When Sumita Nayee first decided to study Criminology at the University of Toronto, she had a specific goal in mind.
“My intention at the time was to pursue an Honors Bachelor of Arts in Criminology and pursue law,” she said. “I wanted to become a lawyer!”
Despite enjoying her studies and successfully completing her degree however, her plan to become a lawyer hit a huge snag.
“I wanted to go to law school in the United Kingdom because that’s where law started,” she said. “It’s the grassroots of law.” But at the time, it was made very clear by her professors that if she wanted to study law abroad, she’d have to re-take her law degree in Canada.
“That for me was a huge deterrent because I wanted to practice law in Canada,” said Sumita, “But I still wanted to study law in England.”
So she decided to take a different approach to applying her passion for the legal system – Insurance. While working at CIBC, she heard about the Special Investigations department, where Insurance professionals used their knowledge of the law as well as investigation skills to find the best way to assist their clients.
It was important for her though, to develop a strong foundation in Insurance before moving forward. “When people start their career, they want to be the CEO yesterday,” she said. “I knew I needed to start at the bottom – in Sales, to understand the product.”
Once she joined the Sales team, she began exploring how to get into the Special Investigations department via independent research and sparking conversations with people who knew about it. “I found out that you needed practical experience in investigations,” she said, on the requirements for being a part of the Special Investigations team. “So the place that made most sense to start was the Claims department – that for me was very exciting.”
From the Claims department, Sumita then went to the Casualty department where she was further able to use her understanding of the law and deviant behavior drawn from her studies in Criminology to support her clients.
“You can do investigations yourself, interview people, participate in mediation, review medical reports and sometimes go into trial,” she said. “You’re trying to understand the profile of the people who are suing you.”
For example, imagine being the purchaser of an auto-insurance policy.
“If I purchase insurance and hit someone in the rear bumper of their car, they can sue me and the Insurance company will defend me as long as there are no coverage issues.”
A big part of why she loves working in Casualty, is the opportunity to interact with and build relationships with a wide variety of different parties. “The person who has a policy with you, the person who sees them responsible for the accident – you have to find out what injuries they sustained and determine their entitlement under the policy,” she said. “Then you have to talk to the plaintiff lawyers they’ve retained and your defence lawyer on how to handle a specific claim.”
To successfully complete a case thus requires her to coordinate and oversee an extensive, multidisciplinary team effort. “When you go to trial, you’ll need to know how to communicate with a judge as well as the senior Insurance manager at your company because you’ll need to discuss how much money you’ll need to settle a claim,” said Sumita. “It’s all about building different types of relationships and knowing how to talk to people.”
After 18 years of being in Insurance, she’s happy to have found the Casualty department, where she is now a Team Manager. “As a manager, what I love about my role is that I get the opportunity to share my knowledge and technical experience with my employees,” she said. “I love the subject matter and it’s known by new hires during training as I can share all kinds of stories of the claims I’ve worked on.” She also adds that it’s the perfect way of endorsing her department. “When you love your work, people can see it,” she said. “It comes naturally because you love it.”
For students and new grads thinking about their career, Sumita says it’s important to slow down and take your time to get to where you want. “My advice on seeking a career in whichever field is to always be patient with your progression in the industry you have chosen to be in,” she said. “Sometimes, you have to start at the bottom to reach the top.”
If you’re wondering whether Insurance is the right place to be, take it from a professional who’s been there for nearly two decades. “It’s such a rewarding career because the business of Insurance is always changing,” she said. “You’ll never be bored in Insurance because there are so many different interactions and situations you’ll be exposed to.” Looking back on her journey from being a Criminology student to a successful Insurance professional, Sumita knows Insurance is an industry that will absolutely give back what you put in.
“At the end of the day, your career in Insurance will be whatever you make it to be.”