What Does a New Insurance Professional Need to Know?
One of the most popular requests that we are getting lately at the Academy of Insurance is: Do you have any training for new insurance personnel? By the way, the simple answer to that question is (as you may have guessed) maybe. You should be able to predict that from me. It is my favorite insurance word, after all.
Not to focus on what the Academy can provide for new insurance professionals, but if you’re looking for training for your new team members, you should look at the Academy’s catalog, or reach out to me, and we’ll help you find out what your needs really look like and how we might be able to help you.
That does beg the question: What does your new team member need to know to hit the ground running in their insurance career? Again, this depends on their role. The needs of a new personal lines CSR are different from a new commercial lines underwriter. The educational needs of someone that needs a license varies based on what license they need, what state they’re in, and how much formal training they need before they start. Many careers in insurance don’t even require a license. These are all factors that go into the question, what does my new team member need to know.
You do know the reason that this question keeps coming up, don’t you? The insurance industry needs to replace a workforce that is marching toward the ends of their careers. Agencies, companies, risk management firms, and MGAs are all out looking for great new talent. That’s one of the reasons that the Insurance Careers Movement is so important. You should check them out. Back to the question at hand, what does a new insurance professional need to know (this is not specific to any role)?
Your team needs to know why people buy insurance. They are coming into your office knowing what the rest of the world “knows” about insurance. They “know” that they need homeowners’ insurance because their mortgage company wouldn’t give them the mortgage without it. They “know” that if they’re in a flood zone some law out there is making them buy insurance. They ” know” that they needed an insurance card to get the license plate for their new ride.
They need to know the real reason that they’re buying insurance. It’s not just because some bank or the state are making them buy it. They buy insurance because it’s there to protect their assets when the catastrophic happens. Insurance exists to help people return to normal as soon as possible when the worst things happen. Every one of us has had those days when the car we were driving was a little older than we wanted but it was paid for. If we had a good agent, we probably kept some collision coverage on the car because there would be some money to help replace that old faithful when it got t-boned with your sons in it when they were trying to drive to the grocery story. Spend some time helping your team understand the importance of your business in an age when some are trying to make insurance a commodity.
Your team needs to know what the policies say. They cannot just look at policy extracts for their information. They must learn to read the whole policy. Those policy extracts are great when you’re trying to sell or simplify, but let’s use them wisely. They don’t tell the whole story and insurance professionals need to understand what the whole policy says.
Whether you are hiring underwriters, agents, or claims professionals, they all need to understand that an insurance policy isn’t just a simple read from page 1 to page 100. When I was a kid (and when my sons were in school) I read choose your own adventure books. Do you remember those? You read a bit of the story and it makes you choose between 2-3 options. Each option sends you to a different part of the book. You read a little more and make another choice, until you get to the end of the story and there were usually 3-4 different endings. That really prepared me for reading insurance policies, especially commercial policies. An insurance policy is impossible to read from front to back and understand fully. Each page brings the opportunity to send you to another page. One endorsement can completely undo entire sections of the page that you just read.
Your team needs to know basic risk management. Our industry is a part of risk management. Not all risks can be managed using insurance, but the impact of many risks can be mitigated by insurance. Having an understanding of risk management makes insurance professionals better at what they do. As an agent, understanding risk management can help customers understand how their insurance purchases fit into their overall risk management. If your team is on the company side, an understanding of risk management makes better underwriters. They can understand what makes a risk acceptable or not. They understand why your company likes certain risks and not others.
An understanding of basic risk management helped me get approval for a risk once that included personnel that were authorized to carry sidearms on their jobs. The underwriter that I had to get approval through was not comfortable with the risk. It seemed that SWAT medics that were armed were outside his risk tolerance. Understanding how these organizations train their people and how they mitigated the risks associated with firearms helped me to make the case that this was indeed a risk that was worth our consideration.
That should be enough to get you started. You know that you need new people on your team. If you don’t today, you will soon enough. Get them started on some of these basics and then make sure you’re investing in quality continuing education, designation programs, and other educational opportunities.