Einar Kvam, broking excellence director at Aon Risk Solutions has stuck close to the path of insurance throughout his career, while veering away to other related paths in between. Getting into insurance broking now is a more structured route than when he started out, but graduates need to be more capable than ever.
How did you break into the insurance industry?
I got a job with one of Aon's legacy brokers after I graduated with a business degree. I joined as a junior marine broker, but in those days there was no structured graduate training.
What advice would you give to people currently trying to do so?
Do your research, find out not only what insurance is all about, but what it is like to work in it. There are also many different aspects to insurance; underwriting, broking, claims, life versus non-life and so on. Find out what suits you best by talking to people who have had experiences in the different fields.
If you’re not lucky enough to have friends or family working in the industry, then there are plenty of graduate fairs on offer in the UK every year where you can speak to insurance practitioners. Push them for an informal coffee or appointment in or around their office. That said, the best route to gain an insight into the industry is still an internship, which most insurers and brokers are offering now, including Aon.
Has your career been conventional or capricious?
My career has not been that conventional. After a few years in marine insurance broking, I made a career change and joined one of the top four management consultancy firms.
I left insurance in order to get experience in a broader field than just marine liability insurance because I felt it was too early to specialise in a niche field. Graduates today don’t have the same problem as most schemes allow them to rotate around several business areas before they specialise.
However, I never strayed far from insurance and worked mostly in the insurance sector as a consultant. I re-joined the insurance industry as a project because I find the industry fascinating, and I always maintained good contacts with the people within it and also I thought it offered a better long-term work/life balance compared to consultancy. As a consultant, I had just been working out of town for three years doing a weekly commute!
Since then I have had the worked on a number of strategic business change initiatives for my firm, and also helped develop our future strategies in broking. I think having had the opportunity to work on both the practitioner side as a broker but also as a consultant working to improve the way we work in our industry has been enormously helpful for me in my career.
What matters most, talent or hard work?
Talent is 20-30% and a prerequisite. The rest is hard work, determination and a great attitude to create value in everything you do.
What three things would you always advise people to do before they step into an interview with you?
1) Demonstrate that you have researched my company and my industry. I don't expect you to be an expert, but show that you are willing to learn.
2) Rehearse in a compelling way why you are a stand out candidate. You have to demonstrate that with real life examples, no fluff.
3) Write down your top three achievements and why you are proud of them. They have to be examples of where you as an individual created success. Don't hide behind a team.
You’re only allowed to hire one person in the next six months. Can you describe their ideal profile?
They should be a graduate from a top university, able to demonstrate bountiful initiative and drive to succeed, strong interests outside academia and work, great communications skills, and understands how an individual can generate value in everything they do. They probably also need to be fluent in one or two major languages apart from English.
In no more than three sentences, can you say what your business area will look like in 2015?
Data and fact-driven insurance broker which has broken the mould from traditional brokers that have relied upon gut feel and intuition.