Stony Brook University faculty members Michael Nugent and Danielle McHeffey are sending a message loud and clear to students: risk management and insurance is a field with unlimited promise and wide appeal.
As baby boomers age out of the workplace, the insurance field has become a hot commodity, with positions opening up at all levels, from executive to entry-level posts.
Nugent, a senior lecturer of finance, and McHeffey, an adjunct faculty member also teaching finance, alternated teaching courses on the subject at the College of Business the past two semesters. The two are looking to expand the curriculum with additional course offerings in the future.
McHeffey said that managers of large commercial insurance agencies in the New York area consistently struggle to find new talent to hire and train for the commercial insurance world. Fortunately, the Insurance Agents and Brokers Foundation approached McHeffey to help put a course and curriculum together, and she realized it would be the perfect vehicle to introduce students to an expanding industry.
“It is about getting younger people, still in college, to consider a career in insurance, which touches every area of our lives and businesses,” she said. “We really need to open peoples’ eyes to what jobs are available and how they may fit into one of these career paths.”
Degrees in finance, human resources, business communications, marketing, psychology, math, accounting and others all have a place in this field, she said, adding that insurance jobs usually pay higher than other industries.
Nugent added that another draw is the global economy requires sophisticated skills to monitor risk, especially in the wake of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, a law passed in 2002 that helps protect investors from fraudulent financial reporting by corporations.
Stony Brook’s proximity to New York City is also ideal. “New York City is the epicenter of the risk management and insurance industry, and ranks high nationwide for those professionals,” Nugent said.
To give students a taste of real-world experience, McHeffey brought speakers into the classes to lend their expertise.
Jiyun Yuh, senior vice president and director of risk management at Epic Brokers, defined risk management and spoke about careers in risk management and claims. Tim Dodge, assistant vice president of research and information at Big I New York, discussed current events in insurance and current legislative issues. Joe Laimo, second vice president with Travelers, focused on insurance carrier operations as well as outlined careers and internships.
Business management major Julie Eng ’21, sensing a burgeoning interest in this field, launched the Risk Management and Insurance Club — with inspiration and guidance from Nugent.
During the past year, Nugent had floated the idea of starting a club on risk management and insurance after announcing plans to start teaching a new class on the subject.
“Risk management is something that has interested me since I took a class in investment analysis. But because Stony Brook did not offer any classes or organizations that focused on risk management and insurance, it was difficult to acquire more information about the industry,” Eng said. “I think that it is important for every business student to further understand the realm of risk management. Having the ability to understand and assess risk is something that is crucial to the life of a business.”
An early barometer of its popularity, the club has already attracted 132 members, and not only business majors, but students majoring in math and economics, as well as other areas — and that was before meetings had begun for the spring semester.
Nugent said the club’s purpose is fivefold:
- To promote and attract risk management and insurance professionals to speak and provide employment advice to students;
• To advance the understanding of risk management and insurance through educational presentations during the club meetings;
• To provide a channel for professional networking opportunities for students with risk and insurance practitioners;
• To provide a forum for students to discuss the applications of risk management and insurance;
• To partner with community programs that support risk management and insurance principles.
Nugent said that many students overlook risk management and insurance industry as a career because they don’t like the sound of it.
“It sounds boring; it sounds like you’re going to be knocking on doors,” he said. “However, the industry can provide a meaningful and rewarding career, and the club wants to provide information and opportunities for students to better understand the industry.”
For business major Tony Fu ’22, the club is a great way to network and meet with professionals from the industry. “I look forward to exploring more about these fields, and I’m excited for the events that we will have this semester,” Fu said.
Yaci Chen ’21, a business management/economics major, said the field is all about being able to manage risk, which “gives you the confidence you need in decision making because you are able to evaluate different options.”
Nugent said that one need only look at the stories grabbing headlines to see that risk management and insurance plays a prominent role in all our lives.
“Every day there is a story — large and small — about risk management, from weather debacles, stock market crashes, corporate failures because of falling energy demand, and product pricing tied to international currency fluctuations,” Nugent said. “Every business student needs to understand more about risk management and insurance for career opportunities and personal financial planning.”
— Glenn Jochum