Financial services and insurance
Graduate financial services careers: insurance explained

Insurance: graduate area of work

Insurance professionals protect both individuals and companies against potential financial risks. Innovative, positive-thinking graduates who are keen to get to grips with both numbers and people in a constantly changing environment would fit well here.
The work ranges from assessing aeroplane crash sites to working out what a rock star drummer’s hands are worth.

In the words of Dishni Payagalage-Don, an exposure management analyst at Lloyd’s of London: graduates employed in the insurance industry find that it has ‘a better work/life balance than other City roles’, and that the work ranges from assessing aeroplane crash sites to working out what a rock star drummer’s hands are worth.

Insurance work essentially involves safeguarding a person or organisation’s financial assets in the wake of an unexpected event.

Types of graduate jobs in insurance

Job titles vary according to employer, but the main types of graduate job roles are:

  • Graduate underwriter: responsible for deciding whether to grant a policy to a potential client, whether (and, if so, what) conditions should be attached and how much the client should pay in premiums. Underwriters work closely with actuaries and negotiate with insurance brokers.
  • Claims management trainee: handles and progresses matters when claims are made on a policy. This involves dealing with the claimant and assessing whether the claim is valid (essentially, pinpointing anything that means that the full settlement might not be paid). Duties might also include arranging for any tasks to be completed – for example, organising building work to be completed or replacement goods to be sent out – and loss adjusting activities.
  • Trainee loss adjuster: assesses the extent of loss sustained by the policy holder (which may include the loss of income to a business if it has to remain closed), to check that the claim is valid and, in the case of disputed claims, investigate how the loss was caused (eg how a fire started). Loss adjusters are usually independent from the insurance company and work for specialist practices; within the insurance company, some of their duties will be completed by claims managers.
  • Business development, business finance and sales graduate roles: vary according to the business and remit of the role, but all of these involve promoting services to potential clients, identifying and pursuing new business opportunities, and helping to ensure that the business is successful on a financial level.
  • Graduate insurance broker: typically works at an insurance brokerage and helps clients to select and obtain the best insurance products from insurance companies for the best premiums.
  • Trainee actuary: traditionally employed by insurance employers to complete financial forecasts and to manage funds.
  • Graduate product manager: works at insurance companies and creates, tests and launches new insurance products to various markets. This involves completing sales forecasting and ensuring that the products comply with the regulator's requirements.
  • Operations management: responsible for managing and motivating customer service departments.
  • Support functions: the industry also employs technology specialists, risk managers, and marketing and HR professionals.

This is not an exhaustive list, though: there is a huge range of job roles at different employers.

Types of graduate insurance employer

  • Insurance companies provide insurance products and services to clients usually by means of a price-comparison website or an insurance broker. Examples of large insurance companies include Aviva and Swiss Re.
  • Retail banks/supermarkets are increasingly providing competition to traditional insurance companies in offering insurance services, particularly in personal insurance. These include RBS and Lloyd’s Banking Group.
  • Insurance brokers are independent intermediaries between the insurance company and the customer, helping clients to obtain the best insurance products for their needs. Many brokers have expanded their functions in the last few years – for instance, by offering management consulting or risk management services. Examples of large insurance brokers include Aon and Marsh.
  • The markets based in London are central to insurance trading. The London Market trades insurance policies internationally, specialising mostly on general insurance, reinsurance and high-exposure risks. Lloyd’s of London is an insurance market for members who operate out of syndicates.
  • Specialist consultancies carry out a small number of insurance functions, for example handling claims for the London markets. You’ll also find specialist actuarial consultancies, who largely specialise in life assurance and pensions, and loss adjusters.

Types of insurance: this affects the work graduates do

Insurance employers specialise in certain types of insurance. For example, Swiss Re focuses on reinsurance in life and health, and property and casualty, markets, while Aviva is known for its pensions, life and general insurance products. As the employer’s specialism will affect the type of work graduate employees do, applicants should know about the main types of insurance – namely:

  • General insurance is an umbrella term covering all types of insurance with the exception of life assurance.
  • Commercial/corporate insurance financially protects businesses from unforeseen circumstances such as theft, negligence, liability, property damage and other interruptions to their day-to-day business. In some cases it can also compensate for employee injury.
  • Life assurance is insurance taken out in the case of a premature death so that beneficiaries are financially looked after.
  • Personal insurance refers to a variety of personal insurance contracts that an individual can take out for their own personal benefit. This includes insurance for vehicles and health.
  • Reinsurance is insurance for insurers and is a risk management strategy. When an insurer sells a policy to a client they may seek reinsurance from another insurance company if they consider the pay out would be too much of a financial strain – in the case of a large single amount or if a number of smaller policies were claimed at the same time (say, in the wake of a natural disaster).

What degree do I need to get a graduate job in insurance?

In practice, actuaries often have a numerate degree. Most other job roles in insurance – including broking, product management and claims management – are typically open to graduates of all degree disciplines, although employers often state a preference for a numerate (such as maths or engineering) or business/management-related degree. Exact requirements vary from employer to employer.

What skills do I need to work in insurance?

The insurance industry, contrary to popular belief, is fast paced. Graduates need:

  • to react quickly
  • good attention to detail
  • great client-facing (customer services) skills
  • to be numerate.

What do I need to know about insurance employers’ graduate schemes?

The larger insurance graduate employers will hire graduates onto annual graduate schemes, with deadlines typically falling from November to January. However, smaller graduate employers will take on a small number of graduates on a more ad hoc basis.

Trainees at larger employers can often choose to apply to specific graduate programmes that specialise in a particular function; the schemes are usually rotational, which involves the graduate undertaking a number of placements for up to two years.

Some employers will encourage you to move across departments or to travel overseas. It is likely that you will be given on-the-job training (you may be asked to take take examinations in order to gain qualifications dfrom industry professional bodies) and you will work alongside more senior members in a team.

Do I need to take professional qualifications while I work to advance my career?

Although the regulator requires you to ‘attain and maintain competence’, there are no specific on-the-job qualifications required for roles within general insurance.

Nevertheless, many companies encourage staff to take professional qualifications as part of a continuing professional development (CPD) programme. If your employer doesn’t, it’s worth raising the matter with your manager, as professional qualifications can boost your career development.

Popular qualifications include:

  • Certificate in Regulated General Insurance (with the ifs School of Finance)
  • Certificate in Insurance (with the Chartered Insurance Institute, known as the CII)
  • Diploma in Insurance (with the CII)
  • Advanced Diploma in Insurance (with the CII)
  • Certificate in Claims (with the Chartered Institute of Loss Adjusters)

The average study time for each module is between 40 and 120 hours, depending on whether you are studying to certificate, diploma or advanced diploma level. Many holders of the Advanced Diploma in Insurance go on to become associates or fellows of the CII.

Actuaries do need to complete a professional qualification – see the actuarial graduate area of work overview for further details.

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