Insurance Academy

You Know Insurance. Why Aren’t You Teaching it?

By Patrick Wraight | May 30, 2018

Insurance is complicated. I think that we all agree about that. That’s why agents, underwriters, adjusters, and regulators spend so much time reading, studying and learning. That’s why I’ve spent my insurance career in continual learning mode. By the way, I was reminded again today that there is a lot that I don’t know. (Thanks for the hand, CB!)

Insurance is a misunderstood career field. People have this idea that insurance is stuffy and boring. OK, insurance people do tend to be a little reserved most of the time, but insurance is certainly not boring. Because of this misperception (among others) we are suffering with a real problem of backfilling positions with high quality people. Agencies and companies alike are experiencing high turnover and unfilled positions.

This week, I’ve been talking to some people and it occurs to me that we have another problem that I hadn’t really thought much about. We don’t have enough insurance educators. I have a few friends that teach insurance, and I’m involved with different organizations that provide insurance education in different formats, including self-study, live online, and live in the classroom.

So why do you care? Here’s the thing. We need you. The people that are reading Insurance Journal and the Academy Journal blog are people that care about insurance. I’ve seen some of your comments on some posts and you have great points. If you’ve been in insurance for a few years, (especially if you’ve earned a designation, or two) why not give teaching a shot?

Let me tell you a quick story…

When I got into insurance, I was shocked that there wasn’t a formal training program in place for underwriting staff. To be fair, I was processing work, so there wasn’t really a steep learning curve to make me productive. On the other hand, I didn’t know what in the world I was doing so when someone said that they were going to teach me additional insured endorsements, I didn’t understand what that meant. Looking back, I cringe that we pushed that critical task to the least experienced people, but that’s another post.

I remember the first official “how’s everything going” conversation that I had with my manager. She asked how I felt my first 45 days had gone. I told her that it was fine. I was getting along. I was learning a bunch and I was enjoying the work. That’s when I really opened up and said, “Can I be honest?” That’s one of my favorite questions because it almost always gives me permission to tell you what I really think. Of course, she said yes, and I explained that while I think that the initial training that I received helped me to do my widgets every day, I think that the company needed a more formal training program to teach insurance basics to people so that they understand what they’re doing, why it’s important, and why they need to do it well.

Yeah. Telling your new boss that the training needs work on day 45 of a 90-day temp to hire assignment (right before asking if I need to go look for another job, or are they planning to hire me) might not be the most politic comment, but at least they knew where I was coming from. As it turns out, they didn’t fire me. They hired me, and it wasn’t long before they made me an underwriter and I started attending my first CISR classes (the boss liked National Alliance designations best, so that’s what we did).

Eventually, I ended up creating the first version of an underwriter training program for that company. You know most of the rest of my story. I ended up taking a position as a trainer for a property insurer and eventually found my way to this chair at the Academy of Insurance.

So, what makes me qualified to teach insurance? Why should I be doing this and not someone else? Let me start with the second question. I look around at what I get to do and wonder the same thing sometimes. There are people that are smarter than I am and there are more experienced people. I got the job because this is where I’m supposed to be right now and that’s the best answer that I can give you. I love it and I think we’re helping people do their work better.

What makes me qualified to teach insurance? That’s a little easier to explain. I hope that you’ll come to the conclusion that you can do it, too.

  1. I like insurance. I enjoy learning about how policies work. I like to read the policy language and make it make sense. Yes, I read policies any chance I get (so if you have a policy that I haven’t read, send it to me). While the language can be complicated, it makes sense to me.
  2. I can explain it in simple language. I’m a linguist. I speak both insurance and English. I’ve made it part of my purpose to be an insurance translator. One of the greatest lessons that I learned in the Army was that if you can’t explain something to someone with a third-grade education, you don’t know it well enough yet. I honestly used to try and explain things to my sons when they were young (and before they learned to see me coming and run away). If they got it, I knew that I knew it.
  3. I like speaking. It’s not that I like the attention. I’m kind of an introvert. I like knowing that I’ve connected with people and that I’ve helped them connect the dots to get from where they were to where we need to be. I get energized watching people go from bored to interested to engaged to getting it. The hardest thing that I do is to teach over the internet. I don’t get to see you and I don’t know if you’re getting what I’m saying.

If you meet those qualifications, or if you think you do, go find some way to teach what you know. We need you in the different designation programs out there. We need you to teach CE courses. We need you for the Academy. The insurance industry needs people that can connect with a new generation of insurance professional. If you wait too long, it’ll be me and about a dozen of my friends running all over the country teaching insurance classes until we wear out. OK, that might be a slight exaggeration, but you get the point.

About Patrick Wraight

Patrick Wraight, CIC, CRM, AU, is director of Insurance Journal's Academy of Insurance. He can be reached at

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