By MATTHEW BRODSKY, senior editor/Web editor of Risk & Insurance®
In our 40-Under-40 list, we came across quite a few young brokers who, like many of their older colleagues, happened into insurance. Then once there, they find, hey, it's not so bad! But is that to say that all up-and-comers in the brokerage world are accidental success stories? No, many young brokers exist who strove and studied to be just where they're at now.
A quick survey of some of the leading risk and insurance undergraduate and grad programs turns up the evidence. When asked how many members of their graduating classes joined brokerages directly out of school, professors and program heads agreed that the percentage was considerable.
"BACKBONE OF HIRES"
"Assuming that you define broker to include independent agents and E&S brokers in addition to retail brokers, the answer is: quite a few," said Larry A. Cox, Robertson Chair of Insurance at the Risk Management Insurance program at the University of Mississippi.
"Really, the agents and brokers form the essential backbone of hires from our program," he added.
Admittedly, it's a small program--it graduates about 20 students a year--but roughly 45 percent of the 65 graduates from the last three years landed directly in jobs at national brokers, regional and local agencies, or wholesalers.
At a slightly larger program, the University of Wisconsin's Actuarial Science, Risk Management and Insurance program, where as many as 50 students graduate annually, a decent number go directly into the larger national brokerage houses. On average, about five to 10 per year, reported Joan T. Schmit, professor and program chair.
"Over the years we have had quite a few of our graduates go directly into the brokerage community," she said. "For the right individual, it can be a terrific start in the field."
Schmit did add, however, that the number of hires in recent years might be lower "for obvious reasons, given some of the changes occurring in the industry."
Perhaps some of the most impressive figures come out of one of the largest and better known programs in the country, at the Terry College of Business at the University of Georgia. The Department of Risk Management & Insurance graduates about 130 to 140 students per year, said Rob Hoyt, Moore Chairholder of Insurance and department head.
Hoyt said that his program sees about 20 percent to 25 percent of graduates leave for larger regional and national brokers, another 15 percent to 20 percent for regional and smaller agencies.
"We just had our annual Risk & Insurance Careers Day yesterday, and of the 55 companies that attended this year, approximately 40 percent were brokers or agents," he said.
The brokers who came to speak at her school caught the attention of one senior at Georgia's program. Amanda Reimann enrolled in an internship program at Aon's Atlanta office last summer. Her positive experience there, plus the encouragement of a friend who joined Aon last year, convinced Reimann to take an offer from Aon.
After she throws her cap in the air in May, Reimann will move to Chicago to join a rotational program where she'll spend time in three different groups over 18 months. The program should help her decide what niche to get into, but she sounded sure about her overall decision to enter insurance brokering.
"I think that's where I could fit in the best," she said. Why? She liked how brokering is "more of a people industry," allowing her the chance to get in front of clients and help them solve their problems. She also liked the job security of the insurance industry in general, the size of Aon. Then there's the particular temperament of being a "middle man."
"I've always been the middle man," said Reimann, who is a middle child.
Could peer pressure also have a hand to play?
"I have a lot of friends who like the broker side of it, just because it seems the most intriguing," she said, though her classmates seem to be all over the board getting jobs in insurance, with many also entering into entry-level underwriting positions.
One former Georgia student, 2007 graduate D'Andrea Swoope, sees a lot of familiar faces in her current job at Marsh's Atlanta office.
"A lot of us have gone into the brokering business and are in this building," she said of her former classmates turned colleagues. Many are in the same risk analysts program as she is, a two-year nationwide training program that exposes new hires to all sides of the brokering business.
Swoope got her first exposure to insurance, though, back in the summer before she even started at UGA, as an intern with GE's insurance arm, now part of Swiss Re. From this experience on the carrier side, she learned she would prefer working in brokering, where, like Reimann, as a middle man she would have a great chance to meet clients and carriers.
"The main thing," Swoope said, "is because it would be a good opportunity to learn how everything fits together."
It's also a great opportunity to learn how important insurance is for its buyers.
"When I started in the industry, I didn't quite realize the financial impact commercial insurance has on a company's bottom line," said Matt Mautz, a 2004 UGA grad who now works in Atlanta for Beecher Carlson in a production/business development role. "You're a large piece of the economic puzzle."
Mautz first realized it as an intern at Marsh before his senior year. Now that he's moving and shaking in the front end of deals, the weight of his responsibilities, the interaction with clients and underwriters, the camaraderie he has with other local young insurance professionals (they have monthly happy hours)--it all combines to create a career that makes him "excited to go to work every day."
Should we expect to see some of these aspiring brokers and their peers at risk management schools nationwide soon gracing the pages of our Power BrokerTM issue? Survey says, yes.
February 20, 2009
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