Insurance Academy

We Need Your Voice

By Patrick Wraight | January 16, 2019

I remember very clearly the conversation that launched me on the path that brought me to this blog, the Academy and all that comes with them (typing at my stand-up desk in my office in the top-secret Academy of Insurance bunker…).

I was in my first insurance gig. I was just hired on from a temp to hire gig. I was sitting in the underwriting manager’s office with her and with my supervisor, talking about expectations and all that new hire stuff. That’s when she asked the fateful question. “What do you think we could have done better?”

I didn’t know that you’re just supposed to say that everything is great and just leave everything alone. I didn’t know that business people expect you to accept the status quo as is, without question. (in all fairness, they were surprised about my candor, but it was a good surprise, at least I think it was…)

I said, “I have enjoyed getting to know everyone and I feel like I’ve learned a lot. But you need a formal training program.”

You could have heard a pin drop in this little conference room. Of course, I wasn’t aware that people didn’t just say exactly what they thought when they thought it. It wasn’t long after I became an underwriter that I was brought back into an office and asked what I thought about creating an underwriter training program. Me and my big mouth. What could I say? I brought it up, I was responsible to create a solution.

I created what I thought would be a good new underwriter training curriculum and began to teach it. That was my first experience in insurance education and that’s what led me (eventually) here.

If you look around and think that people need good insurance education, you’re already on the path. Now you have to look in the mirror and realize that we really need you, your knowledge and experience and (most importantly) your voice.

We need people who love this industry and who love to talk to people. We need people who can tell great stories about insurance and can help others understand what we do and why it’s a great career field. I’m going to give you a few sentences and if any of them sound like you, you need to start figuring out how to teach this stuff because I can’t do it forever, even though I feel like I can most days.

You’re an insurance 101 expert.

Maybe you haven’t been around the block very many times. You don’t have to have deep knowledge of every coverage form ever written to get started. If you have all the basics down, you can be helpful. You can help us to bring the next generation up to speed.

You can help people to understand why insurance works the way it does. You can explain why your customer’s homeowners’ policy has a $300,000 limit when the house only cost them $250,000. You understand replacement cost and coinsurance. You can explain why every house in the neighborhood is actually in a flood zone, when all of the local real estate agents insist that they’re not. You understand why everyone should accept the loss damage waiver when they rent cars.

You may not be an expert in policy forms yet, but you really have the basics down. You understand how insurance works and that’s a great place to start.

You’re an underwriting expert.

You find yourself in the middle of all of the conversations in the office. Someone has a risk that’s a little ugly, but there’s something about it that they like. Someone else has a risk that looks ok on the surface, but there’s something about it that bothers them. That’s when they come to you. You can see why the ugly on one risk is just surface, or if it really needs to go find an E&S market. You can quickly help someone find the way behind the risks that they don’t like, or if it’s just them being overly cautious because they’re written some risks that didn’t work out the way they thought.

You understand what makes a risk insurable and more than that; you understand what makes it worth your company’s time to write it. Whether you work in personal lines or commercial; whether it’s admitted markets or E&S (or residual markets), you understand what it means to underwrite a risk and do it well. You get it. You take the responsibility of gatekeeper seriously and that’s why you’re the expert.

You may not know the agent’s perspective, but you understand fully what a company is looking for in a risk and why.

You’re a claims expert.

You’ve seen all kinds of claims. Nothing really shocks you anymore. It wouldn’t surprise you to see a claim for a total loss on a house burnt by fire. What caused the fire? The meth lab exploded. You have stood in people’s attics and seen where the hurricane blew sections of roofing away, exposing the roof deck, and causing the leak that really damaged the interior of the home.

You’ve talked with customers dealing with terrible losses. You’ve dealt with suspected fraudulent claims. You are the adjuster that adjuster come to with unusual claims. You’ve issued payments and you’ve issued reservation of rights letters and even a few denials over the years. You know the importance of checking the policy in question before cutting checks or writing letters. You don’t take it for granted that you know that policy.

You may not know everything about policies, but you know how to adjust claims to fulfill the company’s promise while still protecting the company you work with.

You’re a coverage technician.

That’s the nicest way we can put it. You just like to read policies. When someone asks you a coverage question, you always say, “Maybe, let’s look at the policy in question.” Then you spend the next three hours reading that policy so that you can answer the question. You are the one in the office who always seems to know what’s covered and what’s not covered.

You can spot the differences in two policies, even down to the smallest word, or punctuation mark. You were riveted when a recent court case hung on the application of an oxford comma and how it related to a list of items in a policy. (if you didn’t hear about that case, you just looked it up and read it before you finished reading this post. I forgive you. I would have done the same thing.)

You know that you don’t know it all and that’s why you look everything up. You know that policy language differs from company to company and that’s why you insist on seeing the specific policy that people are asking about. That’s what makes you the expert.

You can tell it in a way that people can get it.

Has anyone ever said to you, “You actually make this stuff interesting,” or “That was a great story; I didn’t know that insurance was so interesting!”? Have you ever been asked to repeat an insurance story? Do people ask you to help them to understand an insurance topic?

If you can tell it and make people want to listen, you have a special gift. All of us have had those insurance instructors that can tell it and those that just can’t. There are some that can make an hour of insurance training feel like five minutes and other make it feel like five hours. Some have us on the edge of our seats and others have us at the edge of consciousness. Some can make the simple complex and others make the complex simple.

If you can keep us on the edge of our seats, make us want to come back for another hour, and can make the complex simple, we need you.

If you’re even thinking a little about becoming an insurance educator (and why wouldn’t you?!), here’s your homework.

  • Come up with an idea for a one-hour educational session.
  • Write one sentence that tells us exactly what you’re going to cover.
  • Write out 3 key learning objectives.
  • Ask your team for their input.
  • Revise, review and repeat.

Once you’re happy with it, what do you do with it? You’re going to have to get it in front of someone that can help you to find an audience. It might be your team. It might be a local CPCU chapter, or other professional organization. Maybe you know of someone that does online insurance training that might be looking for the next great webinar instructor.

About Patrick Wraight

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

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