BGSU alums see job opportunities and stability in insurance industry

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Brian Bowerman and Connie Frey are BGSU alumni who are passionate about the insurance industry and advocate its job prospects. They reconnected with their alma mater as members of the Department of Finance’s Insurance Advisory Board to support the department’s re-establishment of an insurance and risk management program as well as the creation of the Insurance and Risk Management Institute (IRMI). Westfield Insurance is one of the eight Charter Members of IRMI.   

Bowerman ‘88, a Westfield Services Leader, and Frey ‘82, a University Relations and Learning Delivery Leader, see a strong need for college graduates with degrees in insurance. Based on a 2013 workforce study reported by the Ohio Insurance Institute, there will be 26,000 jobs to fill in Ohio’s insurance industry through 2020. Bowerman and Frey, along with fellow BGSU Insurance Advisory Board members, supported the finance department’s efforts in becoming a leader among Ohio’s colleges and universities by implementing an insurance specialization last fall. 

Frey explains why there is a “talent gap” in the insurance industry. “One of the indicators of the anticipated talent gap is created as members of the ‘baby boomer’ generation are retiring and exiting the industry.  It is often referenced that the average age of employees in the insurance industry is 56-58 years old, thus creating a gap as people retire.” 

She adds, “Financial stability of the insurance industry leads to stability of jobs.  Other industries and individuals as well will need to use some form of insurance as a part of the transaction to start a business, buy/rent a home, or purchase/lease a car.” The need for insurance will continue.

Bowerman sees a highly stable job market within the insurance industry.  He says he has kept in touch with numerous BGSU graduates who are also colleagues in the insurance industry.  “All of them have had a variety of roles, and all of them are with the same firm that hired them during our senior year at BG…including me. I think our industry, including Westfield, does a great job of developing people and promoting from within.  Even our CEO at Westfield is a BG grad.  He has worked at Westfield his entire career, beginning in our IT Department.”

Frey acknowledges that a factor leading to a shortage of insurance graduates is that students have a misconception about insurance jobs, that insurance isn’t viewed as “cool.”  Frey states, “Students assume that insurance is about cold-calling and selling something they don’t understand to friends and family.  These are the exact same thoughts I had 30 years ago when someone suggested to me that I consider the insurance industry and Westfield.  I said, ‘What’s Westfield?’ and when I was told, ‘It’s an insurance company;’ my response was ‘I don’t want to sell insurance!’  I had no idea the deep partnership that exists with Westfield’s independent agents and the opportunity that the industry presented until I joined Westfield. Once I discovered it, I was hooked and never left.” 

The two BGSU graduates want students to know there are many job opportunities in the insurance industry besides sales positions. “Career opportunities vary from underwriting, claims, and risk management to IT, HR, and marketing,” states Frey.  Bowerman adds, “I want people to know that there are also thousands of insurance agencies in Ohio as well that have many employment opportunities. Some agencies are small employers with fewer than 25 employees, but many are also larger, sophisticated businesses with 100 employees or more.”

Besides the impending shortage of employees in the industry, Bowerman sees other challenges facing the insurance industry.  These include

  • “Analytics: Building more and more sophisticated models to accurately predict losses and price accounts accordingly.  Companies that can better predict which customers will have the best loss experience will be able to price those accounts lower and gain market share.
  • Customer Demands and Preferences:  We need to keep up our investments in technology to reduce costs and make insurance simpler and service better for customers.
  • Interest rates:  We’re in an unprecedented period of low interest rates.  That means our investment income is down, so the profitability of our core business can’t be boosted as much by investment returns.  We need to be really good at underwriting and pricing.”

With high prospects of employment in the insurance industry, both Frey and Bowerman feel BGSU prepared them well for their careers.

According to Frey, “My four years at BGSU were essential to my personal and professional development. When I chose BGSU, I had never been on campus and did not have the internet to turn to; however, I was very aware of the strength of BGSU’s College of Business and the programs offered, making BG my top choice!  As a BGSU graduate in 1982, I was well prepared for the next chapter of life.”

Bowerman also praises BGSU for a good education. “I was able to learn in a productive and safe environment, and develop personal and industry connections that I still have to this day.  The insurance and risk management faculty had outstanding industry connections, and helped all of us find a rewarding career in our industry.  100% of my peers had jobs at graduation.  I’m certain our BGSU education and experience helped make that a reality.”

Reconnecting to BGSU was something both Westfield executives wanted to do. “BGSU helped me start what has become an extremely successful career,” states Bowerman. “I want others to know about what we do in insurance, and I want to be able to look back 20 years from now and know that I made a difference in peoples’ lives.”  

Frey adds, “It was a privilege to be at the table with other alumni as we discussed the potential of bringing an Insurance and Risk Management program back to our alma mater.”  She continues, “It is energizing to engage with college students, connect and share information, present an industry that they otherwise might not have considered, and see them launch their careers in insurance.”