Jennifer Braney talks to Intelligent Insurer as part of their ‘Rising Stars’ feature on 40 young executives – all under 35 – who are making waves in the industry.
Liberty Specialty Markets
Full Job Title:
Senior Underwriter – Specialty Reinsurance
2014 Underwriter – Pecuniary Lines and Treaty PA, Liberty Specialty Markets
2013 Deputy Class Underwriter – Treaty PA, Liberty Syndicates
2012 Accident and Health Underwriter, Presidio
2009 Assistant Underwriter – International Casualty, OdysseyRe
2005 Underwriting Assistant – International Casualty, OdysseyRe
Why did you choose to go into the re/insurance industry?
When I was in high school my father found an article saying that school-leavers should consider careers in medicine, computer programming or financial services. All the ‘cool’ kids were doing Actuarial Maths at university so I enrolled at Pretoria University in South Africa. During my third year I attended a lecture about Short-Term Insurance which covered Lloyd’s of London. I was fascinated by the history of Lloyd’s (as well as the Lloyd’s building itself!) and started to think seriously about a career in reinsurance. As I relocated to London after university, I hoped it would only be a matter of time before I started to work for a syndicate. It took 8 years to finally get there but I attended many lectures in the Old Library in the meantime!
Do you think the industry is attractive to young professionals?
When I’ve asked this question to those just starting in the industry, the common answer is that insurance has become more attractive as a result of the banking crisis. And word has quickly spread because of the career opportunities as well as the very sociable working environment. While underwriting and broking have become the most attractive areas in the industry, I think the industry is making itself more attractive to those with skillsets that will be in increasing demand such as data analytics. Also, as I understand it, there will be a shortage of qualified loss adjusters and contract wordings specialists in the near future so it’s important that we attract the right talent now.
Do you think the re/insurance industry offers good opportunities and career development to young professionals?
Yes, as can be seen in the proliferation of graduate schemes and in-house training and education programmes. Other financial services careers, such as accounting, can be very structured; whereas I think (re)insurance is more fluid because there are other factors that can impact your development. For example, the risk appetite of the company or team you work for, the dynamics specific to the class of business you are in, and the elusive market cycle (apparently there was once a thing called a hard market). All this means that proactivity and an ability to identify opportunities as they arise can be of great value.
What are your aspirations for the future?
My current focus is on developing further as an underwriter by working on my technical knowledge of the classes we reinsure and expanding my market knowledge. I am extremely passionate about knowledge-sharing and I would like to devote more time to assisting in the development of the junior underwriters in our team, as well as gaining a deeper understanding of other classes of business written at Liberty.
If you had chosen a different profession/career path, what would it have been?
History has always been a great passion of mine and I was interested in studying Law or Political Science so if I didn’t go into the financial services industry that is realistically where I would have ended up. Something very creative like architecture or interior design would have been a dream job.
This appeared in Intelligent Insurer’s feature ‘Rising stars: an influx of talent’ on 25 April 2016. To read full feature click here