The “Getting Bigger” Picture

When i was in university, and was streamed to major in insurance, i felt that it was the most absurd thing possible because certain core modules that were required in insurance, were the very modules i had failed in my first year. Subjects that i was much stronger in, like marketing, IT, and so on, made me think that i should obviously be majoring in marketing. I felt that it was plain stupidity for me to be streamed into insurance so i tried various means to get out of it. I approached the dean of marketing for help but when he failed in his appeal for me to be transferred to the school of marketing, i was greatly disappointed. Devastated.

But i plodded on. Insurance subjects were easy for me and amazingly, the subject that i was most afraid of – i can’t remember the exact name – but it was a basic module in actuarial science, i actually got through it on my first try! *Phew*. Most insurance grads who were forced to extend their stay in university had that actuarial subject to thank.

Graduating in 2001, it was a bad year for all of us fresh grads. The economy was barely recovering from the asian currency crisis of 1998 when 9-11 hit us. Thankfully, i found a job with AIA by then and quite liked my job function. Well, policy servicing is fun when u’re new to it… and underwriting life policies is always interesting. It’s the dealing with mean and condescending insurance agents, and office politics started by a catty superior that eventually made me decide to resign from my first job. Oh, that and the fact that my boss didn’t approve my leave to go to the US for the West Coast Salsa Congress 2004. Haha. I’m an impulsive & stubborn person.

I burned my bridges with some people at AIA when i resigned, having fingered my direct supervisor as THE main reason for my resignation. But i was confident that i would never go back to AIA and even if i did, i would go back as her superior. At that point in time, i was quite set on pursuing the law degree which i had dreamt of since i was a child. But being the lazy and highly inert person i am, having to leave my comfy home in Singapore to pursue a degree just didn’t cut it.

While going through all the applications for law school and thinking about what i wanted to do with my life, i joined the property industry for fun. Some friends were in it and i tried it just for the heck of it. Somehow, i was caught up in it a little longer than i thought (at first i thought i would only be a property agent till i went abroad to study law). 2 whole years i was in property and suddenly, i felt that i had taken too big a detour in what i wanted to do in life. (Career-wise that is.)

Which eventually led me to going for a round of interviews, and jumping back into the insurance industry. It’s a strange path to choose… going back to something i wanted to get out of so desperately 2 years ago. But i guess not all paths in life are straight.

A lot of decision went into my taking up my new job. I knew i wanted a job that would allow me to have a steady pay increment over the years, and one that had enough things for me to learn so that i would not get bored and itch to resign. Banking pays well but i’m not chummy with figures. Plus, i didn’t want a job with a direct sales function. Marketing would be interesting… i think… at least it is in theory but i’m not the PR-friendly type. Thus i suspect i might be way too frank & uncreative to pursue a career in marketing. Property was something i considered but it’s too cyclical in nature. I am already bored as it is.

Hence, i decided to move back into insurance… but not just any insurance position. I was certain that i didn’t want to do underwriting, nor sales. I was a little keen on brokerage… but yet i didn’t want to do the usual stuff like employee benefits or casualty insurance. By a quirk twist of fate, i got to know this niche area, which is trade credit insurance. I was pretty keen on it… but worried ‘cos it’s an area that i’m weak in – finance / accounting. That’s when i stumbled upon the job offer with Eon – dealing with political risk. I’ve been going through the notes given by my soon to be boss, and so far they deal with a lot of law stuff. Things that people would be terribly bored reading but i find it very interesting!!

Looking back to how i first came to learn about insurance, i think i’m starting to see the big picture God had planned. He probably knew that i would be bored if i ended up as a lawyer… but yet i’m too uncreative to be in marketing, too lazy to do sales…

Indeed, it’s too early to say that this job with Eon is the ideal job for me. I still have no idea how things in political risk insurance function – what does it mean to see a project from “cradle to grave”, and how does all the legal mumbo jumbo fit in? I think the near future will be filled with learning tons of stuff, reading loads of bi-lateral and multi-lateral agreements, and sorting out various technical wording issues in policies. I think i’ll like it. Not to mention that my new bosses seem great. They know where they’re heading, and they’re willing to guide me along this ride.

Whatever the case, i guess i can say more certainly now that God is always in control. For all the tantrums i threw, and tears i cried when i had to major in insurance in school, things seem to be ironing out well 7 years down the road. I used to think that i’ll get to see the “big picture” as time passes… but now, i don’t think we’ll ever see the big picture. Only God sees the big picture. Our view is just that of a picture that’s “getting bigger”.

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August 2006