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.