GAMMA IOTA SIGMA
Risk management and insurance fraternity focuses on diversity, and its students are waiting to connect with you
By Christopher W. Cook
When one hears consecutive Greek letters, it can be easy to think of fraternities and sororities on a university campus. Aside from the “social” Greek collegiate organizations, there are also those that are professional or academic focused. Enter Gamma Iota Sigma (GIS), a fraternity with chapters at over 85 colleges and universities that promotes the professional world of insurance, risk management and actuarial science. And while GIS may not have members like Lambda Lambda Lambda’s Dudley “Booger” Dawson or Delta Tau Chi’s John “Bluto” Blutarsky, what it does have is a diverse group of educated, ambitious students who are eager to pursue knowledge, get involved, and join the ranks of the industry.
“Year after year, Gamma students raise the bar with their passion for insurance, preparation, openness to new opportunities, and willingness to soak up all industry resources available to them. Our students come in hungry and we encourage them to leave no stone unturned—it’s all about exposure,” says Sharla Floyd, GIS’s senior vice president of strategic initiatives. “At our career fairs, exhibitors are likely to engage with nearly every student in attendance. They will make their way to you deliberately.”
However, last year’s GIS annual recruiting survey—completed by its students—showed some less-than- favorable results concerning agent and broker involvement.
“The agent and broker segment of the industry interacts with our students less than others. We’re working hard to change that,” says Noelle Codispoti, GIS’s CEO. “Our students gravitate toward the opportunities that are in front of them, so if agents and brokers aren’t showing up to speak on campus or to participate in career fairs, it’s natural for students to gravitate toward underwriting, claims or actuarial positions, because those are the ones exposed to them.
“In last year’s recruiting survey, only 17% of our students indicated pursuing an agency or brokerage role. Coincidentally, only 17% of the companies represented at our annual conference last year could be classified as an agent or broker.”
Events and partnerships
Gamma Iota Sigma hosts numerous events throughout the year, alone and in collaboration with other organizations.
“Our annual conference is held in late September,” says Codispoti. “This is the industry’s recruiting event of the year, providing a single access point to students from over 65 schools who are pursuing opportunities across all segments and functional areas.
“Students want to know what is happening in the real world and how it relates to what they’re learning in the classroom. We make sure that our educational sessions and keynote addresses are geared in that direction.”
This year’s conference takes place September 26-28 in Dallas, Texas. The event’s career fair provides students the opportunity to mingle with companies and seek internships or entry-level positions.
“If you are an agency or brokerage C-suite executive, operational leader or hiring manager who recruits new hires out of college and you have not been to GIS’s annual conference, you are missing out on a premier opportunity to engage directly with a captive audience of more than 650 incredible undergrads,” says Cheryl Matochik, senior vice president of strategic resources and initiatives at The Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers and a member of the GIS executive committee and board of trustees. “The next generation of producers and account management superstars are definitely there.”
For those unable to attend the annual conference, GIS also hosts three concurrent regional conferences in January.
“The regional events mimic the larger conference and are designed for the students who couldn’t come to the annual one,” says Codispoti. “We look geographically to give students and companies an opportunity to interact in the regions where students are most likely to want to work or where companies are hiring.”
Adds Floyd: “We have 5,000-plus members, but only about 650 of them come to the annual conference. I urge agency owners to consider one of our regional conferences as a single access point to multiple schools that may not be on your recruiting radar.”
Attendance at each regional event generally totals around 100 students. Two virtual events are also held annually, one in February in support of the Insurance Careers Movement and one a few weeks after the annual conference.
“They are entirely online in a chat-
room-type scenario,” Codispoti says. “Companies and professionals can engage with students and talk about entry-level positions and offer internships. Professional associations describe their memberships for students and for post-graduates.”
For its annual conference, GIS has collaborated on events with Insurance Nerds and the Global Dive In Festival.
“This year marks the fourth year of GIS’s involvement with the Global Dive In Festival, which raises awareness of and promotes diversity in the insurance industry,” says Matochik. “Our CEO, Noelle Codispoti, has recently been named as one of the three 2019 North American co-chairs.”
Dive In, which was created and promoted through Lloyd’s of London, ties in with GIS’s Gamma S.A.I.D. (Solutions for Authenticity, Inclusion, and Diversity) initiative.
“The Gamma S.A.I.D. council, which is student led, focuses on matters of diversity and inclusion,” says Floyd. “They are taking the initiative on their campuses to engage students with other majors and from different cultural groups. It is pivotal in helping us engage with new groups of students.
“We’ve seen a real explosion in our diversification; we’re still seeing predominantly risk management and insurance and actuarial sciences majors, but we’re seeing all functional areas of the industry represented by our student body. This includes math students from schools that don’t have actuarial programs, economics, finance, IT-related majors, analytics, statistics and marketing.”
“In everything we do, the primary focus is ensuring that we’re as inclusive as possible,” adds Codispoti. “It’s a way to not only expand membership but also diversify the talent pipeline from ground zero at the colleges.
“We’re very deliberately creating outreach opportunities to engage with students of all backgrounds and academic pursuits to expose them to the industry. This will make the talent pipeline and ultimately the industry workforce that much more robust and able to keep up with innovation and drive it.”
October has been designated as Boots on the Ground Month, an initiative to encourage industry professionals to visit a college campus and share their stories and work experiences.
“Getting onto campus is first and foremost,” says Floyd. “Agency owners can get onto any campus to showcase their agency and also complement their year-round campus recruiting presence.”
“It’s more than just sharing your story on social media,” adds Codispoti. “Social media’s great—we get a lot of views and hits—but it’s that face-to-face personal engagement that really drives it home for students.”
As described previously with its annual conference, GIS thrives on its partnerships with companies and associations.
“We are collaborative by design, so much of what we do is intended to expose our students to the broadest possible cross-section of the industry,” says Floyd. “We get a lot of questions regarding the collegiate talent pipeline from recruiters and industry stakeholders. They are thinking about engaging with students and ask, ‘What about before college?’ There’s a great program called InVEST, which is solely focused on high schools.
“The Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers has been a long-time partner and we also have a partnership with the Big ‘I.’ We’re pursuing some additional avenues to engage with their agency partners.”
“GIS works in partnership with a diverse network of corporate supporters, professional organizations and trade associations to communicate the industry’s scope and resources to its student members,” adds Matochik. “InsureTech Connect (ITC) and GIS launched a student program last year. Students apply for a chance to win one of the 20 ‘scholarships,’ which allow selected students to participate in the InsureTech event with an all-access pass, customized student track programming and covered expenses.”
Overall, Codispoti says, “We have about 40 sustaining partners that have the opportunity year-round to describe their work environments through pre-recorded webinars that we post in our newsletters, website and social media. Companies can have 20 to 30 minutes to explain why students should work for them.”
Starting a relationship
With more than 5,000 active students and 25,000 alumni, how does one begin to form a relationship with a GIS chapter?
“We have so many opportunities for companies to network and engage with the students, not only nationally but with the schools that are in their region,” says Codispoti. “We feel that is the most important part of the industry/student relationship. We absolutely want companies to be involved with us nationally, but it’s the local relationship formed with chapter presidents and advisors that gives a company the opportunity to speak on a campus.
“People in our industry are so passionate and engaged. How cool would it be for more students to hear their stories? Last year’s recruitment survey showed that 49% of students stated that a virtual platform was how they started looking for a job. Only 19% said that the job they accepted was a result of an online search. We want companies to know that face-to-face engagement also is important to this generation. This stat about our students should be inspiring to the industry because it’s what makes it so great—the relationships,” she says.
“The ‘find a chapter’ page on our website is something we want the industry to access and use to form those direct relationships,” adds Floyd. “We list all of our chapters throughout North America and the primary points of contact for faculty and student officers.
“This is a great way to reach out. Some schools have a very structured engagement protocol in place, but many of our chapters offer opportunities for campus engagement.”
“Every school is different. We have some that aren’t in a large insurance community and others that have a number of big firms,” adds Codispoti. “There’s no financial commitment involved; it’s all about time. Cultivating a new relationship can take time, but the fruits of those labors can be incredible if you’re dedicated to the process.
“Find out from our newsletter what our students are doing. There’s a lot of information that can be learned from our posts. We regularly update the information about chapter presidents, vice presidents and advisors. We encourage industry professionals to reach out to those individuals,” she concludes.
“For anyone who wants to have that direct path to our students, we host a number of programs, events and opportunities,” says Floyd. “Companies can have a presence at our career fairs. Our sustaining partners have year-round visibility to students. It’s very partnership oriented, but there are direct access points for companies that may not be in a position to partner with us.
“The talent pipeline of GIS is the perfect opportunity for our students to experience the breadth of the industry,” says Barbara Bufkin, executive head of business development, lending solutions, at Assurant, and a member of the GIS’ executive committee and board of trustees. “The insurance industry requires skills including technology, data analytics, mathematics, marketing, finance, accounting, claims, underwriting, loss control engineering, human resources, operations and executive leadership; in addition, the ‘give back’ culture of insurance includes a component of charitable giving. There is no better time than now for insurance businesses to align with GIS.”
For more information:
Gamma Iota Sigma