Are you looking for a career that provides opportunity to grow, both personally and professionally? To meet people from all walks of life and to be an important part of your community? To follow your passions and bring your own ideas and expertise to help people and solve their problems? To be a part of a vital part of our economy and to expand your worldview? To build a rewarding career with no limits in where it might take you? It's all here in the general insurance industry. And the industry is looking for people like you.
Simply put, general insurance enables people and businesses to be compensated when unfortunate situations arise. General insurance, also known as property and casualty (P&C) insurance, protects people's assets against financial loss. It is also sometimes known as "other than life" insurance, as life insurance and financial-planning services are regulated and licensed separately from general, or P&C, insurance.
General insurance brokers are expert and trusted advisors for insuring personal and business assets. They represent insurance companies and advise their clients on their best insurance options. As front-line professionals, they ensure that their clients are adequately covered and they help their clients manage their risk and recover from loss.
There are excellent opportunities in the insurance industry. New positions are constantly being posted on the IBABC Job Board, including many entry-level positions. Brokerages are especially seeking individuals with developed managerial, communications and customer-service skills. Individuals eager to progress into higher-level positions and willing to put in the required effort will find opportunities to advance.
Insurance is needed throughout all areas of B.C. and Canada. Your experience and education as an insurance broker can easily be transferred to new locations if you choose to move. Whether you prefer small-town or big-city living, a full-time career or the opportunity to job-share or balance work and study, insurance provides that flexibility. Follow your passions; many brokers with interests in such areas as sports or the arts have developed specializations in providing services to those sectors.
Hollywood stereotypes about the insurance industry are usually based on the U.S. health-insurance system. This is different.
In Canada, property and casualty insurance transactions are based on the legal doctrine of utmost good faith, which means that brokers act with honesty and integrity and only recommend solutions that meet the customer's stated needs. Insurance brokers help their clients through some of the biggest joys and sorrows of their lives: when they buy a new home or start a business, and also when they suffer a loss. A broker's role mainly involves gathering and conveying relevant information so the insurance company can provide adequate coverage, and providing service once that coverage is in place.
Most P&C insurance jobs in B.C. are in insurance brokerages. Approximately 20,000 people are employed in the property and casualty insurance industry in B.C. and more than half of those people work in insurance brokerages. The insurance brokerage industry is stable; growth is generally consistent with the province's economic and in-migration trends. Recent surveys of IBABC-member brokerage principals indicate they are optimistic about the future.
There is a wealth of experience in the P&C insurance industry and a strong tradition of mentorship. Employees in brokerage offices in B.C. have an average of about 15 years experience. Brokerage owners have an average of more than 20 years experience. A substantial number of brokers will be retiring over the coming years, and this will create opportunities for advancement.
There are brokerages offices in about 140 communities in B.C., and offices range from small kiosk-type locations to large, international firms. Once a broker gains some experience, he or she will find that there are many avenues open, from specialist positions in the larger downtown brokerages, to the community-oriented benefits of working in a rural community.
Insurance brokers work in the interest of their clients, recommending coverage based on the client's stated needs, and helping clients manage their risk and ensure that their assets are adequately protected, now and for the future. Also known as intermediaries, insurance brokers are the link between insurance companies and customers. The intermediary's role involves extending to clients a duty of care that is well established in law, and meeting regulatory requirements for conduct, privacy and disclosure.
Regulations require insurance brokers to be licensed, to maintain high professional and ethical standards, to stay current with new developments in the industry through continuing education, and to hold the interests of the customer paramount in all aspects of sales and services. In this way, consumers can be confident that their brokers are recommending insurance coverage options best suited to their needs.
General insurance brokers:
- Provide auto, property, liability, marine, aircraft and other types of insurance to their clients
- Recommend and implement clients' insurance coverages, premiums and methods of payment
- Provide information on varying insurance policies, including risk coverages, limitations and other features
- Work with clients to manage and reduce their risk
- Respond to emergencies and assist clients with their claims
Most insurance brokers act as independent business people, and they occasionally offer additional financial products and services such as financial planning, real estate and life insurance (though separate licenses are required to do so).
Work functions within a brokerage, and the training for them, are usually directed in two main areas: Personal Lines and Commercial Lines.
Personal Lines insurance involves client's personal homes, vehicles, recreational property, pleasure boats and other recreational items. It is primarily concerned with the risk individuals and families face in their day-to-day lives. Brokers who deal in personal insurance generally operate out of an office and have their clients meet them there.
- Entry-level Customer Service Representative: As new brokers with Level 1 licences learn about office systems and workflow, they assist customers with auto insurance and home insurance.
- Personal Lines Representative: As brokers' knowledge of policy wordings increases, they progress to handling more diverse insurance contracts for such personal property as high-end homes, recreational properties, boats, jewellery and art collections. Personal lines representatives with a Level 1 license work in the office; Level 2 licensees can make calls outside the office.
Commercial Lines insurance covers businesses for risks such as fire, theft, legal liability and errors and omissions. Commercial Lines accounts are almost always larger than Personal Lines accounts. Much of the work in this area is done outside of the office. And, because of the deep understanding of the complexities of business required, many commercial brokers are specialists in certain industry sectors.
- Commercial Lines Representative: Level 2 licensees are able to manage insurance accounts for businesses and commercial property. Visits to clients' places of business or to assess a commercial property are a routine part of the job.
- Producer: Manages the larger commercial accounts and acquires new clients for the brokerage.
- Account Executive: Manages relationships with large commercial accounts.
As licensees gain experience, supervisory and management roles may become available. A Level 3 licence is required to manage all activities within a brokerage including operations, marketing, sales, and administration.
Insurance brokers are both generalists and specialists. They need well developed people skills and a technical mastery of complex contracts. They use their knowledge and experience to assess a client's risk profile and find appropriate policies from the many insurers available to them, searching for the most comprehensive coverage at the most competitive prices. An insurance broker's job doesn't end when a contract of insurance is sold, it begins with that transaction. They provide service and advice throughout the term of the insurance policy, and may also help clients resolve claims by initiating restoration and negotiating settlements with the insurer.
People enter the insurance industry from all walks of life and with a variety of academic backgrounds. Often this experience in other lines of work can be an asset in an insurance broker's role. People who have experience in hospitality, retailing, paralegal work, nursing or teaching will find many skills are transferable. Although there are no formal education requirements for insurance brokers, courses in finance/accounting, economics, mathematics or statistics, business law and/or management and marketing can be beneficial. However, greater emphasis is placed on individual characteristics such as communication skills, honesty, integrity, compassion and a solid work ethic. A good understanding of computers and popular software programs is also essential.
Though most brokerages prefer to hire people with post-secondary education, many hire high-school graduates who demonstrate potential.
Once licensed, brokers will find many options for advancing their education. Insurance is a field in which there is always more to learn, and that learning is rewarded with career advancement. Start with the New Broker Essential Skills Certificate Program, which provides a combination "soft skills" and technical training and gets you on your way to a CAIB designation.
Insurance business is based on the principle of utmost good faith, a legal doctrine that requires practitioners to act with honesty and integrity and only recommend products that meet the customer's stated needs. That means that brokers don't sell customers more coverage than they need, or policies that don't meet their needs.
Insurance licensees must adhere to a Code of Conduct that is based on a set of principles regarding trustworthiness, competence and reliability. Brokers are entrusted with their clients' personal information and as such must meet the provisions of privacy legislation. To succeed as an insurance broker you must be scrupulously honest and discreet, both with clients and with other professionals.
The Insurance Brokers Association of B.C. provides the necessary courses, study options and exams for licensing in B.C. To work as an insurance broker, you must first attain a Level 1 insurance license. This can be accomplished by successfully challenging one of two exams: the Fundamentals of Insurance or the Canadian Accredited Insurance Broker (CAIB) 1 exam.
With a passing mark and an offer of employment from an insurance brokerage, you're ready to apply to the Insurance Council of B.C. for your license.