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The insurance industry comprises companies and people who develop insurance policies, and sell, administrate, and regulate them. Some insurance companies offer investment products and employ people who develop, sell, administrate, or service these products. Insurance is about managing risk, for both the insurance company and its customers. The company must make sure it collects enough money in premiums to offset customers’ claims while still maintaining a profit. Customers use insurance to minimize risk to their finances in the case of lost or damaged property, lawsuits, illness or accident, business interruption, or premature death.
Today, there are few items of value that can’t be insured. The most common insurance polices are business insurance, car/vehicle insurance, health insurance, home/rental insurance, life insurance, and other property/casualty insurance policies. Some celebrities have insured their body parts or musical instruments. For example, Keith Richards, guitarist with the Rolling Stones, insured his fingers. If his fingers were to be injured to the point that he could never play the guitar again, he would file a claim with his insurance company, in this case, Lloyd’s of London, to receive a check equal in value to that placed on his fingers.
Insurance companies identify a need, for example, the need for car insurance. They conduct research to identify car insurance policies that would be beneficial to customers, and the risk that customers will file claims. Of course, several additional factors play into the calculations, but after these have been taken into account, the policy is developed, along with its pricing plan.
Insurance is sold in four primary ways, whether to individuals or businesses.
For individuals, families, and small businesses, insurance is sold either through captive or exclusive agents, or through independent agents. Captive or exclusive agents sell only one company's products, e.g., they are captive or exclusive to that company. They look for customers who want their company's products. Independent agents represent a number of different companies; they look for customers who want the products offered by their partner companies. Independent insurance agents form relationships with several insurance companies so that they can shop for the best policies that meet their clients’ budgets instead of offering only one policy from one company. Both types of agents earn commission from the company whose product they sell.
Brokers serve large, complex businesses and group life/health accounts. These individuals represent their business clients to insurance companies rather than the other way around. They receive commissions from the companies but they can also receive retainers or consulting fees from their clients for related services such as loss control.
In the fourth sales model, the insurance company markets its products directly to the public with sales made over the Internet or the phone. In this model, no commissions are paid although the customer representative on the phone must still be licensed to bind the coverage. The money spent on agent commissions by other companies is spent on direct marketing activities such as mailings, advertising, etc.
Once a policy is sold and in place, the companies’ in-house claims adjusters and departments handle claims when customers experience a loss.
There are major changes on the horizon due to government regulation that will dramatically impact insurance companies, such as the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act, especially because the insurance industry plays an important role in the U.S. economy. According to the Insurance Information Institute, an organization that provides insurance information to the public, there were nearly 2.4 million jobs in the U.S. insurance industry in 2013. Worldwide, insurance is a $4.34 trillion industry, and major insurance agencies, companies, and employees are located in nearly every city in every state. Insurance companies give a lot of business to companies that supply general office supplies, computers, other electronics, and business services. Customers rely on their insurance companies to pay their claims.
Although there are many types of insurance, and new insurance products are entering the market, the majority of products fall into three primary categories:
It takes many kinds of workers to keep the insurance industry operating. In addition to jobs found in most industries, such as accountants, attorneys, and human resource, information technology, and marketing professionals, there are several positions unique to the insurance industry. Most jobs involve assessing risk (actuaries), developing products and plans (underwriters), selling the plans (sales agents and brokers), administering the plans, and examining and adjudicating claims (claims adjusters, investigators, examiners). In the health insurance industry, there are even more unique jobs. Health-care professionals help companies develop policies, plans, and procedures. They also help examine insurance claims and act as consultants.
Increasing jury awards in areas such as product liability and medical malpractice combined with changing economic conditions and widely varying weather patterns make it challenging for insurance companies to operate profitably. Additionally, consumers tired of rising medical costs and associated raises in insurance premiums are looking to the industry for competitively priced solutions. Insurance companies are ripe for top talent that can help companies compete in these challenging times.
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