A Career In Insurance
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
The fact that all people are subject to certain common dangers has made possible the rise and development of insurance. Insurance is simply the indemnifying of an individual for loss suffered, through the contributions he and his fellows have made towards a common fund established for this purpose. The loss sustained by the individual is thus rendered less heavy for him by being divided up among a large number of people. In this way insurance offers relief without charity, in the event of a person's suffering a prescribed injury or loss. Usually it does not pretend to return the thing actually lost, but simply to make good its monetary value. The man who takes out a life insurance policy does not expect that it will keep him from dying, or restore life to him. But he does know that in the event of his death, his family will receive a sum of money in lieu of the amount that he would have been able to contribute towards its support, had he continued to live. Similarly, the man who adequately insures his home against fire, is certain of receiving a sum equal to its value, should it actually be damaged or destroyed by fire.
The social importance of insurance is a very great one; a fact which has not, till recently, been recognized. But as the appreciation of its meaning and value continues to grow, the demand for expert workers in the field keeps pace with it. These experts may be placed in several principal classes—as actuaries, agents, inspectors, investigators or adjusters. The actuaries determine, by scientific processes, the rates to be charged for different types of insurance, under varying conditions. The agents undertake the work of selling insurance policies. The inspectors attend to the examination of property of various sorts, before and at intervals after it has been insured. The investigators inquire into the loss suffered by a claimant for insurance; and the adjuster attempts to adjust differences between the insurance company and the claimant, or between a claimant and a client protected by the company.
There are numerous sorts of insurance, some of which offer the insured not only indemnity in case of loss, but protection and service against lawsuits. In automobile insurance, for instance, the insured may receive a certain amount of money in case his car should be damaged or destroyed. And, besides this, the company might defend him in a lawsuit resulting from damage or injury inflicted by him while operating the automobile. The vast field of insurance may be roughly divided into the following classes: personal, including life, health and accident insurance; casualty, including fire, marine, title, automobile and burglary insurance; and social, including employers' liability, workmen's compensation and industrial group insurance.
The men in the insurance field must be specialists. They must confine themselves to work in one of the subdivisions mentioned, in order to be of real use. And even in their special field they will probably become expert in one of its minor subdivisions, for, whatever position he holds, the insurance worker needs very thorough knowledge, and so his work must necessarily be limited to effort along one particular line.
In order to insure people, the insurance companies must have some sort of basis on which to work, and this is furnished by the actuary, who computes insurance rates. In order to determine what rates should be charged under different circumstances, the actuary must carry on work of a very scientific nature. Take as an example the life insurance actuary. He must investigate and analyze the natural laws affecting human life, and the social, economic and other factors which also serve to influence it. He works on the principle of averages. He cannot determine the rates to be charged according to the circumstances surrounding each individual policyholder. He must analyze a broad field, and from the results of this analysis work out average charges. The actuary's work is highly technical. For its proper performance he needs a number of special abilities and a thorough education. He must be of an analytical turn of mind, have a real liking for mathematics, be capable of concentrating upon difficult work and, perhaps most important of all, he must have the ability to interpret correctly the facts and figures he has gathered.
It is wrong to think that, because his work is so largely mathematical in nature, a liberal education is not necessary for the actuary. Besides having a thorough knowledge of mathematics, he should have some acquaintance with economics and sociology, be familiar with the general principles and practice of insurance and of finance and should know as much as possible about the particular branch of insurance in which his work lies. Thus, if he is an actuary for a marine insurance company, it is his business to know as much as possible about the sea and its perils, about vessels and cargoes, about marine laws and other such matters. It is usually best for the would-be actuary to take a full college course, specializing in mathematics, taking practical courses in insurance and spending his vacations in the actuarial department of some large insurance company. In this way he will be gaining a broad education and, at the same time, preparation for his profession. Before he is admitted to the ranks of the full-fledged actuaries the student will be obliged to take certain examinations given by the Actuarial Society of America (New York City), from which further details may be obtained upon application.
The insurance agent, whose business it is to secure new clients, is today more than merely a salesman. It is, of course, important that he should be a salesman, but, in addition, he must be an insurance expert, able to advise his clients as to the proper sort and amount of insurance it is best for them to take out. In other words, he should have a broad general knowledge of insurance principles and very specific and detailed knowledge of the policies in his special field of the insurance business. The insurance agent's personality is one of his greatest assets. He should be enthusiastic, convinced of the benefits of insurance, so as to be able to convince others of them. He should know human nature and have the tact, patience and perseverance to turn his knowledge to good account. He should be a quick, clear thinker, in order to find good arguments, and should be able to express them in simple, direct and forceful language. The insurance agent should, further, be honest and industrious, and economical of his time; he should be confident and patient enough to follow up every prospect to a successful conclusion, and be able to do so without getting himself disliked.
Some agents insure individuals; others, groups, as, for instance, a group of factory workers. They sell life, fire, marine, credit, accident, liability and various other forms of insurance. But in every case the same general qualifications are needed, and the same fundamental knowledge is required. The insurance agent should have a knowledge of sociology, economics, finance, psychology and salesmanship. His work, properly undertaken and carried out, is professional in character. He should be able to give clients sound advice of real service to them. For this reason he needs a good grounding in the subjects mentioned and, of course, in insurance.
A college education with special courses in insurance, though not absolutely essential, would be of great help to the insurance agent. Many insurance companies maintain courses in insurance and salesmanship for their employees, and there are schools of salesmanship and university extension courses in selling and insurance.
The insurance inspector is employed by casualty, particularly fire and marine, insurance companies. Before property is insured against fire, for instance, it is usually examined by an inspector. If it is a factory which is to be insured, the inspector investigates the raw materials used, the operation of machines, the discipline of employees, the fire prevention and extinguishing apparatus in the building and the construction of the building itself. In other words, he examines every detail which might in any way contribute towards the fire hazard. In order to do such work adequately, a large amount of technical knowledge is necessary. Besides this, the inspector must have the ability to describe his findings clearly and fully, for the action of the insurance company in accepting or rejecting the "risk" depends upon the report he makes. The inspector for a fire insurance company should be thoroughly acquainted with the methods of fire prevention, should be familiar with insurance practice, must be observant by nature and have plenty of common sense and tact. Similar qualifications and specialized knowledge in his line are necessary for the marine inspector.
Insurance investigators examine into the reported loss suffered by a client. In some cases, this is a relatively simple matter. In case of life insurance, for instance, or of accident insurance, the investigator has but to ascertain whether death or injury has actually occurred. In other cases the investigator's work is much more difficult. He may, for instance, have to inquire into an accident suffered by an individual through a man insured by his company. In this case the insurance company may have to pay damages to the injured individual, so the investigator must find out whether the accident actually occurred under circumstances provided for in the policy. If it did, the insurance company will be responsible; otherwise the policyholder himself will have to pay the damages.
The investigator of burglary insurance claims will often have to contend with fraudulent practices. Many times robberies are simulated for the sake of collecting insurance, and it is the duty of the investigator to discover such deceit. The actual work of the investigator is the investigation of the circumstances surrounding a claim for insurance, the interviewing of witnesses and the making of a report to the company.
The investigator must not only know the general principles of insurance, but should be thoroughly familiar with all types of policies in his field, so that he may be able to decide whether a claim is a just one. In order to carry on his work successfully, he must be alert and observant, and extremely tactful.
The work of the adjuster also calls for a great amount of tact. It is his duty to ascertain the money value of an injury suffered by an individual, through the agency of an insured client. Then he must attempt to persuade the injured person to accept a cash settlement of his claim, instead of starting a lawsuit against the insured, for this lawsuit would have to be defended by the insurance company. In order to succeed in his work, the adjuster must work with speed and diplomacy, making a favorable impression upon the claimant, and utilizing many of the qualities and methods of the salesman in his efforts at persuasion.
For the work of inspector, investigator or adjuster, it is well to have taken some courses in insurance principles and practice. Training for the actual work carried on by these men is usually supplied by the insurance companies themselves; but the development of the worker into an expert is largely a matter of experience in observing human nature, and in acting upon one's observations.
The field of insurance is a very attractive one for the young man who contemplates entering it. Although a large number of men are employed in it, there is room for many more, for every year thousands of people are ready to take out new policies. The work of insurance men is interesting, for it brings them in contact with many different types of people, and many different phases of life and, if well done, the work is remunerative. The actuary is paid a fixed salary, which is usually a very good one. The agent is paid on the commission basis, so that his income depends upon his own efforts and ability. Investigators, inspectors and adjusters earn from $2,000 or $3,000 a year up. Work in the field of insurance demands a constant output of energy—in many cases both physical and mental. But it brings a great reward to the conscientious worker in his realization of the fact that the work he is doing is of material benefit to society, reducing want and increasing thrift, safety and individual independence.
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