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Underwriter – Energy & Engineered Risks
Sileem studied a Bachelor of Arts (Majors International Business and Economics) at Sophia University in Tokyo, Japan
1). What's your job about?
AIG is one of the world’s largest insurance companies and I’m responsible for energy and property risk underwriting. Underwriting is the backbone of an insurance company and underwriters are the people who sign their name, and the company’s, on an insurance policy to make it a legally binding document. Before we do that, we assess the risk that is being referred to us to be insured, and check whether the risk is sound – we certainly don’t want to insure a power plant with a gas turbine that’s likely to explode any minute. We also set terms and conditions as well as price the risk – meaning we decide the premium to be paid by the client. The work includes a lot of negotiation with brokers who are the intermediaries between the client and the insurance company. In the Energy/Property line of business, I underwrite power generation, chemical, mining, upstream and downstream oil and petrochemical, as well as construction risks.
Every day in the office is a little bit different depending on what I’m working on at the time; every risk is unique which means they will require different work. Of course, there are some tasks that are routine and they can get dull, but the excitement that comes with a new account will always overcome that.
2). What's your background?
I have a unique background – I was born in the United States to an Egyptian father and a Japanese mother, I moved to Egypt when I was six and lived there for 11 years. After that, I went to Japan where I studied International Business and Economics at a university in Tokyo. Each stage of my life gave me a chance to see the world in a different way. Living in Egypt, a developing country, taught me to appreciate what I have and be humble, studying in a multicultural environment in Japan expanded my mind in terms of accepting new ideas and ways of life.
I got this job when I travelled to Boston, U.S for the biggest career forum aimed at English-Japanese bilingual students. At the time, I wasn’t looking for a career in insurance, in fact, I had no interest at all in insurance, instead I was busy searching for energy companies where I could pursue a career in energy procurement. I stumbled upon the AIG booth by coincidence, started chatting with the recruiters there and they told me about the career I could have in energy insurance. A few interviews later I got the job!
I often do volunteer work helping children with terminal illnesses and through that I’ve learned that to put a smile on someone’s face can be the most incredible thing a person could ever do!
3). Could someone with a different background do your job?
Yes, a person with a different background can most definitely do the same job as I do. The most important competencies include having a thirst for knowledge and a genuine interest in learning new things, strong interpersonal and negotiation skills, logical thinking, and being able to look at things from different perspectives. No-one becomes an underwriter overnight, it takes time and effort but eventually, anyone with the right mindset can become one.
4). What's the coolest thing about your job?
The coolest part of my job is when I get to go out into to the field and actually see the risk being underwritten on “Risk Engineering Surveys”. In these surveys, insurance companies will send specialised engineers to assess a risk from an engineering perspective. The engineering assessment made will then become one of the underwriter’s most important guides to judging the risk as a whole. Often, the underwriters will actually go with the engineer to take a look at the site, which can range from chemical plants to oil rigs hundreds of kilometres offshore.
5). What are the limitations of your job?
This job bears quite a lot of responsibility as ultimately you’re putting your name and the company’s name (and money) on the insurance contract. If the underwriting is not done diligently and a loss occurs, this could mean trouble, especially when hundreds of millions of dollars could be on the line. Work can get a bit stressful at times, but never unmanageable. The only limitations are the limitations one sets for oneself.
6). 3 pieces of advice for your teenage self...
- Stop procrastinating
- Spend more time with family
- Travel more