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Underwriter – Financial Lines
Cathleen studied a Bachelor of Business Administration (Majors Risk Management & Insurance and International Business) at Temple University in Philadelphia, U.S.
1). What's your job about?
I focus primarily on providing insurance solutions for risks associated with commercial directors and officers, professional indemnity and cyber.
Here’s an example of a product I might underwrite:
Let’s take company Y, it is a bank. A hacker penetrates Y’s IT defence systems and steals client information – names, addresses, TFNs, bank details, etc. The hacker sells this data and subsequently customers’ information is stolen and used to make various purchases. The customers sue Y for failure to protect their data. Y suffers from bad press and its reputation is severely affected. Cyber insurance can pay for defence costs and PR costs.
2). What's your background?
I’ve moved around. I was born and raised in Manila, Philippines. I finished secondary school in Singapore. Some important stages in my life would be moving halfway across the world on my own to College in Philadelphia, and moving again to Melbourne for work. I’ve lived in three continents in the last five years.
It all started with my decision to major in Risk Management & Insurance (RMI). My college, Temple University, is a target school for many insurers and brokers due to its nationally ranked RMI program. I interviewed for AIG’s summer internship and ultimately accepted an offer to intern in Singapore in 2013. Subsequently, I accepted a full-time offer to be a Cyber underwriter in Chicago as a part of AIG’s Global Analyst Graduate Program. After a year in Chicago, I accepted the offer to continue my career in Melbourne. I’ve been with AIG for two years spanning three countries so far and I definitely love the journey so far!
3). Could someone with a different background do your job?
Yes. Most people in the insurance industry will say that they “fell into it.” I believe it is more of an American concept to actually major in insurance. So definitely, if you have a knack for a career that balances quantitative and qualitative skills, look into a career in insurance!
Key characteristics/skills for my job:
- Sales – You may be competing against other carriers for a particular submission so you need to be able to sell your quote and your company.
- Confidence – You need to make underwriting decisions which you’ll need to refer for approval and subsequently present to a broker. You need to stick to your guns and be prepared to justify your decisions. Furthermore, you need to be diplomatic and explain why or why not you are making a certain underwriting decision.
- Affability and approachability – This is a relationship-driven industry. Everybody knows everybody. I interned in Singapore in 2013 and two years later when I moved to Melbourne, the contacts I made during my internship are very much still in the Australian and Asia Pacific markets. Be nice! Be professional!
4). What's the coolest thing about your job?
I love the people I work with. AIG is a great cultural fit for me because the people here are very driven and fast-paced. Furthermore, the employee diversity is amazing from a relationship perspective.
I am a huge fan of learning. In regards to my particular team, I get to learn about a wide range of different professions, such as engineers, real estate agents, architects and IT consultants. I also get to learn about the next generation of technology and crime as I underwrite cyber submissions.
5). What are the limitations of your job?
For me, underwriting requires a good balance of technical and people skills. You have to quantitatively assess a risk and then balance your presentation with qualitative skills. However, if you are the type that prefers a less interactive role, then underwriting is probably not for you. Underwriting entails negotiation which is not for everyone.
6). 3 pieces of advice for your teenage self...
- Be brave – don’t be afraid of being uncomfortable. Whether it means moving to a different country or joining a new school, these experiences will shape you into a stronger and well-rounded person.
- Prioritise. Former Coca-Cola CEO, James Patterson, once said, “Imagine life is a game in which you are juggling five balls. The balls are called work, family, health, friends, and integrity. And you're keeping all of them in the air. But one day you finally come to understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. The other four balls...are made of glass. If you drop one of these, it will be irrevocably scuffed, nicked, perhaps even shattered.” Know what your priorities are and work towards balance.
- Ask questions. Take some time to think about the situation or scenario. Frame your question adequately and then ask away. If you don’t ask then everyone will assume that you already know what you’re doing. Especially if you’ve just graduated and are starting a new role, you have a free pass to ask questions. Ask away!