Insurance brokers are trained professionals or agents in insurance and risk management solutions who help individuals and businesses find insurance policies that best meet the needs of their customers.
They may focus on a single type of insurance, or work with many different types, such as home,health insurance or life. Whatever type of insurance they sell to clients, insurance brokers are required to be very knowledgeable and articulate enough to explain complex insurance terms. Brokers must be licensed in specific insurance areas before they’re permitted to sell policies. Most earn 4-year degrees. The table below profiles basic insurance broker requirements.
Brokers are responsible for:
- Understanding influences on the financial services environment and staying up to date with developments in the industry.
- Providing consumers with choice in the marketplace, since they usually sell the insurance products of more than one company
- Manage all aspects of the insurance transaction by advising the client, arranging and invoicing the policy, and facilitating claims.
- Identify the exposure to risk that consumers face and protect them from that exposure.
- Service the portfolios of existing clients and work to bring new clients on board.
- Helping consumers deal with loss by ensuring the claims process moves as quickly and efficiently as possible.
- Preparing reports, maintains records and keeps track of a client’s changing needs by maintaining relationships.
- Insurance agents work indoors, usually in their own offices. Agents also travel to the offices or homes of their clients.
- Insurance brokers should have the following traits:
- Good people skills to interview and listen to clients and identify their insurance needs
- Ability to communicate complex ideas, critical thinking, time-management and organisation
- Patience to offer help and respond to queries
- The ability to gain the trust of other persons
- The ability to do calculations and compare rates and product benefits.
- Comfortability using a variety of computer applications and enjoy maintaining organised records using computer software
- Have an entrepreneurial spirit and are happiest working independently, setting own pace and schedule
How to Become an Insurance Broker
Any finance related career takes a lot of dedication and becoming an insurance broker is not something that happens in a twinkle of an eye. It takes a process, take and hard work to become an Insurance broker in South Africa and other parts of the world.
However, to become a successful broker, you need to be familiar with the entire insurance market. Your market competition will include agents, who work for one company, and independent agents, who work for several companies. Successful brokers often have a breadth of industry knowledge greater than that of captive and independent agents.
So, here are important steps and requirements to becoming an Insurance broker.
1. HAVE AN ENTRY LEVEL QUALIFICATION
The Financial Service Board (FSB) requires people in this occupation to have an entry level qualification of a National Senior Certificate or relevant NQF Level 4 qualification. This must also meet diploma or degree requirements.
Obtain an FSB recognised qualification and complete the RE Level 1 and RE Level 2 examinations before you may work independently as an Insurance Agent.
Study through IISA registered training providers. The entry requirement is a National Senior Certificate. Candidates on this stream can move to progressively higher levels of IISA professional designations. These designations are most relevant to those who operate in the Short Term Insurance market.
2. EARN A BACHELOR’S DEGREE
Having the following makes for better opportunities: Insurance and Actuarial Science Degree, BCom Insurance or General BCom.
A bachelor’s degree on your resume could increase your chances of gaining employment with an insurance brokerage firm. Degree programs in business administration or economics provide you with the necessary background in finance, accounting, business law and marketing. Other potentially helpful courses include psychology, sociology, public speaking and communications.
You could also consider earning a bachelor’s degree in insurance and risk management. These aren’t as widely available as business administration or economics programs. In addition to developing fundamental business skills, they devote whole courses to explaining the principles and concepts underlying life, health and property insurance. Gaining a Bachelor’s degree takes 4 years.
3. ADD AN INTERNSHIP TO YOUR INSURANCE BROKER TRAINING
Some bachelor’s degree programs in insurance and risk management provide internship opportunities with insurance firms. During an internship, you’ll observe and participate in the internal operations of the firm. After it ends, you may have to submit a written report describing the experience while the employer provides a written evaluation to your instructor. If an internship isn’t available at your school, you could also try to arrange that Personally as it helps you to have a first hand experience on the job.
In addition to in-service training employees may take the examination of the Insurance Institute of South Africa. Two levels of examination lead to two diplomas, namely the qualifying examination for the Associateship Diploma and the Fellowship Diploma.
The FSB also publishes a list of approved qualifications which are relevant to the various categories of Financial Service Practitioners. It is a requirement that a person in this occupation either enters the industry with a FSB recognised qualification, or alternatively obtains a FSB recognised qualification while working under supervision in the industry. The maximum time frame for supervision is 6 years in which you obtain a relevant qualification while working under supervision.
4. OBTAIN AN INSURANCE BROKER LICENSE
Having a license is a very important step to becoming an Insurance broker. You need a broker’s license from each state in which you plan to work. Licenses are available for life, personal, property and casualty insurance. Broker’s licenses and agent’s licenses are different, although as a broker, you can still hold an agent’s license and work for companies as an agent. Some states are moving away from the two types of licenses and requiring both agents and brokers to obtain a producer’s license. Producer is an insurance industry term for both agents and brokers.
However, you will typically need to pass an insurance broker exam – such as the series 6 or series 7 exams offered by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority in order to obtain your insurance broker certification and a license to sell various financial products.
5. FIND A JOB
Upon meeting up with your Educational requirement, you need to secure a job in a brokerage firm where you can expect to start out either at the customer service or as a broker’s assistant. As you gain familiarity with the industry and your employer’s business practices, you can become a customer service rep (processes insurance transactions under supervision), personal lines rep (provides detailed coverage for personal belongings and homes) and commercial line rep (commercial and business insurance). If you demonstrate initiative, competence and leadership, positions as a department supervisor, producer or manager of a branch office could open up.
6. OBTAIN INSURANCE BROKER CERTIFICATION
For professional development and career advancement, consider certification in an area of insurance where you’ve acquired expertise. The National Alliance for Insurance Education and Research offers a number of voluntary certifications for independent agents or brokers. These include the Certified Insurance Counselor (CIC), the Certified Risk Manager (CRM) and the Certified Insurance Service Representative (CISR). Those interested in the health industry can pursue a Health Insurance Association (HIA) certificate from America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP).
The FSB also requires that you become FAIS ‘Fit and Proper’ compliant during the period in which you are working under supervision. This involves completing the Regulatory Exams (RE) for Representatives. The FSB RE Level 1 is compulsory for everyone. There are in the region of twenty categories of RE Level 2. You will need to enter and pass a separate exam in all of the categories in which you want to be licenced to trade.
If you’re interested in a financial planning credential, the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards offers the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation. Obtaining a CFP requires three years of financial planning experience and passing of an exam covering such areas as general planning principals, risk management, benefits planning, tax planning and retirement planning.
Professional body membership and professional designations are however highly valued by the market and for this reason many Insurance Agents follow learning paths that lead to professional designations.
In summary, the learning paths are as follows:
Obtain a Further Education and Training Certificate NQF Level 3 or Grade 11. From here you can enter different learnerships, and also gain work experience, at least a years’ worth. You can then Obtain an FSB recognised qualification and complete the RE Level 1, after which you can complete a relevant Professional Competency Examination of the Financial Planning Institute (FPI).
EMPLOYMENT AVENUES FOR INSURANCE BROKERS
Insurance companies and brokers
Self-employed, as freelance agent or insurance broker
Ongoing career opportunities within this field reflect both the size of brokerage firms and the increasingly international scope of the industry. With a smaller firm you may pursue a rewarding local or regional career, while larger and international firms will enable you to take on national and international responsibilities.
A broker role can also be an excellent starting point for a broad range of insurance-related careers. Many of those who specialise in specific areas of insurance, like marine, aviation or environment, started their careers by training as insurance brokers. Others move into management roles, managing a team of brokers or several branches of a brokers’ company or shift to other functions within the industry, including underwriting, new business development, risk management or adjusting.
Insurance Brokers have to meet the fit and proper requirements of the Financial Advisory and Intermediary Services (FAIS) Act in order to give advice or provide intermediary services to members of the public. This means that they need to be registered with the Financial Services Board (FSB) as Representatives and meet their annual requirements for Continuous Professional Development (CPD).
In conclusion, to become an Insurance broker, endeavour to have ample information on how to go about it. Find out how to obtain your insurance broker licensure, education requirements, job outlook and salary to determine if this is the right career for you.