Alberta Arts Grad Loves Her Career In Insurance Underwriting

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After graduating from the University of Alberta with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 2009, Halie Buac discovered insurance underwriting and the rest, they say, is history.

Four years later, she is excelling as a Junior Commercial Property Underwriter at one of Canada’s largest insurance companies in Edmonton.

Commercial property underwriting is the process of evaluating the risks of insuring a business against fire, theft or other exposures and then pricing an insurance policy based on the circumstantial risk.

On an average day, Halie processes cancellations, revises current policies and reviews submissions from Brokers on an array of commercial properties for clients in a variety of industries.

“That’s probably one of the best parts of my job,” says Halie, who started her career in insurance at a much smaller insurance company before joining her current employer one year ago. “We get to learn a lot of different things and become sort-of experts on many different subjects.”

In 2011, Halie completed MacEwan University’s 13-month Insurance and Risk Management diploma program. The courses, which range from general business to industry-specific, gave her a solid foundation in insurance theory, made her more marketable to recruiters and confirmed her interest in underwriting.

Completing the full-time accelerated program was “the best thing I could have done,” she says. “I wouldn’t be able to be excel in my current role or be a leader on my team without those courses.”

Located in in Edmonton, MacEwan offers one of eight university and college programs in Canada where students earn a diploma and credits that can be applied towards their Chartered Insurance Professional (CIP) designation.

The 10-course CIP program, which is administered by the Insurance Institute of Canada, is one of many insurance designations and certifications. Halie completed her designation last year and plans to pursue a Fellow Chartered Insurance Professional (FCIP) designation, which prepares insurance professionals for management positions.

While neither the diploma program nor the designations are requirements to be an Underwriter, many employers prefer to hire candidates with credentials.

“Insurance a great industry because there are many opportunities to grow,” Halie says. “There’s an overwhelming need to get knowledgeable people into roles quickly.”

Her commitment to learning is an aspect—in addition to productivity, teamwork skills and how employees represent the company—assessed by management during performance reviews. Her employer is looking for people who are great to work with and who are great at their work, she says. “My manager will say to me ‘What’s your next plan?’”

For now, Halie enjoys her work but is also open to change. “There’s a lot of movement in insurance,” she says. “I can specialize in underwriting, move into management or completely change departments.”

In addition to continuous training, Halie says that people with a positive attitude, a keen attention to detail, and an ability to work both independently and as a member of a team can excel as an insurance Underwriter.

“Every day that you come to work, people are watching and engaging with you,” she explains. “How you present yourself can really determine how far you’re going to go in this industry.”

Perhaps the greatest benefit to working in insurance? The information Halie learned during her time at MacEwan, her designation training and her on-the-job experience is applicable to her own life. And it’s applicable to yours too.

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