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Graduate careers in the world of insurance

GradAustralia

Actuary plays a key part in the insurance industry and is a career where your quantitative skills will be highly valued. Read to find out more.

What is insurance?

The world of insurance has many different roles for graduates including actuaries, underwriters, brokers, investigators and claims consultants.

Actuaries are the backbone of an insurance organisation and are responsible for designing and pricing insurance policies. This is no easy task and striking the right balance – and profit – is critical. If a policy is priced too low, then the organisation’s profit margin is insufficient; too high, then customers will not want to buy the organisation’s policies.

As an actuary, your main task is to analyse data and build statistical models to better understand the world around you, so you can price policies effectively. Once actuaries determine the design and price of an organisation’s insurance policy, the underwriters decide which policy best fits a specific customer.

Underwriters will look at individual customer data and decide how much coverage the customer will receive and how much they should pay for it. In some cases, they may even decide not to accept the risk and refuse to insure specific customers.

An insurance broker sells insurance. Once an insurance policy is sold, then a customer is entitled to make claims. It then becomes the responsibility of the insurance investigators and claims consultants to validate and process the claim.

What is the graduate experience like in insurance?

As a graduate, you may choose to work for an insurance and superannuation organisation. In Australia, the leading companies are AAMI, AMP, Allianz, Australian Super, Bupa, Colonial, GIO, IAG, Medibank, MLC and QBE.

Other smaller firms, notably state/ territory specific automotive clubs, for example, NRMA, RACQ and RACV also offer graduate roles, as well as brokerage companies such as iSelect.

Graduate roles are also available at other insurance providers such as the Big Four banks, Coles and Woolworths. Actuaries may also consider the Big Four accounting firms or specialist consultancies such as Finity.

Regardless of the sector, as a graduate, you will typically spend the first year or two on rotation within your specialisation and across different areas such as life, general and health. Your day-to-day work will depend on your specialisation, for example, as an actuary or underwriter.
Insurance graduates typically enjoy a reasonable work-life balance. Working hours are not as strenuous as other finance areas, such as investment banking, particularly if you are working in-house for an insurance organisation. Hours may be slightly longer in a consulting firm.

What are your career prospects in insurance?

A long-term career in actuarial studies requires becoming a fellow of the Institute of Actuaries Australia (FIAA), which is recognised in Australia and internationally. To qualify, you will need to complete the Institute’s exams and meet practical experience requirements. Most insurance companies and professional services firms will assist through financial support and study leave.

If you decide to progress within your chosen specialisation, most roles have the potential to ultimately join the C-suite of an insurance organisation, for example, as chief actuary, chief underwriting officer or chief claims officer. Alternatively, you may decide to shift into insurance consulting.

As an actuary, your quantitative skills are highly valued. You may be able to transition to other industries such as management consulting, trading or finance. However, a transition to another industry is much easier earlier in your career.

For other insurance roles, it is possible to move to other areas within a professional services firm or an insurance organisation if you find that being within insurance itself is not your thing. We have heard of graduates starting in underwriting and moving into marketing! Again, an earlier shift is easier than later one.

Choose this if you have:

  • A passion for mathematics and enjoy solving quantitative problems.
  • A desire to build your relationship and negotiation skills.
  • An interest in understanding how the world works.