Some people call it the “light bulb effect” — that point in a learning experience when a previously opaque concept suddenly seems crystal clear.
For Christopher J. Boggs, that light bulb effect is the most gratifying aspect of his job as a teacher of insurance with Insurance Journal’s Academy of Insurance, the education arm of Wells Media Group.
“I actually enjoy seeing somebody get it, and it sticks, and it makes sense,” says Boggs.
Boggs is much more than a teacher. As vice president of education for Wells Media Group, he also runs the Academy, develops the curriculum, hires other instructors, authors books and articles, and serves as an in-house resource for the staff of Wells Media Group’s publications including Insurance Journal and Claims Journal.
In addition, he is a key player in helping the Academy launch its new Learning Management System, an online professional development program.
And he recently began penning his own blog, The Academy Journal, where he discusses coverages, gaps, misconceptions, insurance history, education and whatever he feels might be of interest and benefit to insurance pros.
As an Academy instructor, Boggs says his goal is to explain insurance ideas and concepts “in simple, everyday language.” As the Academy’s director, he looks for Academy instructors who are able to do the same.
“It might be a concept that somebody had heard many times before but never was able to actually get a firm grasp on it. All of a sudden it clicks because of a particular way I explained it,” he says.
Boggs believes that newfound knowledge should be immediately useful to the student.
It’s a requirement for every class and every instructor that students at the end of a course are able to say, ‘”Hey, that was a good class. I can put that to use right now,”‘ Boggs says.
Boggs joined the team at Wells Media Group in 2008 as head of the MyNewMarkets brand. In late 2009, he was approached by CEO Mitch Dunford to help launch the Academy of Insurance.
The idea was to offer on-demand, online insurance instruction on subjects as varied as agency management, social media, workers’ compensation and contractual risk transfer.
“We began working on the Academy in September of 2009. Basically after about 18 months with MyNewMarkets, I started the transition to the Academy and getting that launched and up and running,” Boggs says. The Academy held its first class in January 2010.
Since that time, the Academy has taught an estimated 10,000 property/casualty students and sold 5,000 hardcopy books authored by Boggs. The Academy also sells books in electronic form.
The Academy offers training in the areas of coverage, sales training, personnel management and agency management. Course titles include: “The Top 10 Sales Closers You Can Use Tomorrow,” “Practical Workers’ Comp: What You Need to Know (a four-part series),” “The Proper Care and Feeding of Certificates of Insurance” and “Managing Personality Types.”
While the majority of classes are online, Boggs says he does occasionally conduct live training. There are more than 300 hours of training available at this point.
In addition to Boggs himself, some of the well-known Academy instructors include Chris Amrhein, John Eubank, Chris Burand and Terry Tadlock.
Altogether, the Academy instructors have a combined 600 years of insurance experience and they all have their own particular strengths as well as their own followings, Boggs says.
By his own account, Boggs lives and breathes insurance. And with nine insurance designations — CPCU, ARM, ALCM, LPCS, AAI, APA, CWCA, CRIS, AINS — after his name, he might even bleed insurance, if that were possible.
Although his father had worked at the North Carolina Fire Insurance Rating Bureau, which eventually became Insurance Services Office (ISO), Boggs had not intended to go into insurance.
After graduating from college with a journalism degree, Boggs was hired by Insurance Services Office (ISO) to edit and rewrite underwriting reports. Even though the intended position never materialized, he stayed with ISO. He figured if he was going to work in insurance he’d better learn something about it.
“I started in September of ’90 at ISO in my first job, and I started taking insurance classes in January of ’91,” Boggs says. “When I finished up my first series of classes … I started another one.”
A challenge made in jest by his manager at ISO led to more classes and more designations.
“That’s what started me in the process of learning about insurance. … I actually enjoy insurance, and I actually enjoy the coverage part and reading the contracts and reading the insurance policy and teaching this stuff,” he says.
After ISO and a few other jobs, Boggs went to work for the Independent Insurance Agents of North Carolina in its education department.
“My boss there was a gentleman named Stuart Powell. Stuart might be one of the smartest insurance people I know. … I consider him my mentor in the business,” Boggs says.
Powell has since retired but “he had dedicated himself to learning insurance and teaching insurance. He actually has more designations than I do.”
With Powell as a role model, Boggs says he has dedicated himself to a lifetime of learning and educating.
“That’s the reason for all those letters behind my name. I’m trying to get better at what I do. I feel like every day, I know less and less about this business. That’s why I keep studying, and that’s why I keep reading, and that’s why I keep writing,” Boggs says.
Boggs is a self-described “insurance geek,” as he explained in an article he wrote when he first joined Wells Media Group:
“I actually ‘love’ (not too strong of a term) this insurance stuff. I enjoy reading, analyzing and comparing policy forms, reading contracts, and teaching insurance. Insurance is as much as an avocation as a career for me.”
And he hasn’t been shy about declaring his affection for the industry:
“Without overstating the importance of the career you and I have chosen, insurance allows us as Americans to have what we have. There would be little innovation, financial institutions would not lend money for homes or buildings to be constructed; some businesses wouldn’t exist, and no business could grow and hire new employees. In short, our standard of living depends on the financial protection provided by insurance.”
Boggs left the Academy he helped found in September 2013 to pursue another opportunity, but he returned “after a year and one week.”
With the passionate Boggs back at the switch, there is new light coming from the Academy.
“We were sorry to lose him for awhile but thrilled he is back because we have big plans for the Academy,” said Mitch Dunford, CEO, Wells Media Group. “He makes a lot of the things we want to do possible.”
The Academy has just turned on the switch to its biggest new development: the Learning Management System, an online professional development program through which employers can assign various courses to their employees and manage their employees’ education progress. The program gives employers unlimited access to more than 200 Academy courses already online plus all new classes that come online.
The LMS allows employers to direct their employees’ learning by assigning different courses to different employees. For instance, a manager may want one underwriter to take an ordinance or law coverage class and another underwriter to take a business income class. The professional development system allows them to do this without the employer having to purchase the courses separately.
“If I’m an underwriting supervisor or an underwriting manager and I have 10 underwriters on my team, now through this professional development system, I can assign courses to different individuals,” Boggs says. “Different courses to different individuals.”
And employers are able to track their employees’ progress and make sure they’ve actually completed the classes assigned to them.
Life & Health Expansion
The LMS is just one improvement in the works. Boggs is also working to expand the Academy’s curriculum to include classes for financial planning and wealth management professionals for the first time. Eventually educational opportunities for life and health and benefits professionals will be offered, as well.
Wells Media Group traditionally has focused on the property/casualty side of the insurance business. So “all the webinars and all the classes for the Academy up to this point have been geared to the P/C industry,” Boggs says.
Now, however, the Academy is looking to expand to include classes for financial planning and wealth management professionals in July, with classes in life/health and benefits scheduled to debut in 2016.
Because his area of expertise is on the P/C side of the business, not financial planning, Boggs is currently working with instructors who have the credentials to develop quality course content in wealth management and life/health.
Boggs has even more ideas than he does designations. Another one in the pipeline involves insurance instruction in movie theaters, while still another has to do with the world’s largest webinar, an event he hopes will culminate in a listing in the Guinness Book of World Records.
Listen to a podcast interview with Chris Boggs on IJTV: https://www.insurancejournal.tv/videos/12080/.
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