Sometimes, certain events can completely alter someone’s career path. For Drew Collins, it was a series of simple dinner conversations.
Like many post-secondary students starting out in their studies, Collins was at a point in his life where he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do. He started with a dual degree in civil engineering and economics, but after three years, realized he wasn’t enjoying civil engineering and switched to studying economics full-time.
Then, over the course of several dinners at a friend’s house, his friend’s mother, an executive in the insurance industry, exposed Collins to the world of insurance. Through her, he learned how insurance works and the opportunities available for people entering that career path.
But one conversation particularly struck a chord with him. He told his friend’s mother he was leaning towards a career in finance. He told her, “Finance is the engine that drives the economy.”
She countered with a car analogy of her own and said, “If finance is the engine that drives the economy, insurance is the steering wheel that helps guide that investment and the frame that protects it.”
It was those words that hooked Collins to the insurance industry. “It made me understand the role that insurance plays in the greater economy, that investment in finance is important, but without the backdrop of insurance, that investment can’t be made,” he said.
Collins, now a financial advisor for an insurance company, has been working in the industry for almost nine years. He started in insurance within a few months of graduating from university
Collins’ first insurance position was a casualty underwriting trainee. From there, he quickly moved up, snagging a casualty underwriter position, and then a senior underwriting role. He changed companies and became a senior underwriter and then a manager of the business production underwriting team. His impressive career trajectory continued as he moved into an executive role where he was the vice-president for casualty and professional liability before taking on his current role...
“I moved from a trainee position to an executive position within probably six years,” he said.
Collins says his educational background helped him in his career as economics is about seeing the economy as a whole.
“Insurance really has a lot to do with seeing the big picture for clients, helping them understand not just risks that are right in front of them but some of those more esoteric risks that aren’t there day to day,” he said.
You’re able to help clients understand the risks and the economic impact of those risks. And it also helps to have an understanding of finance to back up an assessment with numbers, he said.
Collins’ career journey has been impressive, but he says it is not unique. “I certainly know of a lot of other young people in insurance who have had pretty steep career trajectories,” he said.
He said moving up within insurance is possible if you put in the time, hours, and energy, in addition to having some good luck along the way. As baby boomers approach the age of retirement, there may be a management gap and companies will need people to come into the industry and start filling in those roles, Collins said.
“I think it’s a fantastic place for young people to start a career.”
Collins believes there is an abundance of career opportunities for economics and business graduates in insurance. He says the skills someone would learn or pick up in the pursuit of those degrees are transferable.
“I think there’s great potential for people coming out of an economics degree to flourish in the insurance industry and I think employers look pretty favourably upon that educational background when they’re hiring,” Collins said.
He says anyone looking to pursue a career in insurance should be proactive.
Collins spent the first seven years of his career in Ontario, but he wanted to do something different. He knew he wanted to work with his current company and be a financial advisor so he reached out to the people in charge of a specific region in Manitoba, and it was that email that enabled him to network to where he is today.
“[Students should] develop an understanding of what you want, and more important, why you want it, and then figure out how you can communicate that in a way that others will understand,” he said.
At one point, Collins didn’t know what he wanted to do, but thanks to that one fateful talk, he started to look at the insurance industry from a different perspective, one that pushed him to explore the industry and be open to possibilities.
“There’s not a day that goes by that I’m not grateful that I’ve had those conversations with my friend’s mom that led me down this career path,” he said.
If you would like to learn more about the insurance industry and how you can apply your education and skills in the industry, check out Career Connections!