Risk and Insurance July 19, 2012Posted by Jeff Riley in : Political risk, insurance , 1 comment so far
*** Update 22 March 2013 *** RSA Internship Applications closed on 15 March – watch out for next year’s programme ***
em>The summer of 2009 was not a great time to be trying to get an internship in the City of London. The financial crisis was swamping the banks and many banking professionals were switching over to other parts of the financial services sector. At that time Jakub Chalupczak was a second year statistics student at UCL, looking for an internship to boost his chances of getting on to a reputable graduate training scheme.
Jakub now works at RSA Insurance Group, one of the world’s leading multinational quoted insurance groups, as a Graduate Underwriter. We talked to him at RSA’s office on Leadenhall Street in the City of London about how the crisis led him in an unexpected direction, his current role and how he got there.
What led you to consider an insurance career?
The financial services crisis of 2009 meant it was a difficult time to be looking for an internship, but using the UCL JobOnline resource I found a summer job with an insurance broker. I had never considered an insurance career before but was attracted to this role as it carried great level of responsibility and was located in the City of London, the largest insurance market in the world.
This turned out to be a great experience and made me consider insurance as a long-term career. Towards the end of my internship I asked a senior colleague in the brokerage firm for advice on reputable graduate schemes within the industry and he recommended the RSA graduate scheme – which I went on to research and apply for. And that’s how I ended up here!
What is it about the sector that engaged you?
I love the fact that no two days are ever the same. There’s lots of variety, with different insurance propositions coming in from places, and each representing a new challenge. To find an insurance solution to these challenges, I have to use my intelligence –analytical and numerical skills are absolutely key to what I do.
The job also involves meeting lots of different types of people – one day you might be out of the office meeting brokers, for example, while another you could be presenting to senior people within the business.
So what is it you do exactly?
RSA is a general insurer and the team I work in handles commercial property insurance – hotels, shops, restaurants, offices, that kind of thing. Each morning, I get contacted by insurance brokers who are working on behalf of commercial property owners who have property that requires insurance. This could be anything from a hotel in Turkey to a windfarm or a factory somewhere. To calculate the insurance solution, though, we have to know a lot about the proposition and take into account any risk factors around it – this includes lots of factors such as the potential for burglary, outbreak of war or how many other insured properties we have in that area. To work out whether we should offer insurance and at what price involves analytical work – looking at the past history of certain types of property, the crime rate in any city or part of a city, the risk of incidences like earthquakes and, of course, the condition of the property. It is my responsibility to work through these issues and get us to a solution and, since graduating, I have been taking professional insurance exams on the job which help me with this.
What was the recruitment process for RSA like?
Fairly quick – from start to finish, it took around a month. Like many graduate programmes, it involved completing an initial application form, a range of verbal and numerical online tests and role plays and interviews at an assessment centre day.
Was it tough?
I was really well prepared, so it wasn’t as tough as it might have been. It did show me how tough competitive the jobs market is, though; one guy had already made a lot of money through running an online gambling site, and another had heaps of experience with a consultancy before deciding to retrain. Frankly if I hadn’t taken the whole job search seriously I wouldn’t have stood a chance.
What did you do to prepare?
My internship experience was invaluable as it gave me something really tangible to draw upon in my interviews. In addition to my degree and the extracurricular stuff I’d been doing – such as ‘life saving’, which taught me to be calm in a crisis – I had lots of real life examples and experiences to talk about and which I’m sure helped set me apart from the competition . I also used the careers service a lot – for practice interviews, CV checking, job search and I got a lot from a Focus on Management course I completed at University.
Employers sometimes say university doesn’t prepare you for the world of work. What’s your take on that?
The course I did was crucial to the job I do now, so I’d disagree with that. It gave me the economic grounding I needed, taught me how to solve problems logically and also gave me the tools I need to work as part of a team as well as on my own initiative – which is an important skill you can take to any job.
Finally, Jakub, what are your top tips for current students?
• Do consider insurance. It’s a great ‘City’ career, with opportunities to work with people across different parts of the business. There are also chances to travel; I’ve already been to Belgium and the Netherlands and once my training programme is completed I could potentially spend more time overseas.
• Prepare. Research the company, the role, take advantage of the careers service at university and practice your interview techniques with friends or family. Keep up-to-date on what is happening in the profession by reading the news every day – especially the business pages of the national newspapers and the financial news pages.
• Look critically at your CV. Make sure you have a good breadth of experience – internships, part time jobs, extracurricular activities – which will give you lots of experience to talk about at interviews.
With a 300 year heritage, RSA is one of the world’s leading multinational quoted insurance groups. RSA has major operations in the UK, Scandinavia, Canada, Ireland, Asia and the Middle East, Latin America and Central and Eastern Europe and writes business in around 140 countries. RSA employs around 23,000 people and offers internships as well as an annual graduate trainee scheme. More details can be found at: www.rsagroup.com/rsagroup/en/careers