March 1, 2021

Four Ways to Show Insurance Agencies That You Want Career Advancement

by Chris Winterboer

JOB OPPORTUNITIES IN THE INSURANCE INDUSTRY

Four Ways to Show Insurance Agencies That You Want Career Advancement

Most people don’t go to college with the intention of pursuing an insurance career. That was the case for me and my partners at Capstone. We ‘fell’ into insurance after working in outside sales. I’m guessing that’s the same for you as well. So, now that you’ve gotten into the insurance industry, AND LIKE IT, you might be wondering, “What’s next?”

The insurance industry is extremely committed to career advancement. They have to be given the mass exodus of retirements.  PropertyCasualty360 has a great article from January 2021 titled How Colleges, Carriers Are Rising Above the Talent Gap.

“Talent crisis.” This dilemma has plagued the insurance industry for years as waves of retirees exit the business with too few skilled workers to replace them. According to the Pew Research Center, nearly 10,000 baby boomers retire each day in the U.S., and about 25% of them leave positions in the insurance and financial services sector. This has created an intense need for insurance companies to bridge the talent gap, with an estimated 400,000 positions expected to open up this year alone, according to the report, “The Future of Insurance: Bye-Bye Baby Boomers, Hello Digital Natives,” from Applied Systems and InVEST.”

Insurance agencies desperately want to retain you. You both want the same thing- career advancement- and the answer lies in your hand. Here are four ways you show your employer that you are committed to and ready for job progression.

Be Mindful of Education... In All Its Forms

  1. Formal Education. More options for Bachelor’s degrees with an insurance focus are popping up at major universities. Online programs are keeping pace as well.  
    1. If you feel like having an Insurance & Risk Management degree significantly enhances your career advancement (say in claims, loss control or risk analysis), ask your employer about tuition reimbursement to pursue a second degree.
  2. Continuing Education. Professional designations are HUGE with insurance agencies. Most agencies pay for the complete cost of continuing ed programs. This is an immediate way to stand out, be noticed by hiring managers for promotions and move up the pay scale.
    1. Even if you’re only 12-months into your career, you can and should start pursuing a CISR or CEBS designation.

Join A Professional Association

Networking among your peers is one of the best barometers of success. Without sharing proprietary information or trade secrets, spending time with others in your profession is always a good idea. These groups have a diverse make-up of carrier, agency and wholesaler members. You build relationships that can serve you in marketing, sales and leadership role. 

  • Designations are a fast track to joining an association. Become a member of the CPCR Society or National Association of Health Underwriters.
  • Soak up technical knowledge, competitive intelligence and perspective on future job opportunities. Typically, we see experienced insurance professionals at the 7-10 year career mark make significant pivots from an insurance company to a retail broker and vice versa.

Be A Specialist - Have A Niche Focus

If you want to climb the corporate ladder, especially into executive management, you need to be a specialist. There are three ways to stand out as an expert in the insurance industry.

  1. A Technical, Subject Matter Expert. In the world of commercial lines, it could be a risk category like transportation or oil & gas. In personal lines it could be High Net Worth/Private Client. In employee benefits it will be all about complex, self-funded programs. 
  2. You Are A People Leader. Most insurance agencies operate a flat model with a lot of producers and account managers but very few leaders. We are seeing a tremendous surge in hiring activity for Middle & Upper Management leadership positions. The titles always follow the same format like this:
    1. Vice President- Employee Benefits Operations Leader
    2. Director- Commercial Lines Sales
    3. Managing Producer- Western Region Private Client Practice Group
  1. You Are An Executive Successor. Not all of the people retiring in the aforementioned exodus are individual contributors. Presidents, CEOs and COOs are on their way out over the next 5-10 years. Not all have a succession plan readily available.
    1. Pursue Your MBA or Executive Leadership Courses. Now education really comes into play when we’re talking about operations, P&L and Mergers & Acquisitions decision making.
    2. Create A New Role. Chief Revenue Officer/Chief Growth Officer….these are the trendiest executive roles popping up within insurance brokerages. They are strategic and tactical. They report to the CEO. They are executive level from Day 1 but have continued career advancement PLUS a lot of autonomy on future career pathing. Approach your boss about creating a new role.

Leverage Carrier & Vendor Relationships

As you get to know valued resources at insurance companies and third-party vendors, you become instantly more valuable as an employee. From finding out about new products to having the right underwriting or claims connection that saves a huge account, these relationships are like gold.

  • Be proactive in cultivating these relationships especially with peers of your own age. As you come up in the ranks so will they. These are relationships that can last 20-25 years.
  • Spend time outside of normal working hours getting to know influencers. I say this loving, but carrier reps are notorious gossips. They love to talk! The more you help them succeed, the more they are going to be invested in your future success too.

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