Learn about successful risk and insurance professionals and how they rose to the top of their industry. This article features general liability and risk management specialist Craig Stanovich.
Briefly describe your current position and industry experience.
For over 39 years, I have had the pleasure of making my living in the field of insurance and risk management. My industry experience has been varied, working as a personal and commercial lines underwriter for a national insurer for over 5 years, for an international insurance advisory firm for over 3 years, and as a licensed insurance broker (now called an insured producer) for a midsized regional insurance agency for about 15 years. Bill Austin and I cofounded Austin & Stanovich Risk Managers in early 2002, which is where I am today. Austin & Stanovich Risk Managers provides insurance advisory and risk management consulting to others, but we do not sell insurance.
How did you land in the insurance industry?
Like many, my entry into the insurance world was a happy accident. In 1978, with my newly minted bachelor's degree in health and physical education, I went forth into the world to find a teaching position, which I soon discovered were quite scarce. It seemed for every position offered, there were scores of candidates, and, if you did not have an "in" (i.e., know someone), employment was elusive. Apparently, no one wanted me as a gym teacher. No matter.
In the throes of my jobless crisis, a friend recommended me for an insurance underwriter trainee position. As I needed a job, and, without knowing what an underwriter did (or even what a trainee did), I gratefully accepted the position. After 6 months of training, I was unleashed into my own underwriting territory. Although it took a while, and with some trepidation, I found I began liking the insurance industry more and more.
How has your education influenced your career?
The more I liked the insurance industry, the more I wanted to learn. The more I learned, the greater my enjoyment of my budding insurance career. I took numerous formal insurance courses, eventually obtaining the Associate in Underwriting designation and the Chartered Property and Casualty Underwriter designation from the Insurance Institute of America in Pennsylvania, followed by the Certified Insurance Counselor and Certified Risk Manager designation from the National Alliance in Texas. While these courses were a great of deal of work outside the usual workday, I was fascinated with the content. From accounting, to economics, to law, to management, to risk management, to all manners of insurance, I wondered if I had not missed my calling as a professional student. It dawned on me that the more you learn, the easier it was to continue learning—the foundation of your knowledge grows and supports ever greater understanding.
In short, my education increased my passion for learning and understanding in my chosen career—insurance and risk management. And, with a passion for learning naturally comes the overwhelming desire to share with others—to teach. So even though I never taught a gym class, my love of learning led me to teaching and writing on insurance and risk management. I have been blessed with the opportunity to share with others for the last 30 years, including as a current national faculty member of the Society of Certified Insurance Counselors and as an expert commentator for the International Risk Management Institute.
How have you been surprised by the insurance industry?
The varied opportunities in the insurance industry are astonishing. Every talent, skill, or ability a person may possess may be tested; there is no shortage of challenges. Insurance and risk management are both art and science—in these industries, there is a demand for virtually every personality type.
What advice would you offer to someone new to risk management or insurance on how to have a successful career?
Never pass up the opportunity to learn. By this, I mean far more than formal education—seek to truly understand. I am sometimes disappointed when I hear colleagues declaring they know all about a certain issue or are content to repeat what someone told them 5 years ago. Find out for yourself. Always ask, if only to yourself, why? I would suggest quickly learning about the highpoints is not a good alternative to taking a slower, more thorough, and in-depth approach to understanding. While the former approach may be more effective in passing an examination, the overriding goal of any formal insurance or risk management course is to increase your knowledge. And, for your career, the formal education is really just an introduction—a beginning and not an end to learning.
Who is your hero?
At different times, I have had different heroes. When I was a little boy, Mighty Mouse and Popeye, two cartoon characters, were at the top of my list. And, of course, I have had various sports heroes—I can still rattle off the names and positions of most of the players for the Boston Red Sox in 1967, the "Impossible Dream" year.
But, given my age and experiences in life, I now know that my late parents were and still are my heroes. Growing up when it appeared the economy was collapsing in the Great Depression, they too often did not have enough to eat. And they both witnessed a world war (World War II) in which it appeared the end of the world was imminent. At 17 years old, my father enlisted in the Navy and spent over 2 years in active combat in the South Pacific and 4 years in the Navy. Yet, despite the world in which they came of age, Tom Brokaw's Greatest Generation, they personified responsibility and showed in abundance caring, guidance, and support.
What do you consider to be the most important challenge facing the insurance industry, and what should the industry do to meet that challenge?
The insurance industry needs to attract more young, talented people. Unless you have a family member in the insurance industry (or risk management field), it is quite unlikely that anyone would pursue insurance as a career path—and that is regrettable. While billions of dollars are spent on insurance advertising, it seems to me that more resources need to be dedicated to exposing people to the opportunities and careers available in insurance. Is it too much to expect to see insurers or large insurance brokers recruiting at colleges, even liberal arts colleges? And while insurance will never be as exciting as being a gym teacher, neither is it the boring, mind-numbing occupation it is too often perceived to be. Maybe it is incumbent on all of us to change that perception to one of an infinitely interesting, always challenging industry that plays a central role in our society and our economy.