Great Insurance Jobs’ Cofounder Roger Lear is here to help you overcome obstacles to your career and job search. This month, he offers tips on changing careers within the industry.
Q: I have been an underwriter for nine years but want to change to claims. Is this possible?
A: The insurance industry has excellent jobs. Historically though, if you started your career as an underwriter, you would retire in underwriting in some capacity (manager, VP, etc.). If you decide that you want to become a claims professional after years of underwriting, the transition should be seamless, but it isn’t.
Your technical underwriting skills should be a considerable benefit when adjusting claims. The reality, though, is that trying to change job titles in the insurance industry is the same as a TikTok chef running Hell’s Kitchen.
Since you have nine years of experience, you are most likely $10,000-15,000 over the starting salary of an entry-level claims adjuster. This is a real thing since insurance companies have salary grades, and without claims experience, you would have to start at the trainee level. It doesn’t make a lot of sense since you can assess risk as an underwriter.
A claims adjuster with nine years’ experience most likely will have settled into a specialty (GL, workers’ comp, property), handled litigated files, and will have a high level of authority. Being able to settle attorney-represented claims without much supervision is the sweet spot for maximizing your compensation potential as a claims professional. The question is, how fast can you get there if you have to take a step back financially to begin your claims journey? Since you have years of underwriting, you should excel at claims and get up to speed quickly working with claimant attorneys.
Another route to a claims job is to become an independent claims adjuster. There are numerous independent adjusting firms throughout the country, with many offering training. If you go this route, consider that most of these jobs settle auto and homeowner claims directly with the claimants. Once the claims are settled, you get paid. Your income will vary. If you can travel and do CAT duty, you can make well over $100,000 a year. If you work from home, you may find yourself always hustling to get enough claims to make a decent living. Becoming an independent adjuster is almost like running your own business; and just like public speaking, it is not for everyone.
The last option is most likely the best option for transforming from underwriting to claims. Insurance leaders’ number one concern is the retirement of one-third of the workforce in the next couple of years. The steps they will have to take to attract talent are to replace the senior employees they are losing and hire a new breed of claims professionals. Instead of losing talent like you to the competitors, ask the claims director at your company what kind of transition program they have to help move from underwriting to claims without taking a substantial financial hit. Some companies have online training to help you get up to speed in claims months before leaving your underwriting job. Companies will have to be mindful of this and work to retain their current workforce, and they must break “tradition” and take care of their current employees who want to change career paths.
One more thing: Technology is playing a significant role. Artificial intelligence, driverless cars, drones, social media analytics (yes, for claims), and data analytics are where claims careers are going. As companies implement this new technology in the claims process, it is now creating opportunities for you to get these higher-paying jobs. To attract talent to these jobs, they will have to train, and there is no better person out there than an underwriter with insurance experience ready to become a claims professional!