There’s more to insurance than you think!

Most of us are familiar with personal insurance. Maybe you’ve bought insurance for holidays or house contents, for example. However, all businesses also need insurance.  What if there is major theft of tech equipment at Google? What if the lorry transporting food to a Tesco store overturns and the produce is lost? What about the collapse of rail lines owned by National Rail in the floods last year?

Large insurers work to secure insurance contracts (known as ‘premiums’) with other businesses, so that in the event of such losses as above, the company gets financial compensation. Just to give you an idea of scale, one City insurer estimates they have $500 million worth of insurance premiums per year.

The core business of insurance is underwriting.  Around this are wrapped various support functions such as legal, operations, marketing, finance, HR, facilities and catering, IT.

Underwriting

Underwriting is at the heart of an insurance company.  An underwriter is the person who secures the insurance premium with a client. Their job is to try and sell an insurance premium to a prospective client, on the most profitable terms. This means that they are negotiating with their client over price of the premium and terms on which they would pay out a claim. They need to have a great poker face in order to clinch a deal! An underwriter interacts with people from all across the world, so a key ability is being able to communicate across cultures and an enjoyment of this aspect of the job.

An underwriter is assessing risk all the time. The price and terms of insurance will depend on the level of risk in question. One example of assessing risk would be the transfer of equipment to build a hydro dam to the North Eastern corner of Pakistan. You would have to consider questions such as: will the bridges used withstand the weight of the cargo?  Will the cargo go round 90 degree bends in the road? How risky are relations with Kashmir at the moment?

To assess these risks an underwriter is drawing on economic, geographical and political knowledge. They have a team of analysts who crunch the data for them and tell them the level of risk involved for each premium.

Risk Roles

There are lots of roles in risk analysis, providing data to the underwriters on the risks involved in insuring a client. Geographers fit neatly into Catastrophe Risk Analyst roles, whilst Mathematicians make good Actuaries.  For more information see:

 – the downloads from the Geography and Risk event: http://www.discoverrisk.co.uk/iag/downloads.aspx

– detailed information on a career as an actuary:
http://www.insidecareers.co.uk/professions/actuaries/

canary wharf workers 2

Business Group Operations

The operations team interacts with all the different teams in the firm improving business processes related to their area.  For example, they may look at how to release tasks from the underwriters and move them into a shared service center to increase efficiency.

Operations also look at how things could be done differently where there has been a problem: what’s gone wrong? Why? What are the possible solutions? They will then be responsible for putting together a process improvement strategy and making sure it gets executed. Like an underwriter, the operations team members will often be interacting with people from business in different countries, as well as their own international offices.

HR

Within HR there are lots of functions. The Learning and Development Team at an insurance company are similar to their counterparts across other organisations. They have a core curriculum of professional development which includes professional qualifications and soft skills training. Their job is to develop, promote and manage this programme.

They will also work on specific projects alongside this core activity.  Examples of projects are analysing diversity and inclusion in their organisation and identifying what needs to change, and doing a recruitment supplier review, to streamline the number of recruitment agencies they use to hire staff.

Marketing

You can work in marketing on the agency side or the client side. Agency side means that you work in an agency that does marketing work for various clients. Client side means that you are working within one company, doing their marketing. The roles are termed differently depending on which side you work. Working in an insurance company you would be working client side.The graduate level role on the client side is called a ‘Marketing Assistant’, whereas on the agency side it is more likely to be called an ‘Account Executive’

Marketing teams are comprised of those working on advertising, events, PR and online tools. Within a marketing team there will be roles such as campaign manager, web manager, PR/social media manager, events manager as well as marketing assistants and marketing executives. An insurance marketer has to work out what their customers want, develop a product that meets that need and then sell it to them. They will be constantly trying to win or retain business. Part of this is increasing brand awareness, through launching new desirable products into the market and running a campaign to promote them or sponsoring public events – from the Wildlife Photographer exhibition to Wimbledon Tennis Grand slam.

For more about working in insurance and graduate schemes see www.discoverrisk.co.uk

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