Why the insurance industry?
Many of the skills that the military teaches are directly transferable to the insurance industry. The industry is very relationship driven. Clients, underwriters and brokers rely on close personal relationships to conduct business. Your communication skills, ability to interact and develop relationships with everyone is crucial to success in the industry. In addition drive, ambition and natural intelligence as well as the ability to operate independently with great responsibility are extremely valuable attributes in this industry.
The industry is an established and progressive industry with a great deal of social activity. The hours of the business are very sociable as well with work generally starting slightly before 9 and rarely finishing later than 6 depending on the time of year, team and business.
Broker vs underwriter
Brokers are given greater independence and responsibility earlier in their careers than underwriters. The skill set of the military individual is a natural fit for broking but that doesn’t mean it is for everyone. Underwriting is a more technically reliant role with success dependant on the individual to understand and apply the company’s appetite for risk. It is generally the case that the smaller a firm the more responsibility you will be given at an earlier stage. Conversely, larger firms are able to offer a more structured approach to education.
The class of business you initially enter will not necessarily define your career; there is scope to move within the industry and within companies. The most important thing is to get a job. You will not be expected to have knowledge of the industry other than the very basics and employers will be looking to your potential.
Expect to take a pay cut initially. On leaving the military you do not hold any initial value for the employer other than the fact that you have some life experience. With time and the demonstration of value the industry is truly meritocratic. The industry also has a strong work life balance.
The qualification for the insurance industry is the ACII , this takes approximately 2- 3 years to obtain. The process consists of a combination of a multiple choice exams and coursework questions at diploma level and is entirely coursework based for the advanced diploma level. Most companies offer a monetary incentive for passing the exams and also pay for the exams and give time for revision. This is a very positive way to stand out against other applicants. Registration with the CII is easy and a real statement of intent and commitment to the industry.
Networking and getting a job
You should use recruitment firms but very few of them will be able to put you in a position where you might be able to get a job. You are much more likely to gain a position through networking; everyone you meet for a coffee is a possible employer, if not immediately then at a later date. Treat each meeting as an interview and prepare accordingly. Ensure you grow your network .The process to get a job can take more than 3 months but obviously varies. During this time do not discount any possible avenues, attend as many interviews as possible to gain experience.
Prior to Starting the Programme
- Build a network of contacts and set up meetings in advance To maximise your chances of gaining employment you must have a network you can update and meet while you’re on the programme. Your network will grow quickly.
- Insurance has its own language It will be to your advantage to study for the CII London Market 1&2 exams, this will give you the key vocab and a basic understanding of insurance. Each study book can be completed in about two weeks; exams can be booked regularly and are multiple choice at local test centres. It will also benefit your CV and 70% of your way to the Cert CII.
- Create a clear and bold business card Include full name, phone number, email and LinkedIn address. Make sure you have a good amount as you will be handing them out daily. Do not add a regimental emblem; you want people to view you as a potential broker/underwriter who wants a job not an military individual looking at insurance.
- Every meeting is an interview You will meet HR and a number of individuals prior to and during the programme. You will be asked questions about your ambition and motivation, how your skill set fits in to this industry. Think about and articulate what you wish to gain from the programme. Prepare and have answers ready and ensure you have done your research on the company , industry and individuals you are meeting.
- Insurance class is irrelevant Ensure you have a goal but be open minded, a foot in the door is what is important. Ensure that you understand the risk relevant to the class of business that you express an interest in and be able to articulate why you are interested in it.
- Prepare your CV ensure you have a key skills section with clear and concise text. Tailor your military experiences to the insurance industry and demonstrate an understanding of the language and competencies required. Relationship management, communication, mediation, negotiation and teamwork are some of the key skills needed for insurance and you must be able to demonstrate these. People do not understand military rank or terminology. Think about who will read your CV and write it in such a manner as they will be able to clearly understand it.
- Expand your network The military network can only take you so far, where possible expand your network beyond this. The LMN will help where possible, but they are a small group in a large market.
During the Programme
- Do not rely on the programme Insurance is a very welcoming industry. The firms you are with will create a general programme but if there is something specific you are interested in you need to be proactive. The company will also whereever possible accommodate any external meetings you have arranged, so do not be shy.
- The onus is on you Not everyone you meet will be prepared for you or in some cases interested in you. Be prepared to explain what you hope to achieve, making their job easier for them and be pro-active.
- You are interesting Be prepared to speak confidently about your past. Do not play down your experiences, people in the industry are not shy so if you don’t explain they will not appreciate your skill set. Try to link your past experience to the skill set required for insurance: mediation, negotiation, sales etc.
- Prepare for meetings Many people may not be sure why they are meeting you, it is often a favour to someone else. Show initiative and lead the meeting. Ask for advice but ensure that you understand what you hope to gain from the meeting and what points you want to get across. You can only do this if you prepare and research the industry, company, class and individual.
- Follow up Every meeting needs to be followed up. Update your network regularly with your progress. It really is a case of right place right time so the more you are on people’s radar the better.
- Diverse roles The insurance industry has many diverse roles on offer. You may be interested in underwriting and broking but use the programme to explore other areas of the industry. At worst it will add to your knowledge and understanding, while you may find your skill set is better suited to a different function.
- Networking Coffees, drinks and lunches are where you will meet the most people. Be prepared that the best networking opportunities happen outside of formal settings and work hours.
- Flat Structure Brokers in particular operate in what may appear to be a very flat structure. Your ability to form relationships and demonstrate your value to everyone is extremely important.
- Right place, right time = Chin Up Everyone may think you are great but simply not have a role to offer you, chin up, the search will take time. It is only by staying on people’s radar that you can be in the right place at the right time. Searching for a role is a full time job and it will take months of hard work. Avoid the appearance of desperation and remember that you can arrange coffees and appointments to take place after the programme.
You will gain more from the programme if you live close enough that you can be flexible. Having to leave each day to ensure you get the 17:30 -18:00 train means you will miss out on opportunities for last minute after work social events. Find somewhere to stay that enables you to be flexible.
For candidates that are still serving Wellington Barracks in St James Park is a 15 minute tube ride from the city. There are usually spare rooms available for people passing through; get in touch with the QM, mess managers or find a friend based there who can try to sort something out.