By Lynne McChristian, I.I.I. Non-resident Scholar and Media Spokesperson
The first slide of my presentation to a group of college students on Valentine’s Day last week was an image of an “I Love Insurance” button. Absent the foresight to bring such buttons for all, Plan B involved bringing heart-shaped chocolates. It fit in a way many of us in this profession would understand, as pathways into insurance are often a Plan B. Many universities are interested in helping students make a career in insurance their A-Game Plan, and that is exactly the type of student group I met with last week at the Gies College of Business at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC).
More than 20 students are participating this semester in the University of Illinois’ AXIS Risk Management Academy. In a partnership with global specialty insurer/reinsurer AXIS Global Holdings, UIUC established the Academy to interest students from various disciplines in the myriad of career paths available in the insurance industry. Students in this year’s Academy are studying actuarial science, math and finance, financial planning and atmospheric science. Bringing professionals into their meetings to discuss jobs and career paths helps them see the opportunities, and it demonstrates how someone with a degree outside of insurance and risk management can put those skills to work within the insurance field.
I typically start a presentation to insurance newbies with the negative perceptions of the industry. It’s the “elephant in the room” that needs to get out of the way. Using images from various recent natural disasters, I talk about what happened, who was affected, how much it cost, what we learned – and spend time pointing out what is obvious to many of us but not so much to neophytes; simply, that too often people are surprised by the devastation because they are in denial about their risks. With that message conveyed, I can show that insurance is a people business, in which we help people recover from whatever disaster befalls them.
Insurance is personal, and that is a theme that resonates with Gen Z. How do I know? It’s not deep research on my part, but when students come up after a presentation with spark of light in their eyes that shows you’ve got their interest? That’s proof enough.
Lynne McChristian is the director of the Office of Risk Management & Insurance Research at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she is also a senior instructor teaching insurance and enterprise risk management classes.