Introduction to Insurance
Insurance is how individuals and companies limit the financial impact of risk to their home, property, person or business activities. It is one of the UK’s most important and profitable service industries and currently generates up to half of the country's invisible earnings (earnings from services, as opposed to goods).
Essentially, insurance operates in a simple way, whereby a large number of businesses or individuals pay a fixed sum - or premium - into a fund in order to insure themselves against potential risk. When they suffer damage to their property, person or business e.g. an accident, they make a claim to their insurance provider. This claim is then assessed and, providing it is upheld, the insurance company make a payment from these funds to compensate the client for the loss or accident they have suffered.
Equally important to individuals as it is to business, the insurance industry can be split into five main sectors:
- General insurance
- Commercial/corporate insurance
- Life insurance
- Personal insurance
And seven main areas:
Despite its reputation as ‘boring’, a career in insurance can see you working across a number of different industries and performing a range of tasks. As a result, it is often an exciting and dynamic career choice for new graduates.
What roles are open to me?
Insurance covers a wide range of roles, from analysing and calculating risks to selling policies, setting premiums and processing claims. Most graduate positions will be within actuary, insurance broking, loss adjustment or underwriting. Common roles include claims management trainee, trainee actuary, trainee loss adjuster, graduate underwriter, graduate insurance broker and graduate product manager. There are also a number of graduate roles available in operations management and support functions, such as IT, HR and marketing.
Major insurance companies and divisions in the UK include Aviva, Legal & General, Prudential, Standard Life, Old Mutual, HSBC, AXA, Barclays, RBS Insurance and Lloyd’s of London. Other major global companies include Zurich Financial Services, UnitedHealth Group, Munich Re Group and Assicurazioni Generali S.p.A.
What qualifications and skills do I need?
For entry onto a graduate training programme you will generally need a 2:1 degree, although some companies will consider a 2:2. Many roles accept degrees of all disciplines, although preference may be given to degrees in maths or engineering, especially for actuary roles. A business or management degree may also be looked on favourably.
In addition to your degree, you’ll need to demonstrate a range of skills including attention to detail, customer service skills and numeracy.
Many insurance companies have apprenticeships and junior positions tailored to school leavers, such as trainee insurance broker or junior account handler. Although it varies from company to company, minimum requirements for these roles include GSCEs in Maths and English.
If you’re keen to get onto a management training scheme, you may also need A-Levels in related subjects. Existing work experience within an insurance company is very attractive to employers, and you’ll also need to display key skills including communication and problem solving skills, numeracy and organisational skills.
Most insurance companies invest in the professional development of their staff and encourage their employees to take advantage of on-the-job training. This may include placements in different departments to widen your skills and experience, mentoring from senior staff or training designed to fast-track your progression into a management role .
Popular qualifications include the Certificate in Insurance, Diploma in Insurance and Advanced Diploma in Insurance, all of which are awarded by the Chartered Insurance Institute. To boost your career even further, you could also consider applying for fellowship to the Chartered Insurance Institute. To do this, you’ll need to show at least three years’ worth of evidence of continued professional development as well as a 3,500 word dissertation.
The application process for different insurance roles and companies varies, but most will follow the steps below:
- CV and covering letter or online application form
- Standard aptitude and psychometric tests (numerical and verbal reasoning)
- Telephone interview
- Assessment Centre
- Final interview
The average starting salary will generally be between £18,000 to £26,000, depending on the role and company. Salaries for non-graduates will start at circa £16,000. Your salary will increase as you gain experience and promotion, with senior management often earning £50,000 to £100,000, depending on their position.
Are there any downsides?
Often labelled as boring, one of the major downsides to working in insurance is its reputation. Work can be high pressure, and you may occasionally be expected to work overtime or at the weekend, although this is not common. Depending on the department you work in, you may have to deal with frustrated customers when their claim is rejected, and tasks can be repetitive.
Is it right for me?
Despite negative preconceptions about the industry, a career in insurance can be dynamic, challenging and rewarding. A vital part of the international economy, the chances of redundancy or unemployment are significantly lower than in other industries. Financial rewards are good and you’ll receive continued on-the-job training, enhancing your career prospects and salary.
Depending on the role, you’ll have a varied and interesting workload, and will also have the opportunity to work across a wide range of industries and forge relationships with a variety of clients, from individuals to multinational corporations. You’ll also have the satisfaction of knowing you’re contributing positively to society by helping individuals and businesses plan, deal and recover from hardship. If that sounds like you, visit our insurance forum to discover more.