Name: Ben Mogford
Degree and university: BSc in Economic History, London School of Economics.
Job Title: Assistant Underwriter, Zurich
What do you actually do? I am working towards the internal and external qualifications I need to become a full Underwriter. I work in Zurich’s Public Services division where we deal with County Councils, London Boroughs, Universities, Police Authorities and, my focus, Housing Associations. As an underwriter who deals direct with the customer (as opposed to through a broker) we find appropriate insurance products for our customers and analyse their particular situation when deciding on a price.
Did you always want to work in finance? A job in the financial sector was a dream-come-true; for once I’d be getting paid to sit at a desk. But it was also a chance to be a part of the UK’s most dynamic and successful sector. Banking, finance, insurance; these are what we’re good at so it is quite exciting to be in the vanguard.
How did you find out about your particular course? Most of my career research was done through the internet. I had decided I wanted to work in finance and insurance in particular quite early on in my university career. Whilst the career’s service at the LSE was good, I found that most of the information I needed was readily available online. My mother works in the same industry as I do so most of the big players were already in my mind before I started to apply. Zurich, as one of the market leaders, was then an obvious choice and offered not only the graduate programme that I am on with people from all business operations of the company but also the Global Associate Programme which offers applicants the chance to work in a variety of locations around the world giving them a macro-view of the company.
Would you undertake further study to progress your career? I’m already doing it! Zurich generously pays for all of its employees to sit the exams proffered by the Chartered Insurance Institute. I am currently studying for the Advanced Diploma in Insurance which is the highest examinable qualification offered by the CII. This should take me about 2 years to complete and I think I will make a decision then on what further study I may require to further my career. Education has always been a large part of my life so I don’t think I could ever totally rule out some sort of structured learning from my life.
What do you like most about what you do and are there any downsides? My favourite feeling at work is the satisfaction of winning a new client. Tendering for new business is a time consuming process for the entire team, whether we win it or not, so adding a new customer to the list just shows our efforts meant something.
We go through very large peaks and troughs of business so the year can be a bit of a rollercoaster. However, there’s nothing like job security when you’re rushed off your feet.
What skills do you need in order to succeed at what you do? These are probably what any employer would expect but you need to be a people person as you do get an alarming number of queries of a similar nature so it’s important not to get worn down by this. Analytical skills are a must too as a big part of the job will be pondering over information looking for the appropriate solution. Over all this it is important to be flexible in your though process as it makes your analysis more pertinent.
What tips would you give other graduates wishing to come into the sector?
I’d probably thank them for not writing it off as boring because it isn’t! Most importantly I would say you should research not just the companies you are thinking of applying to but also the individual programmes themselves. Some insurers offer role specific programmes whilst others are more rotational: make sure you are applying for something you actually want to do. After this stage it is best to demonstrate that you have an ability to learn. Very few graduates leave university ready for one job, but rather the ability to learn a job. It’s your responsibility to prove that you can do this.
What advice would you give them? Don’t feel disheartened through the application process. Lots of people are fighting for very limited roles. My intake at Zurich was for about 16 people and only two were taken into underwriting. I didn’t think I’d get a place but it was my first choice and I think that must have come through in the interviews. However, the industry is increasingly hungry for young blood so intakes are going up. Shop around, and keep applying.