What's it really like?
Account Executive Clare Skirrow (23) became an Account Executive after completing a 2 year graduate training scheme with a major insurance broker. She tells us more about what it's really like...
How did you become an Account Executive?
After I left University I joined an Executive Management Training programme. I spent two years rotating through departments including Estates and Private Client Insurance, Professional Indemnity Insurance and Reinsurance.
My time in the Estates and Private Client Insurance department involved working with individual clients who required insurance policies to cover valuable personal possessions including jewellery and art. Professional Indemnity Insurance was focused on providing insurance for those who provide professional advice, including solicitors and doctors, while Reinsurance involved organising insurance for insurance companies.
It was great to get a taste of what working in different types of insurance entails.
After I had completed the Executive Management Training Programme I progressed to a permanent position as an Account Executive for the same company.
Would you recommend a graduate training scheme to others?
Graduate training schemes allow you to enter a company at a more senior level, and the increased respect that comes with making it onto a graduate programme is helpful when you're starting out. However, I don't think you really need to apply for a graduate training scheme to get into this line of work. Lots of people begin with entry level positions, learn on the job and gradually work their way up.
What do you like and dislike about the job?
If you're a sociable person, the job offers lots of opportunities to meet other people. I also like the fact that I don't have to spend the whole of the working day at my own desk. I usually need to go out a couple of times during the day, often to meet with underwriters, which makes my work much more interesting.
On the downside, there are times when the work can become a bit repetitive. I often have to have the same conversation several times with different people, which can become a bit tedious.
Insurance Brokers, also known as Insurance Account Executives, work with insurance providers to negotiate policies on behalf of their clients.
As an Account Executive you are likely to spend much of your time consulting with clients about their insurance needs. Once you have a good understanding of the requirements of your client, you will need to consult a number of insurance providers to ascertain whether or not they would be interested in providing a policy.
Your discussions with insurance providers are likely to involve negotiations regarding the price of the policy as well as its terms and conditions.
Whilst a lot of conversations can be conducted over the phone, you may also be required to meet with clients or insurance providers personally. Many of your meetings are likely to be with insurance underwriters (whose role involves the assessment of the risks associated with offering insurance cover) as the terms and conditions of policies are generally based on their assessments.
It is also likely that your employer will expect you to attend networking events in order to build relationships which may help to secure future business. In order to get the most out of these events, it is important that you are comfortable in social situations and able to make a good first impression.
An entry level Account Executive can expect to earn up to around £22,000 a year. Those who enter through a graduate training scheme are likely to earn more – usually around £30,000.
Your salary is likely to increase as you move on to more senior positions, and experienced insurance brokers may earn as much as £100,000.
Your responsibilities will differ depending upon the type of insurance you are involved in. Your responsibilities are likely to include:
- Talking to clients to gain an understanding of their insurance needs
- Talking to insurers to negotiate the price and terms and conditions of insurance for each client
- Forming and maintaining business relationships in order to secure new clients
- Attending networking events
- Maintaining existing policies on behalf of clients
University graduates may be interested in applying for a graduate training scheme. Graduate trainees enter at a more senior level and are usually offered a permanent job at the end of their training programme.
Be warned, however, that this route is generally extremely competitive, and the interviewing process is often extensive. You may be asked to attend several interviews in addition to group assessments. You will need a good degree and excellent interview skills.
Bear in mind, however, that while graduate training schemes are an excellent way to enter the insurance business a little higher up the ladder, many people find success by taking an entry level position and working their way up after proving their commitment and skill.
Employers will usually expect a good standard of education. Reasonably good GCSE results (including A-C grades in English and Maths) and A-Levels are often prerequisites. Recruitment agencies are a good place to begin looking for work.
Employers may also encourage (or demand) that employees study for additional qualifications. This is particularly common on graduate training schemes. Often, these qualifications will be from the Chartered Insurance Institute (CII).
Entry level insurance brokers can progress from the CII Certificate in Insurance, to the CII Diploma in Insurance. Those who wish to acquire Chartered Insurance Broker status must also complete the CII Advanced Diploma in Insurance, which also requires 5 years of experience as an insurance broker.
More information about these qualifications and the role of the Chartered Insurance Institute can be found on the CII website.
- Ability to work well as a member of a team
- Excellent communication skills
- Ability to handle social situations with ease
- Excellent telephone manner
- Ability to think analytically
- Ability to consolidate and summarise information
- Confident demeanour
- Good time management skills
- Able to make a good first impression
Insurance Account Executives can expect a typical working week: most will be asked to work Monday to Friday from 9-5.30. Much of your time will be spent in the office, but it is likely you will also leave the office to attend meetings with clients or insurance underwriters.
If you are seeking an entry level position in insurance or a place on a graduate training scheme, you will not necessarily require insurance related experience. Many employers offer on the job training and provide opportunities to study for qualifications.
If you have not worked in insurance before, it is a good idea to think of examples of times during which you have demonstrated the necessary skills for the job. Employers will expect to see evidence that you will be able to communicate well with clients and will have the confidence to negotiate a good deal on their behalf with insurance providers.
- Large Companies – the websites of individual companies are the best places to find information about vacancies and graduate training schemes.
- Small, independent brokers – vacancies will usually be advertised in the local press. You may also be able to find work through recruitment agencies.
As Account Executives gain experience, and possibly CII qualifications, they may become eligible for more senior positions and management roles. You may also choose to specialise in a particular type of insurance.
There is also the possibility of moving into other areas of insurance work, including underwriting. Insurance underwriters often specialise in a particular area of insurance and focus on analysing the risks associated with providing particular insurance policies. They are often involved in determining the cost of policies, as well as the terms and conditions.
Another possibility is Account Management, which is more oriented towards sales. In this line of work, you would spend much of your time lobbying insurance brokers to opt for your company's policy on behalf of their client.