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Educators Play a Role Attracting Young People to Captive Industry

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February 03, 2017

Unlike the National Football League, which obtains nearly all of its top talent from the college football ranks, captive insurance has no feeder system. 

The International Center for Captive Insurance Education (ICCIE) does a great job training those already interested in captive insurance. ICCIE offers associate and certificate programs in captive insurance, as well as individual classes. But there's no well-defined path into the industry for young people.

Fortunately, there are schools, businesses, associations, and individuals eager to introduce future insurance professionals to the intriguing world of captive insurance.

The College Path

Harold Weston, a clinical associate professor of Risk Management and Insurance at Georgia State University (GSU), is one of the captive industry's unsung heroes. Teaching captive insurance cannot be his focus, unfortunately, because insurance is too broad a topic. Instead, he shines a light on the industry in his classroom so others can learn.

"At the undergraduate level, it's hard to get them fully exposed to captive insurance," Mr. Weston says. "We have limited time to get them through the core curriculum. I do introduce it in my Commercial Underwriting and Liability class."

GSU undergrads whose interests are piqued by Mr. Weston's words can learn more in graduate school. Still, though, there is no separate captive insurance education program.

"I would like to say we have a separate track for that, but we don't," Mr. Weston says. "I think that's going to be a challenge for every program.

"However, every year, we have kids say, 'This is cool, I would do that.' They see surplus lines and say, 'That MUST be illegal.' And I tell them, 'If you think that's cool, I have something to show you.'"

Mr. Weston is currently working with a master of business administration student who is doing directed reading on captive insurance. A risk manager for a real estate company wanted it added to his program of study. To accommodate him, Mr. Weston used the Associate in Captive Insurance curriculum from ICCIE.

Melanie Pivarski, associate professor of Mathematics at Roosevelt University in Illinois, echoes Mr. Weston about the state of insurance education and captive insurance.

"I don't think there's a pipeline," Ms. Pivarski says. "We do the accounting side of things and don't have a specific program. We want them to have a strong financial background so they can form models and do the work needed if they get into the industry."

The Student's Perspective

Roosevelt University student Kathryn Adler has a simple solution to the talent pipeline issue—internships.

"The challenge people have here is getting internships, trying to land one is tough," Ms. Adler says.

"Our school is in Chicago and, between University of Illinois and University of Chicago, some of my fellow students are having a hard time."

Ms. Adler says this problem is worse for women and people of color.

"We have a diverse student base at Roosevelt," says Ms. Adler, a graduate assistant. "Students will come back from interviews and give me the impression that they will feel different from everyone if they get the job or internship. Also, the dynamics of students are changing, so it's harder for some older people to get an internship or a foot in the door."

A Change Is Gonna Come

There does exist a group of insurance professionals dedicated to providing entryways into the world of captive insurance. Certain companies are well known for offering internships or scholarships to attend ICCIE. Housing Authority Risk Retention Group (HARRG) started an internship program for Howard University that continues over 25 years later. HARRG parent HAI Group created an ICCIE scholarship and regularly pays for student attendance to the Vermont Captive Insurance Association Conference.

Additionally, the National Risk Retention Association (NRRA) held a panel called "The Educator's Perspective: Preparing Insurance Students for the Future of RRGs" at its 2016 conference. NRRA Executive Director Joe Deems championed the effort to sponsor student attendance. A speed-mentoring program was held for participants, and NRRA has scheduled another educators panel for its 2017 conference to be held at the Sofitel Chicago Magnificent Mile on Sept. 26–28.

Former HAI Group CEO and current NRRA Board Chair Dan Labrie played a big part in establishing HAI Group and NRRA as trendsetters in captive insurance education.

"I felt the captive industry was not visible enough to attract minorities," Mr. Labrie said. "We wanted to create an opportunity for students to seriously consider a career in the captive industry. We still have a long way to go."

Fortunately, there are mentors guiding these up-and-coming students. Mr. Weston says that without HAI Group's Assistant Director of Underwriting Gibriel Cham, several students might not have reached the heights they did.

"Gibriel is a master mentor," Mr. Weston says. "Every time I get someone placed as an intern there, I marvel at his relationship with them and the guidance he provides."

These placements not only introduce students to the world of captive insurance, but they also get them excited to learn more about it.

"It's fun for me when students say, 'You know that stuff you made us do that we did not like? It really works out there,'" Mr. Weston says. "We encourage, drag, push, and facilitate students so they get into companies and events. They start to see how it's really done."

The Future Is Bright

Based on Mr. Weston's testimony, there is a reason to believe captive insurance has a bright future—even if no full-time collegiate education program currently exists. Through internships and connections, students gain enough exposure to attract top talent to the industry. There are about two dozen colleges and universities around the country offering risk and insurance majors or concentrations of study. Professors in these programs would be happy to work with organizations to establish an internship program or even to recruit their students. For a list of the major programs, consult the IRMI Directory of Risk Management and Insurance Programs at U.S. Colleges and Universities.

"Atlanta is No. 2 or No. 3 in terms of insurance markets," Mr. Weston says. "Every company has a major office or a headquarters here. We have an active captive insurance association and some leading people doing captive work for our companies. This is the right city for us to be pushing this industry. Illinois State has the right people in Chicago, and we have the right people in Atlanta. We are not Vermont, but the insurance business here has a lot of captive stuff. This should thrive."

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