When we pose this question to people we are profiling in Canadian Underwriter, the answer is almost invariably an interesting story of coincidence, circumstance or happenstance. Most commonly, the connection is based on a family member who was already in the business.

It's extremely rare that someone tells us: "When I was 8 years old, I wanted to be an adjuster." Or: "Ever since I saw that red fire truck go past our home, I knew I wanted to help, and so I was determined to become an insurance underwriter."

In fact, I don't think I have ever heard anyone say this.

Even in my case, writing about insurance was purely coincidental. Back in early 1999-2000, after receiving a graduate diploma in Journalism from Concordia, I edited a community newspaper in Woolwich Township (just north of Waterloo, Ontario). There, I loved the fact that on any given day, I could be writing about anything from traffic accidents, fires, municipal council news, sports, business, the high school play...etc. etc. For personal reasons, I moved to Toronto, where I was lucky enough to catch on as a staff writer at a weekly newspaper for lawyers called Law Times. While there, I contributed a number of stories to Canadian Lawyer, some of which were pretty fascinating and bizarre. Lawyers are at the epicenter of some pretty interesting conflicts.

Lured by the temptation of financial comfort and a 9-5 desk job, I moved to the communications field. But after a brief stint in corporate communications, I came to the realization that my first love was still in fact Journalism.

And so, surfing a Journalism job Web site one night at home, I found a posting for Canadian Underwriter magazine. When I first saw the posting for an editor, I hesitated to apply. I was worried that I knew nothing about insurance except for the insurance law cases I was writing about for Law Times (and these cases were always tricky to write about, because of the sticky nature of the policy language). I also believed — incorrectly, as it turns out — that the company would rather have 'an insurance person' edit the magazine, as opposed to having a journalist edit a magazine about insurance. And so I wavered between letting the opportunity pass and bringing my journalism talent to bear. In the end, I decided to apply, and I am glad I did.

Having served for almost four years as editor of Canadian Underwriter, I feel I am now saddled with two stereotypes. First, there is society's stereotype of a journalist as a celebrity. For example, when I tell people I am a journalist, people immediately ask which daily, weekly, tabloid or television news station I work for. They do this because In the cruel world of Journalism stereotypes, if as a journalist you aren't as famous as Woodward and Bernstein or Peter Mansbridge, then you must simply be a pretender. Of course, when I tell people I work at a trade publication covering all aspects of the Canadian insurance industry, I run into the double-whammy stereotype about insurance: "Oh," they say, moving on to some other topic of conversation, like whether the red M&Ms taste better than the green ones. Occasionally, someone will articulate the stereotype, allowing me to address it. "Insurance, eh?" they say sympathetically. "That must be boring."

In truth, I've actually found insurance to be quite an interesting field to write about. There is no lack of drama in a business in which personal relationships are front and centre. There are interesting legal challenges over seemingly arcane, metaphysical debates (is a motorized go cart a vehicle?), but debates that nevertheless translate into millions of dollars changing hands. There are people helping people in desperate times. There are people helping us to plan ahead so that we and our livelihoods are safe. And yes, perhaps not surprising in a business in which getting to know people is a prized skill, there are some pretty good parties going on. And since insurance, being fundamentally about safety, is intertwined with all aspects of our lives, the business has much to offer generalists like myself who get bored easily. Yes, you just heard me say it: insurance is pretty cool.

So, how did you get into this business....? What's your favourite part about it? Write me and let me know.

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Like most people, I got here by accident - I was a teenager in sales and was recruited to renew Autoplan in BC when everyones car insurance expired Feb 28. The owner asked me to stay on after the season and the rest, as they say, is history. I do have a friend who actually planned to be an Insurance Broker in high school. He wasn't related to any Brokers, he just looked at Insurance Brokers like other kids saw Astronauts and Firemen. How strange is that?
I had no intention of getting into insurance. Funny thing is my grandfather owned a brokerage which was taken over by my uncle and my mother was an insurance broker as well. I went to school for business, not sure what field I really wanted to end up in. I finished college at 19 years old, needed to pay the rent and went to the employment office in London. I applied for a data entry job without having any idea what type of business it was. It was for Guardian Insurance and 20+ years later - still in the business as an insurance broker. - learned alot and met a lot of really great people over the years. I guess it was in my blood.
What do you do with a B.A. in History- other than teach or use it as a spring board into studying law. The latter was what I was planning, never the former ( it takes a special kind of person to be a teacher- and I ain't one of them! ). But after 4 years of continuous university, with no time off in the summer as I took credits each year, I had enough schooling. So- what to do with a B.A. in History? You go work for your father who has a nice medium sized brokerage in downtown Montreal ( great views of the Stanley Cup parades! ), while you sort out what you want to do. Some 35+ years later, I am still sorting it out, but the journey has been interesting along the way, to say the least. I have no regrets.
My family had always been in construction (custom home building) and my brother worked for a "construction company" which I NOW know was an insurance restoration firm (won't name names, because they are now my competitors!!). ANYWAYS after years of working as a sub-trade for these restoration firms, my brother decided to open his own company with my dad. At the same time I was finishing up a 4 year degree at the University of Toronto- planning on MAYBE going to grad school. What else do you do with a bachelors of Science?!?! (Dr.Small- kind of has a nice ring to it!)
WELL my dad asked me "nicely" the first time to come work for them when I graduated, doing their marketing- even if it was temporary while I figured out what I wanted to do. I "nicely" refused. I did NOT want to work for my brother. Come on- siblings working together?? How's that going to work!! Especially if he's my boss!! oooooh man...
I searched for jobs for a month- and had a decent offer on the table from a very good company downtown. My dad asked me again to come work for the family business. I again refused. I didn't want to take a job from family because people will always look at me and think I took the easy route- I didn't want any handouts.
Finally my dad and brother sat me down, and convinced me that working with the family was the best course for me. I gave in, and accepted the position. In the end, you have to support family...
THEN, after a year of working for my brother, the whole sibling thing wasn't working out. At the same time the Corporate Head Office for the franchise my brother bought was looking for someone to do the marketing in Ontario and Manitoba.... the rest is history, here I am- and I love it!
My brother, an adjuster at the time, enticed me into the claims game with promises of adventure, romance and all the pasta you can eat.
I've certainly had adventure-but not much romance and definitely no pasta.
Seriously, I second-careered early (originally a science grad working in a lab) due to my brother's advice and my only regret is not getting into claims adjusting sooner. I will brook no contradiction, it is the best part of the business.
So all you actuaries, underwriters and brokers out there should cease and desist your current toil and join the claims department. After handling one hog tooth found in a tub of headcheese product liability claim, you'll wonder why you waited.
I too, did not intend to work as an insurance professional. My grandmother was a broker but I never gave it serious consideration. During High School I was offered a weekend job cleaning a small brokerage in Wolfville, NS. This quickly grew into a part time secretarial position during my spring and summer breaks. I began a full time job immediately after graduation and took full advantage of the educational opportunities offered within the brokerage. I haven't slowed down since.
We all know that it’s a common misperception that insurance is tedious and boring but I always tell people that I get to meet new business owners everyday, hear the stories of how they started their business and what made them a success. The more specialized the business operation, the greater the challenge and that's what I love!
I look forward to many more years in the industry

I am certain with your work ethic you will have no shortage of opportunities. Deirdre is a red letter gal who isn't afraid to stay after hours!

Belive it ro not, in high school I dreamed about being High school music teacher...
I went in cegep studying Classic music as a percussionnist! At the end of my cegep, I had to apply to University. A mistake happened, and the letter that was supposed to be sent to me indicating the date for the instrument test for UQÀM never came at my appartment! So for sure, I received the leter indicatijng I was refused as a futur student at this University... and University of Montreal refused me because I wasn't able to be at summer courses (I had to work to pay my appartment, food, and everything)

UQÀM University apologized and offered me to choose any other program I had the academic results te be accepted. I Chose History... and it was so boring!

I left school and searched for a full time job. A manager from Belair Direct contacted me one day and offered to give me the teaching to pass my Autorité des Marchés Financier tests to have my insurance agent licence from Quebec! Surprisingly, I loved this job and continued! That's now 4 1/2 years I'm an insurance agant now working for another cie and studying CIP courses!

What I like the most, is that every client is different and anaylising each case :-) I always liked to ask questions... I'm in the right place!
When I was a teenager, my mother (Who has worked in Insurance almost her entire life) found me drinking and smoking... this started my journey into Insurance. I had to go to work with her every day during my summer holidays and type pink cards..! My first real job was in one of her brokers offices... and that is how it all began... I wanted to be a journalist or a lawyer... sometimes I pretend I am! : )
I couldn't stop laughing after reading your post! Did your mother think that drinking and smoking was a good pre-requisite for the insurance business or was it meant to be a punishment? I've never known a brokers convention to be a sobering event! Thank you for sharing :)
Believe it or not I actually studies for it and had it planned out as a career path. I am still early on my path, only 2 years into it, so who knows if I will stay in insurance for the long run, but the reason I am in it now was RMIN 317 at the Haskayne School of Business at the the University of Calgary. It was a prerequisite, a basic insurance course for the B Comm Degree and after taking it I was sold. I guess I am one of the weird people out there :)
I was supposed to go into Hotel Management and REALLY wanted to be in the entertainment industry. I joined the insurance industry at Fireman's Fund Insurance Company of Canada as a Mail Clerk in 1979 just as it was changing from Shaw & Begg.
I have had an excellent career in insurance underwriting, reinsurance and broking including a really good list of companies and brokerages. The best of course being my own - Fenn & Fenn Insurance Practice Inc., which we started in 2003.
Interesting to note that the industry has allowed me to spend a lot of time in hotels - enjoying them rather than managing them. Also, I have done stints in community theatre as well.
So - I suppose in my own way I got everything I wanted out of the insurance industry - including my wife and business partner.
Not bad really when I look back. I must add that although the industry is so much bigger today, the camaraderie remains strong among those I have grown to know over the years.
If there was any criticism of the industry I'd say there remain too many people willing to go to unethical levels to win business. If any of you are new and up and comers - take the high road - you'll be respected for it by your peers and your clients and you will succeed.


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