November 20, 2014 by Ronan O'Beirne
Alfred Akindeinde is no stranger to the classroom. He went to school in his native Nigeria to get into insurance and, when he graduated, got his certification in the U.K. When he moved to Canada seven years ago, he had enough education and experience to forego four of the 10 courses he needed to get his CIP designation. He took them anyway.
But his most recent schooling is different. Akindeinde, who works at All-Risks Insurance Brokers in Brampton, Ont., says the Fellow Chartered Insurance Professional program is “unlike everything that I’ve done before. This one is more of a strategic kind of studies, rather than academic.”
That new, strategic direction is earning the Insurance Institute of Canada’s FCIP course high praise from the industry and from students.
The program has been around for a while, but underwent a major facelift four years ago. Peter Hohman, president of the Insurance Institute, says the redesign was meant to “ensure that the industry’s preeminent qualification remained properly positioned to meet the needs of stakeholders and members into the future.”
So the Institute took two years to consult with academics and an advisory panel of industry CEOs, producing an online-only, forward-looking curriculum. In a promotional video, Alain Thibault, formerly of TD Insurance, says, “Organizations, when choosing their future leaders, developing their future leaders… will be looking at people that have broadened their skills, that know how to think critically about issues, that have built a network with other leaders in the industry, that have shown a commitment to their development. And I think the FCIP gives you a pretty good head start.”
The first cohort, which graduated last month, contained a healthy cross-section of the industry: underwriters and claims analysts, men and women, Torontonians and Haligonians, young guns and vets. The program consists of five courses focusing on high-level concepts like strategy and leadership, and a capstone project. The course names might be vague, but students say the knowledge they gain is both theoretical and practical.
“All the [courses] I’ve had before were purely academic stuff, where you talk about management, you talk about each class of insurance and do all the technicalities and all of that,” says Akindeinde. “Well, this one is a completely different program.” A classmate of his, Dean Bouroukis, says the program’s scope has been one of its biggest advantages.
“For me, because I’ve always been on the broking side, I’ve found it beneficial to get insight on the problems or hot topics in everyone’s chosen discipline, so it’s nice. You get a broader view of the whole industry.”
Bouroukis, a senior broker at Aon Benfield, graduated from Wilfred Laurier University in 2008 and has hardly left the classroom (physical or digital) since; in the last six years, he’s taken 19 courses. He says he enrolled in the FCIP program because “There’s going to be opportunities for leadership in the industry, so one of the things I’m trying to do is… gain the knowledge to be able to pick up when a lot of these veterans are leaving.”
The program “is just a way to further develop yourself and prove to those around that you’re interested, and you’re keen on learning and you’re committed to your career.”
That applies just as much to people whose career arc is a bit more predictable. Donald McDermaid, a commercial account manager at Stanhope Simpson in Dartmouth, N.S., is the fourth generation of McDermaids to work in insurance. He started working at Stanhope Simpson, where his father is a vice-president, in 2001. The McDermaids and Stanhopes are already looking at succession, and the son got a taste of continuing education when he detoured out west for a commercial banking job with Scotiabank.
“One of the things you can really see in Scotiabank and in the commercial banking world was there is a lot of emphasis on taking education sort of on a macro level, like an MBA,” he says. He enrolled in an MBA program, but put it on hold when he came back to Stanhope Simpson at around the same time that the new FCIP track was rolling out.
“I was hoping to get some knowledge… with respect to the higher level of things that were going on in the industry that might assist me in becoming a better manager here, or ideally to train me with respect to getting into some type of a leadership role here at this company.” Like Bouroukis, he says that the broad scope has left him with a different outlook on insurance. “Some of the things have certainly made me a better broker, but I would say, overall, they’ve just given me a much better understanding of the industry that we’re all operating in.”
He and Akindeinde have both finished the course work, and are heading into their capstone projects. The project is “the closest thing I’ve seen to a master’s degree out of this type of program,” says McDermaid. As with a thesis, students produce a long
research paper and present it to a panel—the only time they meet face-to-face. “They really want it to be like your thesis, they really want you to have something that’s sustainable and you can actually apply it to your company, and they may actually be interested in implementing some of the things you’re recommending.”
That’s exactly why Akindeinde is going to focus on the future of the broking channel for his project. With technology rapidly changing the industry, he says he’s “really worried about the future of broking.”
“We’ve discovered that the need to go through a broker is gradually shrinking… What I’m looking at [is], on the personal side, are we still going to be as relevant as we used to be in the next 10 to 15 years? Over time, aren’t we going to be struggling?” He jokes that he has selfish reasons for studying the future of the broking channel: “At the end of the day, I’m not going to be gainfully employed and I’ll have to look for something!” He got the idea from the F550 course, “Emerging Issues: Implications for the P&C Insurance Leader,” which both he and McDermaid singled out as particularly useful.
McDermaid adds that applying theories and concepts to his daily work is one of the best parts about the program. “It does a really good job of keeping it relevant. There are a lot of things going on in the P&C industry right now, so it was good that we were able to take those concepts, and then they’re not sort of just pie-in-the-sky concepts you’re reading out of a book.”
Bouroukis, who has just started the “Emerging Issues” course, hopes the program will be a “pretty helpful tool in my belt going forward… and put me in a place to advance my career.” He says that, so far in the program, he’s been “gaining… some technical skills, a lot of soft skills, from some of the various courses. So, really it’s just developing, as a business professional, an insurance professional.”
Copyright 2014 Rogers Publishing Ltd. This article first appeared in the October 2014 edition of Canadian Insurance Top Broker magazine
This story was originally published by Canadian Insurance Top Broker.