Insurance has for many years had a bad rap and a reputation for being stuffy and boring, only employing little grey men in little grey suits; a serious image problem to be sure. But the tides are turning and although many people still believe insurance is about cars and houses – there is a growing consensus that supports the construct that it’s far more than just that and can provide job-satisfaction and a rewarding career.
Without doubt, the “sexy” in insurance lies in the demanding commercial liability category – a niche specialised class of insurance – and those who opt for this profession need the right qualifications to embark on this career choice.
In addition, the South African insurance industry is expanding and able to hold its own when stacked up against other professions; from the opportunities to remuneration, as well as intense, enduring and stimulating challenges – this industry is on the up and up. There is also agreement that while the content maybe sometimes be dry – the people the industry attracts are most certainly not! All good reasons to consider a contemporary career that will never be outmoded – nor passé.
Insurance has been described as the handmaiden of commerce; wherever you have personal or commercial risk – there’s a need for complex insurance products. What makes underwriting so exciting is that in-depth knowledge is required across a broad spectrum of businesses from mining, to medical and investments.
As an underwriter one has to have a comprehensive understanding of a clients’ risk and calculate an appropriate and sustainable price on behalf of the insurer. The types of products provided by the insurer, as well as the individuals and businesses that are covered vary. Insuring anything from a fleet of taxis for injury or damage, a medical professional for medical negligence, to a multi-national company for employment related issues – almost anything can be underwritten.
The study of insurance
Due to the broad and often specialised nature of the insurance industry, the qualifications held by insurance professionals can vary. That being said, it’s important to have a strong background from high school of mathematics, English and history. Today, prospective students can have their pick when selecting a tertiary institution with most providing degrees, diplomas and certificates in insurance and risk management.
In fact, the study of insurance and risk management may be taken all the way up to doctorate level. Degrees in commerce, mathematics, accounting and law are equally relevant. Insurance professionals are also required by the Financial Services Board to pass regulatory examinations to comply with the Financial Advisory and Intermediary Services Act.
Lack of young talent needs to be addressed
The South African insurance industry faces a serious lack of young talent and graduates are often placed very easily as a result with employment mostly guaranteed on graduating. There also tends to be much employee movement between organisations, which indicates there is competition for talented, hard-working professionals.
The size and complexity of insurance related companies offers opportunities for people with all variety of interests. One could work in an operation with less than 10 employees, or a few thousand spanning across the entire globe. Local companies often have head offices in London, New York or Munich to name just a few. The Insurance industry also goes beyond underwriting, as positions include claims, loss adjusting, brokering, actuarial and marketing. The product types also vary widely and include long-term and investments, and short-term commercial and personal.
Committed to growth and to raising industry standards, Camargue Underwriting Managers (“Camargue”) has partnered with the University of the Witwatersrand to provide funding to students at Honours and Masters level. Supportive of the “each one teach one” code, the Group also offers mentoring to young school leavers, in an effort to provide work experience and increase their chances of employment. Ongoing industry education and development is also provided through the Camargue Liability Academy for Brokers (LAB).
There is much opportunity for skilled professionals in insurance, and it offers a stimulating alternative to the traditional industry types. A great demand for skilled and energetic individuals in South Africa, as well as potential global and diverse job opportunities, makes for a very exciting and dynamic career in insurance.