Meet the insurance graduates

Why insurance brokerages are looking to college programs to win on talent

Meet the insurance graduates

Insurance News

By Jen Frost

Insurance brokerage HR leaders have hailed Humber College’s post-graduate one-year insurance program as a roaring success, with at least one major brokerage in talks to link in with other programs nationwide.

It is frequently said that insurance is facing a talent challenge, and even some senior leaders are quick to admit that they fell into the industry. However, recent graduates of the Humber College Insurance Management – Property and Casualty program who spoke to Insurance Business were adamant that far from stumbling into insurance, they had clear reasons for wanting to enter the industry.

This attitude, along with a laser-like focus on building a career rather than finding a job, has so far proven a boon for insurance HR and people executives looking to nurture the talent pipeline.

“We’ve noticed that graduates from this program, they’re really focused on a career in insurance,” said Karen Munro, BrokerLink director, human resources. “It’s not just a job, there’s a lot more to it, and this is so important, because it helps us retain the talent that we’re hiring.

“We have so many career path opportunities for people once they join us, but we really need them to be thinking of it as a career, instead of just a job.”

BrokerLink’s team has been so impressed by Humber College graduates that it is looking to build partnerships with colleges outside of Ontario, Munro revealed.

“We don’t have a relationship like this in Alberta or in the Maritimes, so we’re starting to reach out and see if there’s another college that we can partner with to have some kind of similar connection and benefit from this and other areas as well,” Munro said.

For Abby Thorsell, Hub International SVP HR Canada, courses like the insurance management program at Humber College are another way to raise awareness of the “exciting” careers it is possible to build within the insurance industry.

Thorsell herself entered insurance around four years ago, having previously worked for businesses in the aviation sector. Since entering the industry, she has been “excited” to see the career trajectories it can offer, she said.

“There’s tremendous potential to create awareness around what the sector offers in terms of career growth,” she said of the course.

With course graduates coming into insurance businesses with up-to-date industry knowledge, boosted by hands-on training and industry expert guests, Thorsell said that “the learning goes both ways”.

Talent challenge and pipeline – a pivotal moment for insurance

Educational initiatives like the Humber College program, which was established in 2017, come at a pivotal time for the industry, according to Steve Whitelaw, general manager of Applied Systems Canada, which has worked with Humber College in partnership with the Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario (IBAO) to offer an insurance and risk software training module since 2021.

Labour shortages, the ‘Great Resignation’ and a lack of public understanding of insurance industry careers were the top three most pressing concerns for HR insurance professionals surveyed for the Insurance Institute of Canada’s latest demographic analysis.

Asked to rate issues on how difficult they have made hiring, the biggest challenge identified by survey-takers was a lack of qualified external candidates.

Meanwhile, 8.5% of insurance industry professionals are looking to retire within the next five years, according to the institute’s analysis.

For Whitelaw, initiatives like the Humber College course are an opportunity to “do something about” the talent challenge.

Meet the graduates – Humber College insurance entrants share their experiences

As of this year, the Humber College program saw 100% of students graduate and all went on to be hired within the insurance industry, according to information supplied by Applied Systems. Forty per cent (40%) went into roles with insurance brokers, with talent being snapped up by the likes of Navacord, HUB, NFP, BrokerLink and Billyard Insurance Group (BIG).

Brokerages have put their money where their mouths are, with some, including HUB and Navacord, having made scholarship or bursary contributions to the Humber College program.

Within six years, five students have received distinguished honours for academic success relating to insurance exams success, according to a 2022 Humber College news release.

The course, which is split into three semesters, introduces students to a range of roles and responsibilities in insurance, from claims, to underwriting, to broking, to risk management. In addition to sitting their modules and working towards Chartered Insurance Professional (CIP) designation and Registered Insurance Brokers of Ontario (RIBO) level one license status, students are also introduced to insurance industry experts, including through networking career days, and are trained on broker management system Applied Epic.

Hands-on experience is also a must, with 160 hours of field experience included at a minimum.

Insurance Business caught up with four graduates, who shared their experiences of the fast-track course and why they definitely did not ‘fall’ into insurance.

Sneha Sneha – Hub International Ontario –2023 graduate

For Sneha Sneha (pictured below), Hub International commercial lines associate, programs, insurance was a natural career path choice, prompted by childhood memories from her father’s automobile accessories business.

“Many people who came to my father’s shop were concerned about the rising insurance rates,” Sneha said. “That made me interested in understanding the intricacies of the industry, and that’s how I decided that I wanted to join insurance.”

While graduates were taught about roles across the insurance sector, broking was always going to be the natural fit for Sneha.

“I always wanted to be in the brokerage side of the industry, because I love to talk to people,” Sneha said. “The customer support side of the brokerage gives me an opportunity to engage with a lot of people and to help them with assessing their insurance needs.”

Sneha also pointed to brokerage employees to some extent having greater freedoms than insurers, particularly when it comes to underwriting businesses working within defined risk appetite and tight underwriting guideline parameters.

“Brokerages offer a vast number of opportunities, you have contact with a lot of insurance carriers, and you work with a lot of insurance products as well,” Sneha said.

Sneha, who also praised the course’s networking opportunities and qualifications, felt the best part of the course was getting practical experience using a broker management system

“It bridges that gap between knowledge and the practical components,” she said.

Dhruv Chauhan – Jones DesLauriers Insurance Management –2022 graduate

Dhruv Chauhan, Jones DesLauriers client coordinator, commercial lines, said that the course “not only equipped me with the solid understanding of the principles and practices within the field, but also exposed me to the real-world scenarios and case studies that allowed me to apply theoretical knowledge to the practical situation”.

It was the “multi-layered, multi-dimensional” and “dynamic” nature of the insurance industry that attracted Chauhan to an insurance career, he told Insurance Business.

“The diverse career paths within insurance range from underwriting, to claims, to brokerage, and it offers a great amount of flexibility to switch between these different avenues,” Chauhan said.

He also pointed to insurance’s stability in a recessionary environment and options for career growth at an “accelerated pace” as motivating factors and said that he had carried out extensive due diligence before selecting a career path in insurance.

“Insurance is a great career in Canada,” Chauhan said.

Chauhan chose to go the insurance broking route because of its opportunities to engage with clients and the critical role that communication plays.

“I’m always fond of working in a client centric environment,” he said.

Mateen Hosseiny, Paisley Partners – 2023 graduate

For Mateen Hosseiny, Paisley Partners accounts manager, commercial lines, learning from experts with real world insurance work experience proved invaluable.

“They wouldn’t share personal details or sensitive information about their clients, but they would explain the examples and they would explain these topics in a way that we would understand it,” Hosseiny said.

Hosseiny has a background in startups and marketing but found that “fundamental aspects of stability were lacking” in previous roles, while the pandemic and emerging technology had a detrimental impact on marketing businesses and “blurred the lines” between agencies and freelancers.

“I was looking for stability in my next career move, and I also wanted to be involved with people – I wanted to give myself a challenge to learn and discover a new pathway,” said Hosseiny. “It had been a while since I was at school and I wanted to put myself through a program, but at the same time, I wanted to plan for my future, for my family, and to see if I could find a higher calling.”

Hosseiny pointed to insurance being an often-misunderstood industry with a lot of scope for professionals to take on an educator role and share knowledge about what insurance is there for.

He said he also sees the industry as facing “major changes” with the advent of emerging technology, something that Hosseiny wanted to be a part of.

“I wanted to contribute to that growth and, at the same time, make the insurance industry better by delivering value to people who would become my clients,” Hosseiny said.

Hosseiny chose to pursue a broking role because he wanted the “challenge” of building up his paycheck, as well as being able to utilize his “entrepreneurial mindset” while having value-delivering conversations.

Ayush Singal, Risk-Can Underwriting Managers – 2023 graduate

The Humber College program’s focus on CIP accreditation was cited as a big boon by Ayush Singal, commercial insurance underwriting assistant, at BrokerLink managing general agent (MGA) Risk-Can Underwriting Managers.

“It’s a really big designation to get in the industry, and it provides really great knowledge about what insurance is, and how to deal with other aspects of insurance,” Singal told Insurance Business.

The “flexibility to apply knowledge in real world scenarios” attracted Singal, who worked as an engineer and a marketer before coming to Canada where he has worked in research, to insurance.

“It’s a versatile field, where I can leverage my diverse background in engineering, digital marketing, and marketing research,” Singal said. “The stability of the insurance sector was also enticing, and its recession-proof nature was demonstrated during the pandemic, when the industry not only retained jobs in challenging times but actively hired and showcased its resilience and commitment to supporting professionals.”

Working in a commercial underwriting department, Singal said he is “learning something new each and every day”.

“I’m here to help other people and prove that insurance is not just about selling, it’s much more than that,” Singal said.

What are your thoughts the insurance talent pipeline and insurance education? Tell us in the comments.

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