Risk Managers’ Forum
By Ruth E. Phillips, CIC, AAI, ACSR, AINS, AIS
NEED CONTINUING EDUCATION? TAKE A RISK AND TRY SOMETHING NEW
Professional approach recognizes value of education as more than just credits
Continuing education. We all need it, but for many of us it becomes a chore. Too many people in the insurance industry look at continuing education as something that they must do rather than something they should do and might benefit from. We all know the people who seem to always gravitate toward the back of the classroom. The people who try to surreptitiously read their newspapers and play on their phones. The people who do the bare minimum in a course just to get by.
A true insurance professional looks at continuing education as a valuable tool. This tool is used to sharpen the professional’s mind and keep him or her current on industry news. Henry Ford said, “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.” As professionals, we should strive to keep learning and try to learn new things that relate to our field of insurance.
Many CSRs and account managers have at least one professional insurance designation. A recent study indicated that 60% of commercial lines CSRs/account managers had the CISR designation, and 70% of personal lines CSRs/account managers held the designation. They put in the time, studied the material, and earned their designation. These individuals value the education they received while earning their designation. They take what they learned and use it to be a better advocate for their clients.
In an industry that continues to evolve, it only makes sense to take advantage of different opportunities. If the opportunity to take a risk management class arises, take it!
The learning process doesn’t stop once a designation is earned. Often, a certain number of education hours are required to maintain the designation. Insurance department regulations still require continuing education hours. So what does an insurance professional do after earning a designation?
Many professionals will continue to take classes that they are comfortable with. They don’t want to take any more exams or spend hours studying new material. These are the people who don’t care what the class is about, provided they get their hours and don’t have to take a test. They don’t look at the materials, and they do not want to step out of their comfort zone. They are just there to get their required CE and that is it. There is nothing wrong with these people. They aren’t bad people. They are checking off a requirement, ticking a box. They are just not using the tools available to them to their fullest advantage.
Some professionals will step out of their comfort zone and begin working on a new designation. Many CSRs will use their first designation as a stepping stone toward their next. If they can earn their first one, then they know they can earn the second. There are many designations that a CSR can choose from. From underwriting to claims and even risk management, there is a designation relevant to every aspect of the insurance industry. Forward-thinking professionals use the tools available to them to their fullest advantage. They know that the classes they take can be turned into designations or into learning new subject matter. They don’t necessarily try to earn a new designation, but they opt for new learning material.
While related to insurance, risk management is a different world than insurance. Many CSRs don’t consider earning a risk management designation, but they should! CSRs who are brave enough to try a risk management course have found that they gain new knowledge that will help their clients. They may find themselves having an advantage over other CSRs in their office. The average CSR knows little about the risk management field.
By participating in a risk management class, CSRs can learn material they can use to help their clients understand why the insurance company orders inspections and provides certain loss control recommendations. The CSR will be able to view the recommendations from the risk management point of view and competently explain it to the insured. A CSR can take a class on a new topic that will also count towards continuing education for his or her license. Too many times, licensed agents must take classes on the same topics, while a risk management course can provide much needed new material. When a CSR takes a class on risk management, he or she can take the information learned and share it with others in the office.
A risk management class can also help CSRs be better advocates for their clients. If the CSR understands the reasoning behind a certain recommendation, he or she may be able to discuss alternatives with the insurance company. For example, recently a company provided a loss control recommendation to an insured that required the insured to build a self-locking fence around all of their dumpsters at all 10 of their locations. The insured operated thrift stores, and the insurance company was concerned that people might rummage through the dumpsters to look for unsaleable items that the thrift stores throw out. The insured worried about the expense of building fences at all locations, since they are a charitable organization and unable to bear that kind of outlay. The CSR approached the insurance company and suggested an alternative: Could the insured keep the dumpsters locked at all times instead of having to build the fences? Because the CSR understood the reasoning behind the insurance company’s recommendation, he or she could provide a workable alternative. The insurance company and the insured were both happy with the CSR’s solution, and the compromise was accepted.
By taking a risk management class, a CSR will be broadening his or her education and career horizons. The insurance industry is always evolving. Companies that are here today may not be here tomorrow. Knowledge is power, and if a CSR has knowledge he or she has power. In an industry that continues to evolve, it only makes sense to take advantage of different opportunities. If the opportunity to take a risk management class arises, take it!
Continuing education will always be required for individuals in the insurance industry. A professional will want to take advantage of opportunities that allow him or her to learn something new. Dr. Seuss said, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” Who knows? The CSR who steps out, taking a risk management class and trying something new, may earn another designation or even find an unexpected career opportunity!
Ruth E. Phillips, CIC, AAI, ACSR, AINS, AIS, API, ARM, CISR, CPIW, CPSR, CSRM, MLIS, has worked at Insurance & Risk Managers in Brookhaven, Mississippi, since 2003. She has been in the insurance industry for 20 years. She is the 2004 national winner of the Outstanding CSR of theYear® award from The National Alliance for Insurance Education &Research and currently serves as a CISR Board Member for the organization.