possible career option when I was at uni given my background was in Finance and Economics and so moving into the industry initially was an unexpected move that I wasn't sure how was going to turn out. Looking back now, it was probably the best decision I could've made as I've loved every minute of it and am excited to progress within the industry moving forward.

Person B: I have always wanted to do Underwriting, particularly financial lines.

Person C: Insurance definitely wasn’t on the radar when leaving university (only reason I applied was because I had one subject for personal insurance as part of a financial planning course), however very glad I fell into it and quickly realized the industry had a much bigger scope than what you see on TV, especially in relation to the Corporate side which involves very complex insurance programs that require a lot of in-depth risk analysis to underwrite the account.

What did you study at University?

Person A: B Commerce (Finance and Business Economics majors) at UNSW

Person B: B Applied Finance with a B Commerce at Macquarie University

Person C: B Business and Commerce

Looking back, what would you do differently at Uni to better prepare yourself in your current role?

Person A: Ironically, I never actually did any insurance-related courses during my studies so that's something I'd definitely change if I could have my time over. Additionally, I'd look to do more computer-related training especially with applications like Excel as you make use of this extensively regardless of what industry you find yourself in. While things like holiday internships are useful in my opinion they're not an absolute necessity as there are many other ways to get started in the industry without them.

Person B: I would have probably studied a bit harder to get better grades.

Person C: For professional lines, in particular, there is a large range of product classes/specialties, so having a good grasp on fundamental accounting principles (e.g. knowing how to read a balance sheet) and economic theory has really helped when needing to conduct risk/exposure analysis on a submission. With so many different lines of corporate insurance (not just in professional lines) I would encourage anyone with a specific interest (e.g. Construction/Engineering/IT/Financial Institutions/Aviation/Marine) to try to gain expertise in such area during university so they can become a subject matter expert when becoming an underwriter and move into underwriting insurance products with that specific focus.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years from now? Is there career progression in this role?

Person A: Always a tough one to answer as I'm not completely sure where I'll be in 5 years. In the shorter-term (next year or two), it's always been my goal to progress to an Underwriter's position but beyond this, I'm not too sure. At this stage, I'm staying open-minded but there is most definitely an opportunity for progression in my current role as Talbot has only been in Australia for around 3-4 years and so there is a great deal of potential for expansion.

Person B: I see myself in a Senior Underwriting position mentoring junior underwriters. There is definitely career progression in this role.

Person C: At the present time I am working towards a Senior Underwriter / Product Specialist position, and from there is definitely a clearly defined career progression path ahead (e.g. potential to move into a wide variety of senior management roles including underwriting manager, relationship manager, product manager roles).

What are the benefits of being in the insurance industry, particularly, underwriting?

Person A: The insurance industry is a great place to work as it is very diverse and there is plenty of opportunity for progression. As I mentioned before, it is also a very dynamic and changing industry as insurers are continually having to adapt to changing circumstances in order to service their clients. Working in underwriting specifically, one of the things I've really enjoyed is having different things to do each day. While the underwriting process itself is pretty much set in stone, no two risks are the same and regardless of how much experience you have you will always come across a risk or request you hadn't seen before so no work day is boring. Additionally, one of the things I really like is there are always options to continue learning in the industry and you will always have the option to pursue additional studies and obtain educational qualifications (insurance-related) that most insurers will cover you for.

Person B: The benefits are you network and meet a lot of people socially. You also learn a lot about the industry as insurance plays a vital role in everyone’s lives both from a commercial and personal perspective.

Person C: Its very much a global industry, so it’s a profession/skill that can be transferred to different markets globally.

If you had to convince university graduates to get them to pursue a career in insurance, what would you say?

Person A: Insurance doesn't tend to get as much focus at uni as other disciplines like Economics or Finance but I would definitely recommend it as a career option as it's a brilliant industry to work in. Personally, I never thought about insurance as a possible career during my studies and was initially unsure of what to expect when I first started off in the industry but I've loved every bit of it as it is a very dynamic and changing workplace. My advice would be to go into it with an open mind and be willing to continually push and challenge yourself as there is a lot of room to progress and keep moving up within the industry if you're willing to put in the effort. Additionally, there are so many different areas within insurance whether you're more into finance or come from a different background like engineering there is something for everyone.

Person B: I would highlight on the career progression, knowledge gained and networking.

Person C: Insurance often gets classed as a fairly boring profession in TV/Movies, but I would encourage university students to research all of the different lines of personal/commercial/corporate insurance, to emphasize the scope of the industry and the complexity involved in the underwriting process on various lines.

How would you describe your current job to a trainee moving into Underwriting?

Person A: My role at present entails working closely with the Underwriters at the company and assisting them on a day to day basis ensuring the correct data is entered into the systems, that we're attending to any outstanding queries within agreed service time-frames and making sure that everything is kept up to date. When certain information or documentation is missing, it's my role to follow up with the underwriters and/or brokers to obtain it. Doing this ensures that everything goes smoothly on a day to day basis and that the underwriters aren't spending unnecessary time chasing up things that should be done.  

Person B: Underwriting can be particularly referred to as risk management. Effectively managing risk and putting a price on each risk.

Person C: Being an underwriter in professional lines, you need to be across all economic/industrial/litigation/client specific risk factors for each submission underwritten. Such exposures are constantly evolving, therefore, a strong attention to detail is required when underwriting an account to ensure the overall exposure has been clearly understood and terms drafted accordingly.

Did any of your previous work experience help you to get to where you are today? 

Person A: Absolutely. Every job I've had has helped in getting me to my current position. My very first job (in retail) taught me the basics in terms of customer service and answering queries from customers on particular products and it was much the same with my next role (again in retail) although this was a phone-based role for online sports merchandise so this gave me experience in talking with customers on the phone and providing good customer service in this capacity. This continued into my next role (in Financial Services/Wealth Management) which was in an inbound call centre. This gave me the experience I needed within the Financial Services industry in order to get my foot in the door and from there I got my first insurance role as an Assistant Underwriter where I learned the basics of underwriting and the insurance world.

Person B: I gained experience from the packages space and then tried to assess what I preferred from there. The packages role was a graduate role at the time I joined Zurich so it was based on rotation which allowed me to develop my underwriting skills and then eventually expands them out in an underwriting position.

Person C: N/A entered via grad program straight out of university. 

I hope you enjoyed this read straight from individuals currently building careers in Underwriting. My next article will give a look into a career in Insurance Broking.


Feel free to get in touch if you are interested in a career in Insurance or would like to grab a coffee to discuss shortages of such a moving and growing industry, that I have a great passion for.  


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