Banking on Insurance: Breaking in from the Insurance industry - fact or fiction?

Here's what my boss said to me over a couple of beers.

About half the industry (insurance) is made up of guys who couldn't cut it as bankers. When all else fails, you have dad call up his college bud at [insert name of commercial insurer here] and get you a cush 9-5 gig wining, dining and selling GL coverage to other hacks.
. What could have passed for just another cynical (my boss has a none-too-rosy outlook on life), albeit perhaps accurate statement - seemed to hit truer to home for me and was a tad disheartening.

I graduated college about a year ago with a combined BS and MS degree (Finance and Risk Management) from the epitome of non-target. Following graduation I went to work as a FT risk (catastrophe risk)analyst for a sizable insurer. Great - I was employed in a shitty economy and compensated quite well to work 50 hours a week (first in, last out too)! Plus, I dodged the double whammy of having to go home to my BRIC country. Being an international student, I would have had to return home if my current firm hadn't sponsored my Visa. So all-in-all, things are going well. But alas, I have the same infliction that ails the majority of this site's prospective monkeys - I want to work in banking...always have.

It is to this effect, that my bosses remarks seemed ominous and disheartening. Had I, in my zeal to stay in the states, taken the fast-pass to the aspiring-banker graveyard? In the past, when I've asked other professionals that I've met within the industry (including brokers, underwriters, risk managers etc.) how they started in insurance, the answer is usually something to the effect of

Yeah when I got out of school, I wanted to work in investment banking, but then I found [insert current job here] and it's been the best thing ever.
. Now I'm not questioning that each of these guys truly has found the best thing ever, but none-the-less there is a scary trend here:

Non-Target School-->Aspiring Banker-->9.00-5.00 models and bottles in INSURANCE

Truth be told, perhaps I'm being a little harsh. The insurance does have a lot of perks: the work is interesting (I look at how we might lose money during catastrophic events), the people are very nice (for the most part), there are some very smart individuals in the industry, the hours are great, comp is decent and there is a decent amount of travel (about 50% boondoggles), plenty of soirees replete with food, booze and fun on the company's dime. You can also learn a lot about a relatively evergreen industry (although we are affected by hard and soft markets with accompanying profitability) and make a decent chunk of chain as you climb the ladder. But I still want to be a banker and that is what I intend to continue working towards.

To this effect, I'm throwing out a question to WSO - are there any monkeys out there who have made the successful transition from insurance to banking? And how did you do it? I would also love to hear about folks currently within the industry, trying to break into IB. I myself have just put into play a 6 month, intensive networking and rebranding plan to try and break in. I have drawn on all the fantastc information on this site and others like it (M&I for one) to develop what I feel like will be the most effective networking strategy. On a side-note, I've already spoken with 3 ED and MD level guys at BBs through just a month of work and while neither may yield an offer, at least I am getting through (more on this later though).

On the flip-side, if there are any monkeys on the site who are interested in working within the industry feel free to ask any questions and I will do my best to answer them. There are plenty of interesting areas in which to work; just some of which are underwriting (client facing), risk-management (modeling/quantitative), brokerage (Type-A sales role/potential for big bonuses), reinsurance (insurance for insurers, longer hours and more money) and my personal favorite Insurance Linked Securities ILS (insurance meets investment banking - structuring esoteric loss triggered risk transfer mechanisms.

WSO has been a tremendous resource and one that I intend to leverage to eventually break into banking. I already have a better resume and networking success thanks to them. Usually, when we read about monkeys who want to break in or have already broken in - a pre and post-mortem analysis, if you will. In my future posts, I hope to provide a regular account of how my grand (questionably) 6 month, Banking or Bust program is going. I hope this helps other insurance monkeys who are IB hopefuls, or truthfully anyone who wants to work in IB (not to mention anyone who is international and from a non-target).

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Jun 17, 2012 - 8:04pm
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