Inside Careers works in partnership with the CII. Here, the CII have answered some of your most commonly asked questions about starting out in insurance and the opportunities offered by this sector.
Will I need to continue training once I have graduated from university?
When you secure your first role in insurance, your first thoughts will include how to soak up all the technical information that comes your way, as well as how you can grow your network of colleagues, friends and associates. Doing these will lay the foundations for a happy, successful career.
Apart from getting through the probation period, you will focus on completing your CII professional qualifications. Most graduate schemes contain the CII’s Advanced Diploma in Insurance, a three-year programme of study known by its designatory letters ACII. Blending highly technical units with complementary units on business, marketing and law, completing this qualification and gaining the letters is rather like gaining a second passport, since it is globally recognised and respected.
The first three years are known to be busy ones, with study and full-time work leaving little time for much else. It’s best to think of these years as an investment in your future.
Once you have completed this programme, you can work towards Chartered status, Fellowship and even study for a postgraduate qualification.
Whatever you decide to do, you will need to undertake continuous professional development (CPD). As well as being a good thing in its own right, keeping your knowledge fresh, you will need to undertake 35 hours of CPD each year in order to continue to use your designatory letters.
What area of the insurance profession employs the most graduates?
Often, people want to know which area of the profession employs the most graduates. It’s a bit of a red herring, since a great number of the graduate schemes in the sector are rotational – that can mean different lines of business in a broker, or different roles entirely in an insurer. That is good news for you, since it gives you the chance to pick what you enjoy the most, based on experience rather than guesswork.
What are the progression opportunities for a graduate entering the insurance profession?
Insurance is a meritocratic sector. If you are good at what you do, you can get on very quickly, irrespective of your background or your degree. For some, progression means simply becoming more senior in one area of a business. For others, progression means working in another country, or moving in to a senior management position in a business – maybe even running a business. All of these options are open to you. The only limitation is your ambition.
Do insurance professionals often swap areas or work across more than one area of insurance?
Joining the insurance sector is not about locking yourself in to one channel and staying there. Many industry professionals start in underwriting and move in to broking, for example. Others may wish to move from claims into underwriting. So, as well as being able to move across the technical disciplines of broking, claims and underwriting, you also have the option of using your technical knowledge in a relevant area such as business development, finance, general management or marketing.
What sort of international opportunities are associated with working in the insurance profession?
If you want a career (not just a job) that can take you well beyond the UK, insurance remains one of the standout sectors. The nature of the international opportunities depends on the role – loss adjusters are found wherever there are major events. So, as well as dealing with the aftermath of floods or fires in the UK, there is also scope for supporting local professionals on the ground after hurricanes in the Caribbean, tsunamis in Asia and any other type of catastrophic event against which insurance has been taken.
For other professionals, such as underwriters, opportunities exist to do the role in another market, since the principles of insurance are the same across the world.
If you have a wish to work internationally, it makes sense to spend some of the early years of your career in the London insurance market, since it is the hub for international insurance and reinsurance. It is the place where it is easiest to make a lot of connections in a small geographical area.
How can I stand out from other graduates applying for insurance roles?
If you are a first or second year student, research the companies that you want to work for and try to secure an internship, which will be at the end of your penultimate year of study. The conversion rate from these to a graduate scheme is very high and it enhances your CV.
The CII offers a free Discover membership to students which gives students plenty of insight into some of the key issues facing the sector and makes it much easier to connect with sector professionals. Given that the CII has 120,000 members around the world, it’s no surprise that 2,500 students have signed up for the membership in the last two years.
Do I need a particular degree to work in the insurance sector?
One of the many positives about the insurance profession is that it rarely recruits someone based on their degree. Companies are more interested in the person you are rather than what you have studied. This means there are graduates from every degree discipline – not just business or finance, successfully working in the insurance sector.
That said, graduates can bring their degree knowledge to the sector. Geographers may be able to use their knowledge of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in understanding climate change and its impact on a company’s attitude to insuring clients in different parts of the world. Sports science graduates may be able to use their understanding of how the body works to assess the risks around insuring a sportsperson. These are just two examples.
Do I need previous experience to obtain a graduate role in insurance?
It is not essential to have gained work experience in the sector. However, it is important to have some work experience, from any sector, that gives you the opportunity to show off the soft skills that the recruiting company wants to see. To be clear, companies would rather recruit a graduate with a 2:1 and work experience than someone with a first but no experience outside of studying.
Apart from having work experience under your belt, you should also understand the value of networking. LinkedIn is a really useful site to be on as you can keep a close eye on what companies are doing around recruitment and internships.