By Russell J. Duffy, Area Vice President, RPS Continental
Each spring, the AAMGA Education Foundation issues the call to Risk Management and Insurance programs around the country for individuals to submit White Papers on issues impacting the industry. Of the entries received, two are selected as winners based on soundness of knowledge, usefulness to the Wholesale Industry, innovation and creativity. Winners receive a monetary award as well as an invitation to the AAMGA Annual Convention.
One of this year's winners, Kyle Guestin from Utica College, attended the AAMGA Annual meeting in San Antonio with Professor Dr. Pamela Hurley, his college advisor. Kyle was allowed to shadow Rosemarie Marshall from AmWINS Brokerage of TX, as she conducted her scheduled company meetings. During a meeting with the Burlington Insurance Group, a connection was made resulting in Kyle earning a job interview and, subsequently, receiving an offer of employment from the Guilford Group, a sister company of the Burlington Insurance Group.
This is a success story which we felt needed more of a spotlight! We spoke recently with Kyle on subjects ranging from his background, how he chose Risk Management as a major, and how his research work "Risk Transfer Techniques for the American Wheat Farmer" ultimately led to his employment in the Wholesale Insurance industry. Here's Kyle's story:
Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where were you born? What are you hobbies? Where did you go to high school?
Kyle: I was born and raised in Kingsburg, CA, which is about 20 miles outside of Fresno, CA. Kingsburg is a small farming community, with a population around 10,000. I graduated from Kingsburg High School, which is the only high school in our small town. I enjoy fishing and playing ice hockey. I started playing ice hockey when I was eight years old, and have been playing ever since.
Why did you decide to attend Utica College? It's a long way from Kingsburg, CA.
Kyle: After I graduated high school, it was a dream of mine to play Division I college hockey. Ice hockey is not a real popular sport in California, and there are no NCAA teams. I decided my best chance to play at the NCAA level was to put college on hold, and play junior hockey in Canada. Junior hockey is a developmental league for hockey players under 21. I ended up playing in Arborfield, Saskatchewan. I decided on Utica College because my brother and a friend from Fresno were already playing there, and Utica gave me the opportunity to pursue my interest in Risk Management & Insurance.
Why did you select Risk Management as a major?
Kyle: I selected Risk Management & Insurance because it seemed very interesting. The purpose of this major is to understand how the industry helps protect the financial wellbeing of individuals and businesses. Amid all the economic turmoil in 2008 it seemed like a good field in which to get involved. In addition, my father is employed in the crop insurance industry by NAU Country Insurance Company, which drove me to gain more knowledge of the industry.
Now that you've finished the journey on your Risk Management & Insurance major, in retrospect what do you value the most about this major?
Kyle: What I value most about the major is the opportunities it has presented me for building new relationships and networking in the industry. This past year, I attended the AAMGA Annual Meeting and the RIMS Annual Conference. I will also attend my first CPCU Annual Convention this October in Washington, DC. These conferences have given me the opportunity to connect with a variety of professionals in different segments of the industry.
How did you decide upon the White Paper topic of "Risk Transfer Techniques for the American Wheat Farmer"? Do you have a particular background with agriculture and farming which lead to this interest?
Kyle: I grew up on a 20 acre farm, where my father used to grow raisin grapes, and peaches and nectarines. The inspiration for the White Paper came from my time in Saskatchewan, which is a large producer of cereal crops like wheat. When I was in Saskatchewan, I talked with many of the local farmers, and heard about the risks they faced from adverse weather and fluctuating prices. When I made my decision to explore risk management, I always knew I wanted to conduct research on this topic.
Can you describe the role of your college advisor, Dr. Pamela Hurley, and how she contributed to the success of the White Paper? What was the single most important lesson you learned from Prof. Hurley?
Kyle: Dr. Hurley played an enormous role in the success of the White Paper. She was employed by a hedge fund before joining Utica College as a professor, and has an impressive understanding of the derivative markets. Dr. Hurley guided my research to make sure all of the derivative information was technically sound and accurate, and helped me understand how the derivative markets operate. The most important lesson I learned from Dr. Hurley is to think "outside the box." She has taught me to look for ways to discover innovative solutions for all kinds of risk.
Had you ever heard of the AAMGA or the E&S Marketplace before your participation in the White Paper competition?
Kyle: I had never heard of AAMGA before. I had only heard of the E&S market briefly in our property casualty class.
What were your expectations for the 2012 AAMGA Annual Meeting, and how did the actual convention match up against those expectations? What was the biggest surprise?
Kyle: I didn't know what to expect. I had no clear idea what the E&S market entailed. I figured I would go and learn a few things, accept my award, and return home a little better educated about one aspect of the insurance industry. The Annual Meeting was a lot more in depth than I anticipated. I learned more about the E&S market in three fast-moving days than I ever expected. The biggest surprise was how nice and helpful everyone was. Brand new acquaintances would patiently answer any question I had, and made sure I had a proper understanding of what was being discussed. I was impressed with the professionalism of the folks I met, and how the participants treated each other with such respect - whether they were old friends, competitors, or new faces on the scene like me.
What was it like to "shadow" Rosemarie Marshall, AmWINS Brokerage of TX at the Annual Meeting? What was your most memorable "moment" while shadowing Rosemarie?
Kyle: I really enjoyed shadowing Rosemarie Marshall. She was extremely knowledgeable across a range of different issues. She made sure to inform me what each meeting was going to entail, and answered any question I had. I could tell she is well respected among the members of AAMGA. My most memorable "moment" while shadowing Rosemarie was when she got a unique application from one of her producer's. It seemed like a very unusual business, and that it would be a challenge to underwrite. It was after this experience that I decided the E&S industry would be a very appealing career choice.
What was the job searching climate like before the AAMGA Annual Meeting - any prospects?
Kyle: Before the AAMGA Annual Meeting, I was having a difficult time finding a career opportunity. I remember getting frustrated with the number of resumes I had sent. I had talked with a few companies, but most of the companies wanted years of experience. I had a few possibilities back in California, but nothing I was really eager to pursue.
Please explain how you made the connection with Burlington Insurance Company, and describe what the interview process was like.
Kyle: I made the connection with BIG when I was shadowing Rosemarie Marshall. Rosemarie had a meeting with Dan Dorfman, of BIG. During the meeting, Dan mentioned the University of IFG Companies, and said if I was interested he would forward my resume. The University of IFG Companies was exactly the opportunity for which I was searching. The interview process was an enjoyable, educational experience. I interviewed with the President, the Chief Underwriting Officer, a Regional Director, and one of Human Resources managers. The interviews were thorough and fair. I managed to field some tough questions, but mostly the mood was professional and reasonably relaxed. After the interviews, I accompanied the current University students to a Toastmasters class. After the class, we went to lunch and discussed how much they enjoyed the University experience.
If you had one piece of advice to offer to a college senior with a major in Risk Management & Insurance, in regard to navigating the job search process, what would it be?
Kyle: The one piece of advice I would offer would be to take advantage of every opportunity you can. I believe networking is very important, and you need to try and meet as many people as possible. You never know what opportunity will arise out of it. I was lucky enough to attend a number of different conferences, and just about everyone in the insurance industry was more than willing to help you. Many recalled being in the exact same spot I was in at the beginning of their career, and shared how someone came along and made them feel welcome, too.
Finally, can you sum up how your involvement with the AAMGA has affected your personal growth and career development?
Kyle: AAMGA has given me the opportunity to communicate with individuals in the profession to gain an understanding of the industry. I was able to meet Mr. Dorfman, and get my foot in the door with the IFG Companies. As a result of the connections I made, and the attractiveness of the E&S industry, I took the opportunity as far as I could. I am certainly very pleased with the career opportunity which was born out of the AAMGA experience. I hope to make the most of it at the IFG Companies.