College Students to Participate in 2013 PLRB Claims Conference

March 17, 2013

The next generation of potential insurance professionals will be represented at the 2013 PLRB/LIRB Claims Conference held in Boston, March 17-20.

A select group of 26 students from seven universities will hear the keynote speech, attend educational sessions, peruse the Insurance Services Expo, and network with insurance veterans at lunches, coffee breaks and receptions. They’ll be accompanied by five university faculty members.

The students will be at the claims conference at the invitation of the “Insurance Career Development Program.” The program is a collaborative effort between PLRB/LIRB and several member insurance companies and universities.

“Our purpose is to help member companies attract more quality prospective claim professionals and to introduce the next generation to the world of insurance and insurance claims opportunities,” said Scott Powell, vice president of Educational and Technical Service at PLRB.

Amica Mutual Insurance Company initiated the program, sponsoring students from Florida State University, the University of South Carolina and the University of Southern Maine.

Liberty Mutual Insurance Company is sponsoring students from Appalachian State University, Illinois State University and the University of Georgia.

United Fire Group is sponsoring students from the University of Iowa.

The program started when insurance claims executives gathered to plan a presentation about the insurance industry. “We noticed that there are a lot of experienced people involved,” said Jeff Gagnon, director of training and development at Amica Mutual Insurance. That level of experience is reflected in both those in attendance at PLRB’s annual Claims Conference and in the industry at large.

To attract students to the insurance industry, Gagnon said the group developed a strategy and defined its goals.

“We really need to brand ourselves as a great place to launch a career,” he said.

What better way, the group reasoned, than to invite students to the PLRB/LIRB Claims Conference, where insurance professionals learn about and discuss the issues most vital to the industry.

Gagnon said the conference gives students a truer picture of what an insurance career could be like – a picture much clearer than the image they may have formed via popular culture.

“When you see or hear anything about the insurance industry in the newspapers, it’s not very positive. That picture that they see isn’t what the industry is all about,” Gagnon said.

Gagnon said Amica was involved with the Insurance Career Development Program from its inception.

“I’ve done this with different schools for five or six years now,” he said, adding that as interest grew, the decision was made to roll it out with more schools and more PLRB member insurance companies.

Florida State University Professor Cassandra Cole will serve as advisor to the five FSU students who are accompanying her to the conference under Amica’s aegis. All five are undergraduate risk management and insurance majors in FSU’s College of Business, she said.

Cole first attended the PLRB Claims Conference with a group of students in 2007 when it was held in Orlando, a meeting site the Conference revisited in 2010.

“I was really happy to see how excited they were to be there and how much they got out of the educational sessions,” she said.

Cole noted that FSU has one of the oldest risk management and insurance curriculum in the country, dating back to the 1940s. The university also offers advanced degrees in these areas. Currently, there are more than 100 students in the undergraduate program, 50 masters students, and four students working towards a doctorate.

The conference helps put classroom training into context, observed Cole. It provides students with a different perspective than what they are exposed to in the classroom, she said. It gives them a look at how veteran professionals view the insurance field and its challenges, and it gives them a chance to get acquainted with other students they may very well be doing business with in just a few years.

“For students, it’s a really great opportunity to attend this type of conference. It’s a good networking opportunity,” she added.

The conference is hosted each spring by the Property Loss Research Bureau, an association of about 900 property and casualty insurance companies. The PLRB is located in Downers Grove, Illinois.


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