If there’s one thing you can’t truly comprehend until you’re in the industry, it’s the sheer amount of different avenues you can take to find contentment and success in insurance. My time at Zurich has been a diverse one – I’ve now worked in 4 different offices in 6 different roles, alongside countless people, both inside and out of Zurich. Following experiences in Professional Indemnity Underwriting, Marine Claims Handling, Personal Lines Distribution and Cyber Liability Underwriting, as well as projects involving the gig economy and company-wide initiatives, I’ve now moved off Zurich’s Business Graduate Programme into a permanent role in their regional Financial Lines Underwriting team.
A week in the life of an insurance graduate at Zurich
Rotation 4 – Cyber Liability Underwriting Assistant
Monday – Technical training: The cyber insurance landscape is developing at frightening speeds. It’s therefore essential to build up a thorough and rigorous understanding of how insurance policies respond in different scenarios, to ensure that brokers and clients can be confident in the cover that is afforded to them. Training consists of policy wording comparisons, market research and claims scenario analysis.
Tuesday – Broker meetings and underwriting in action: Application of training in live situations. Underwriting is a blend of technical know-how and trading abilities. Ensuring that you embody Zurich’s brand and values, whilst evaluating and targeting commercial opportunities are imperative to effective underwriting.
Wednesday – Graduate development day: Behavioural skills training with my graduate cohort. Numerous events were organised as part of our development programme, targeting growth and development in key leadership attributes. We engaged with experts (both internal and external) on topics such as personal brand, communication and financial/commercial acumen to assist in developing well-rounded skill sets. These sessions served as a fantastic opportunity to reflect on personal growth and to knowledge-share with other graduates who may be exposed to different areas of the business.
Thursday – Representing Zurich at a Cyber Insurance Conference: Involved hearing from experts on accumulation modelling, the transformation of insurance policies into a new age of service-led propositions, as well as emerging exposures. Taking a step back to think conceptually about distribution models, insurance solutions and evolving customer demands enabled me to more-valuably input to internal conversations around sustainable strategy formulation.
Friday – Project-focussed day: A combination of cyber-specific projects and projects involving the wider Zurich community. From a cyber-perspective, this included the delivery of an impact analysis for a switch in underwriting rating tools. More generally, during this stage of my role as a Zurich graduate, I was also involved in a project that centred on increasing awareness of different areas of the business, in order to remove communication barriers and to improve idea-sharing to foster innovative mind-sets.
What was the application process like – any advice?
I found the Zurich application process to be very similar to other financial service schemes. As expected, it was multi-staged, and whilst, at the time I was dreading the thought of expending so much effort in something where the chances of success were so slim, it should be treated as a journey. Whilst that sounds incredibly cheesy, until you’ve gone through the process of evaluating your strengths and weaknesses and demonstrating your ability to act upon these, the likelihood is that you aren’t yet ready to work in a demanding environment that places great responsibility on you from the get-go. I saw a real maturity in myself throughout the process and a certain growth in resilience.
In terms of advice, practice makes perfect. It may make you feel uncomfortable, but test your interviewing capabilities with a number of different friends and family – you’ll find that they’ve all had different interviewing experiences and so ask you a wide array of questions from a number of perspectives, which should help your preparation for interviews (be they video or telephone) or assessment days.
What skills are useful in this profession?
Obviously, you could end up in any number of different roles – to name a few: actuarial analyst, market underwriter, marketing ambassador, portfolio manager, claims handler, project manager, operational consultant, data consultant – and each role will carry different requirements in skill-sets.
However, some traits are universally important. Adaptability is vital when working in such an integrated environment that continues to grow in diversity – at some point, you will undoubtedly be exposed to differing managerial styles, customer groups, brokers, internal teams working at changing intensities. Holistic thinking is essential as it will enable you to make crucial links between your role and how this interacts with wider strategy of your business unit and company.
Additionally, it can aid your responses in a number of tricky situations – dealing with a disgruntled customer, entering into negotiations and presentation delivery.
Finally, the ability to appropriately identify and seize opportunities – this will not only make you indispensable to your team, but from a purely selfish perspective, can lead to the opening of many doors.