By James Ballot, Senior Advisor, Strategic Communications, Triple-I
It’s an understatement to say that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected all areas of our personal and professional lives. Amid widespread disruption, however, people are finding ways to overcome the distance of “social distancing” and to make remote work seem less, well, remote.
Insurance business summer internships are a vital path for educating students about the industry, and for businesses to evaluate promising recruits. However, lockdowns and other measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus forced many companies to re-evaluate their internship programs. Several organizations have stepped in to ensure continuity of internship programs, including insurance businesses, industry trade groups, and in particular, Gamma Iota Sigma (GIS), a student society with 94 chapters serving more than 5,000 members across North America.
Through their Virtual Internships program GIS worked with dozens of companies to offer essential training and education opportunities through project-based or defined duration remote work. And what these businesses have discovered is that remote internships offer some built-in advantages over on-site work, including access to people who are ready-made to succeed amid disruption, as well as the ability to engage with recruits from a greater diversity of geographic locations, talents and backgrounds.
As part of the Triple-I Blog’s “Insurance Careers Corner” features series, we spoke with student interns about their experiences during summer 2020 and their insurance career journey so far.
Next up is Kristian Ottesen, a senior at Virginia Commonwealth University, where he’s studying underwriting in excess and surplus lines at that institution’s School of Business’s Risk and Insurance Studies Center.
Kristian spent part of the summer of 2020 as part of a three-person team consulting on the impact of COVID-19 for CNA, a major commercial lines carrier.
Triple-I Blog (III): You had an internship lined up before Summer 2020? What happened?
Kristian Ottesen (KO): I was a part-time intern with Allianz Partners in the Spring, which was cancelled after the first day. Other internship opportunities—including one with a regional broker in Richmond were cancelled or put “on hold.”
(III): You’re on track for a career in insurance. When did you decide this was what you wanted, and what are some factors that contributed to this decision?
(KO): I was majoring in Management and Entrepreneurship at VCU’s School of Business. I was urged by some GIS members and alumni to follow my interest into studying RMI (Risk Management/Insurance). I have to say that it’s been the best decision I’ve made in college so far.
(III): How long was your internship with CNA? Tell us a bit about the work you were doing there.
(KO): My internship ran from June through the first week of August. A lot of what I did involved independent research and reading, with the goal of finding data, news and reporting that fed into charting CNA’s strategy for interacting with broker clients during the COVID-19 pandemic. My team [of three interns] submitted research analysis for feedback from our project supervisor.
(III): What skills and knowledge did you pick up along the way—and what insights do you most want to share with others [who are looking into remote internships]?
(KO): Teamwork, of course. Problem-solving and flexibility [learning in the workflow]. My team and I met weekly via Skype; I encountered some unanticipated advantages to remote work, as well as a few serious drawbacks. Perhaps most important was honing my time management and organizational skills: In addition to working with CNA [via the GIS remote internship program], I was doing coursework in financial modeling at VCU and working landscaping to help pay tuition.
(III): Any key takeaways or advice from this experience that you’d like to share?
(KO): There’s no substitute for working directly with and learning from people in the industry rather than from textbooks or in a classroom. If you get the opportunity, take it!