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Timothy Ingraham still excited about insurance

Once upon a time, a young student of accounting averse to boredom found an industry that paid him to learn, rewarded him when he did, offered upward career movement opportunities and excitement.

To some it may sound like a fairy tale, but it is the beginning of Timothy Ingraham’s insurance career. Today he is managing director of Summit Insurance and has served as the chairman of the Bahamas Insurance Association for the last three years.

“I started out studying accounting. I took a break from my studies and went on to work for an insurance agency,” Ingraham said.”Once I got there I discovered that the insurance companies were quite willing to pay for your education. That was definitely a big plus for me.”

Ingraham said the decision to stay in the industry was an easy one–his company not only paid for his exams but gave financial rewards for passing them.

“I[also]looked at the fact that there were far fewer qualified insurance people than there were qualified accountants–supply and demand,”the insurance executive said.

Examinations and certifications were a part of Ingraham’s journey, but a lot of the knowledge he acquired came from early mentorship by veterans in the field. At the first insurance agency he worked for, Ingraham said there were good, qualified people who fostered an environment that’forced’learning.

“I remember going to one or two of them with a question and saying,’Tell me about this,'”Ingraham said.”Their response to me was,’Go away, research it, let’s discuss what you think, and then I’ll tell you what I think.’ It was an excellent way to learn,”he said.

Today, it is Ingraham who is the mentor, though he said the opportunities for mentorship at his company are limited because of its size. After he completed his insurance qualifications, he said he would spend many evenings tutoring other students and helping them prepare for their exams.

In addition to what mentoring he can do at Summit, he said he gets lots of calls from people in the industry, and he always assists. Well, always assists within good-business parameters–sometimes the competition comes calling too, he joked.

The insurance industry today faces its share of challenges, suffering from the economic downturn of the last few years along with most other industries. Vehicle insurance revenues were down as many insured persons moved from comprehensive to third party insurance and new car sales fell. Bank mortgages were flat through the recovery, Ingraham said, so revenues related to home insurance contracted too, as many sought to reduce or eliminate the coverage they were paying for.

“I think last year we saw a slowdown in the decline,”Ingraham said, adding that as the economy picks up in the second half of this year with projects like Baha Mar coming on-stream, revenues should also start to improve again. He said he believes the’bottom’is behind the industry, though the recovery may be slower than a lot of people initially thought.

Like other fields in financial services, he also noted ever-increasing legislative and regulatory requirements which”take up a bigger and bigger chunk of your time than the actual business you’re in.”Increased regulation is a reality that extends far beyond Bahamian shores, however, and Ingraham said that the insurance industry was perhaps more prepared for globalization than any other.

“The insurance industry in The Bahamas has been a global industry for decades. Go back 20 years ago–we had a large number of big, international insurance companies operating in this country. We are used to having to deal with the outside world … we’ve been competing internationally for decades,”Ingraham said.

Today, it is still the diversity that excites Ingraham about his chosen field. He freely admits that he was fortunate to end up on the path that he did within the sector–being in sales may not have worked as well for him.

“The insurance industry is a varied and exciting industry. A lot of people only have the perception of the policy-man coming around to collect your premiums,”Ingraham said.”But that’s just the tip of the iceberg as far as insurance careers are concerned.”He listed a host of career possibilities within the industry, including opportunities for actuaries, underwriters, technical specialists, account executives, surveyors, motor engineers, attorneys, accountants, and claims adjustors as examples.

Ingraham was hard-pressed to come up with any downside to his chosen career, from his perspective.

“Every now and then it gets stressful,”Ingraham offered after a little contemplation.”Especially when hurricanes start blowing around you. You start to get nervous and lose a bit of hair, maybe get a little grayer, but that’s probably some of the worst of it.”

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