Finding a quality job can be a challenge for military spouses in the Killeen-Fort Hood area. But there may be a solution for individuals interested in work in the insurance industry.
While many people associate a career in insurance with a career in sales, there are many opportunities on the administrative side. And insiders say, once somebody has experience within the industry, it becomes very easy to find work anywhere.
People who aren’t facing short-notice relocations with the military may also find the industry a welcoming career ladder to climb.
“Experience in insurance simply makes a potential employee much more marketable,” said Kimberly Patterson, business service manager at Workforce Solutions of Central Texas. “Whether it is auto, home, life insurance or whatever, you have to have specialized knowledge to succeed in that industry. Insurance companies are always looking for people who have learned the business from the ground up.”
The numbers show why insurance companies are so eager to hire new talent. According to research firm MarketLine, the insurance market expanded by 4.5 percent in 2010 and reached close to $4.1 trillion.
MarketLine forecasts the insurance market to reach more than $5.1 million by 2015, which would represent 26 percent industry growth. With numbers like that, it is no surprise insurance companies are aggressively looking for up-and-coming talent.
In addition, a recent study conducted by the Ward Group, provider of benchmarking and best practices studies for insurance companies, underscored the strength of the insurance industry’s job market.
“The average unemployment rate for the insurance industry this year is 4.4 percent, well below 2011’s average of 5.8 percent and 2010’s average of 6.2 percent,” Greg P. Jacobson, CEO, recently told insurance trade publication Insurance Journal. “Following this trend, we can expect to continue low unemployment figures in 2013.”
Bill Kliewer, managing partner at BKCW Insurance in Killeen, said the industry has a constant need on the administrative side.
“There is a huge need on the administrative side, and there is going to continue to be a huge need,” Kliewer said.
Kliewer said in addition to its growth, the industry is dealing with an aging workforce.
“Many agencies, not so much ours, but a lot of them have a lot of people on the verge of retirement,” he said. “The industry needs people to fill their positions.”
Kliewer said the training his employees receive would certainly serve them well if they were ever in a situation where they had to relocate in a hurry.
“I know if you come to work for us, we try to get all of our employees a professional designation,” he said. “The first thing we do is get them certified as an accredited customer service representative. The insurance lingo for that is ‘ACR.’ It involves about eight days of class. The next thing we do is send them to a program that takes between one and two years. It’s five classes. Each class lasts a week, and there is a test at the end. If they pass, they are what is known as a certified insurance counselor, or CIC.”
“If you have that CIC, you can get a job with an insurance company anywhere you go,” he said.
Starting off on the administrative side of the insurance industry can be a good way to learn the business before becoming an agent. Keith Oestreich was a claims adjuster for Farmers Insurance for four years before opening his agency in Killeen 2½ years ago.
“That is a common career path for agents,” Oestreich said. “I don’t think you can overstate how much experience on the administrative side can help you if you choose to become an agent. You learn what the customer has to go through during the claims process, which is when the mettle of an agent is really tested. The experience I had as an adjuster helps me head off problems before they happen.”
Oestreich said his current receptionist is a perfect example of somebody gaining experience in administration before becoming an agent.
“She is in the process of getting her license,” he said. “She really knows her stuff, and the hands-on experience she got in the office is something she could not have learned anywhere else. It is a natural progression.”
The sheer size and nice nature of the business make the insurance industry an attractive choice for people looking for stability, said Wendy Ann Damon, workforce development supervisor at Workforce Solutions of Central Texas.
“The insurance industry is a very large industry, but it is still a niche industry,” Damon said. “So if you have the credentials you need to work in that industry, you will always have a leg up.”
Patterson said the skills needed to succeed in insurance are almost inherent in military spouses.
“You have to be very organized and be able to pay close attention to detail to move an entire family on short notice,” she said. “We have military spouses in Killeen with skills you would not believe. I think military spouses are especially well-suited for the insurance industry.”
And the opportunities are out there for motivated job seekers.
“We’re like the Dallas Cowboys,” Kleiwer said. “If an athlete has the talent, the Cowboys will find a place for him. It is the same thing at our agency.”