By Marcella R. Beasley, MA, CIC, ACSR, AIS, AINS, CRIS
Imagine it’s a beautiful summer day in June of 2008. A slight wind is blowing…The sun is shining….and the stock market is about to crash. KABOOM!
But hey, at least I had a plan, right? Right.
Unlike many of my peers, I had plans to obtain my Master of Arts in International Relations from St. John’s University – Rome campus. While this may sound like a dream (and now it feels like it was), I was forced to move back home merely a year and a half later to find myself in a personal nightmare…employment status: UNEMPLOYED.
Thankfully, my mother had a connection to a local broker that needed someone immediately to fill in for the mail room. As they say, the rest was history. Two years in, I knew I was hook, lined, and SUNK! However, I noticed that something didn’t feel jussssst right.
Now don’t get me wrong, I LOVE insurance. I am a self-proclaimed insurance nerd. We nerds complain about exiting the business or retiring early, but we will leave this planet with “replacement cost” or “deductible” as our last breath. While working at my first position, I was on the front lines of customer service as an account manager. But working on the broker side of the business is exhausting. Putting together a SOV (Statement of Values) or a TCOR (Total Cost of Risk) spreadsheet for someone that has no idea what Risk Management is or how to utilize it in their everyday business can turn into a real drag. Especially those fun clients that wonder why their insurance went up five dollars when they’ve had no prior claims in the last 100 years.
After working at one broker, I was recruited to another that focused on Middle Market Construction risk. Right around the time I had issued my one-billionth certificate, (and don’t forget the 45 pages of endorsements!), I realized I definitely had the skills, education, knowledge, and passion to move to the dark side…I mean, underwriting. I had begun to understand that switching my career path to underwriter would bring more clarity to my end-game goal. The passion came on like honey dripping out of a jar. Slowly but surely, I would take a class about Insurance Carrier Operations at The National Alliance or Rating Construction Risks at an IRMI convention. I would daydream about how to become an underwriter. Could I take the chance to switch careers after eight years on the broker side? Would I be any good as an underwriter? What company would hire a young professional with no true underwriting experience?
Personally, I believe in the saying that “God works in mysterious ways.” Whether your choice is divine intervention, God, or even nothing at all, what transpired next was nothing short of miraculous. In July of 2021, my father unexpectedly passed away. I took two weeks to myself and then tried to return to work. Upon my return, I discovered that my manager had a medical emergency as well, and I was asked to take on my old role (AND another account), PLUS assist with my manager’s role. When I could barely make it through the day, I discovered that this was the moment my IAIP network was meant for.
While I joined IAIP in 2016, I didn’t realllllly start getting uber involved until about a year later. (Thanks marriage!) But fast forward to 2021, and the moment I was having a hard time with my management at my job, I turned to my IAOF (Insurance Associates of Fresno) members and mentors. I asked around if anyone was hiring and received a bevy of responses! I interviewed with CIG, and after spending almost two hours at brunch with the regional field executive, I knew there wasn’t another job on the planet I would want more. If you read my bio, you’ll see I got it!
But this wasn’t just a manifestation of my dreams turned reality. It was eight long years of hard work, dedication, education, and sheer determination. (Plus a few more certificates.)
When I applied to become an underwriter, I had a resume that was ten pages long and I had only achieved ten designations. I know, I know…Did she just say ten? Well, yes I did. I now have fourteen.
My first employer offered to pay for my CISR and CIC classes, but I wanted more. Through IAIP, I applied for the Legacy scholarships to pay for individual classes and won full and partial scholarships for the following designations: one CIC course, the full program ACSR designation, 1 course for the AAI, AIS, AINS, and all of the IRMI designations: CRIS, AFIS, TRIP, and MLIS.
But Marcella, what if you don’t need all of those designations? It’s true, there are some that I am no longer focused on, however the knowledge and insights I’ve gained from obtaining these designations only further enhance my resume and evidence my passion for continuing education within the insurance industry. I ask that you not focus on the fact that I am a huge over-achiever, but to recognize that you too can achieve more. Whatever your position, there can be something to learn, and a way to fund your goal.
PROMOTION & INVOLVEMENT
When I accepted my role at CIG, I was hired on as an associate underwriter with plans to be promoted to regional senior underwriter at CIG. I would never have guessed that I’d be promoted to executive regional underwriter in less than two years. How did I get here? I got involved. I joined task forces. I wrote articles for the Marketing & Publications committee, and I chose leadership roles on multiple levels of the association. I also applied for awards so that I could be recognized for all the hard work I had accomplished. There’s no better feeling than seeing your name etched in that crystal. There is a sense of triumph over adversity and elation for accomplishing your goals.
It’s not just about winning awards and taking on leadership, but also about thanking your mentors, friends, and family for their support. I have a huge network of mentorship. I have my colleagues that I work with. My family and friends for kind words, sanity, and love. I look to my seasoned members within IAOF, California council, Region VII, and executive leadership for inspiration and guidance. When I need to go on my next vacation, I know there is a couch I can stay on wherever the dock or airport may be. Some of my greatest mentors and friends have come as a result from joining this association.
While I believe my journey is just getting started, I believe it has all started with my dad. Thankfully, I still have the continued support of IAIP, my family, friends, employer, and co-workers to help me through the darkest of days; without which I would not be the wife, fur-mom, friend, employee, IAIP member, underwriter, over-achiever, or Slytherin (for you Harry Potter nerds) that I now am. Frankly, I would not be the person I am today without all the true love and support that surrounds me. All of this is thanks to IAIP.
Marcella is currently a Regional Executive Underwriter in Commercial Lines for Capital Insurance Group (CIG), focusing on property, auto, liability, and umbrella/excess coverages. Starting her career almost 10 years ago in the mail room of a local broker, she worked her way up from mail clerk to a top Account Manager that specialized in middle market construction. While maintaining a large book of business, Marcella has been very involved in the insurance industry through networking, association memberships, professional development, and continuing education. It is through these interactions and opportunities that she wanted to move into underwriting. In the fall of 2021, CIG took a ‘risk’ and gave Marcella the opportunity to pursue her professional career goal of working as an underwriter. In addition to obtaining 14 designations, she has been awarded the 2019, 2020, and 2021 CSR of the Year for California with the National Alliance of Insurance Education & Research, placing as a top five finalist each year. She has been named the Region VII Professional Underwriter of the Year, 2020 IBA Rising Star, a 2020 Rising Insurance Star Executive, and the 2020 International Association of Insurance Professionals (IAIP) Young New Professional and Risk Management Professional of the Year. Marcella’s plans include advancing her career with CIG, staying involved in the insurance industry, and pursuing her CPCU designation.