October 12, 2016 by Amanda Bradford, NMSU News Center
Students in New Mexico State University’s College of Business had an opportunity to travel to the Independent Insurance Agents of New Mexico Annual Convention in Albuquerque in September and learn more about the real world of insurance and risk management. It’s one of many hands-on learning and networking opportunities made possible by a gift last fall to the college from the Independent Insurance Agents of New Mexico and New Mexico Mutual.
The $50,000 contribution to the Risk Management and Insurance Studies program in the Department of Finance has been used two ways: It established a $25,000 scholarship endowment and also provided operational funding for students in the insurance studies program to do things like travel to conferences and competitions, sit for costly exams and take advantage of other learning opportunities outside the classroom.
Tim Query, a finance professor and the college’s Mountain States Insurance Group Endowed Chair in Insurance and Financial Services, said the IIANM member agencies and New Mexico Mutual have also been proactive in providing internship and career opportunities to NMSU students.
“By strategically investing in the Risk Management and Insurance Studies program at NMSU, IIANM and New Mexico Mutual are making an important contribution to the future of the insurance industry,” Query said.
Thom Turbett, president and CEO of IIANM, said the gift to NMSU’s program is something of an insurance policy, itself, because a large swath of workers in the industry are preparing to retire, and companies are competing heavily to attract talented and well-prepared college graduates to fill that talent gap.
A study by global management and consulting firm McKinsey & Company found that the number of insurance professionals over age 55 has increased by 74 percent over the last 10 years, and as much as one-quarter of the current workforce is set to retire in the next few years.
“Since the insurance industry is typically not perceived by the younger generations as being particularly sexy as a career option,” Turbett said, “we’re offering insurance scholarships in an effort to show that our industry is actually a really good, high-paying fit for them.”
Mike McGonigle, a college assistant professor in the Department of Finance, oversees the Insurance and Financial Services Center, which supports students by providing scholarships for certification exams and conference travel, as well as facilitating interaction between students and industry leaders. Recently, students have attended the Gamma Iota Sigma Annual Conference in Chicago, the RIMS Conference in San Diego and the IIANM Annual Convention in Albuquerque.
NMSU junior Cody Womack, a finance major from Truth or Consequences, said traveling to last month’s IIANM Annual Convention showed him just how many different job opportunities the industry offers.
“I connected with an insurance wholesaler who provided me with so much information I felt like I should have paid him tuition,” Womack said. “He took his time and answered all of my questions. Best of all, he was a NMSU alum. It was really inspiring to meet a successful professional who got his education at NMSU.”
Query and McGonigle said it’s important for students and new graduates to make connections with professionals through conferences and internships where they can interact with some of the industry’s top decision-makers.
“By attending these conferences, students get one-on-one contact with high-level professionals and get to see what real life is within the industry,” McGonigle said. “The students are exposed to technical knowledge when they attend the educational sessions that are offered, and it isn’t uncommon for students to have internship or job offers lined up at the conclusion of the conference, because many employers jump at the opportunity to hire our students.”
The Risk Management and Insurance Studies program and the Insurance and Financial Services Center at NMSU were established through a $1 million gift in 2003 from Mountain States Insurance Group. A number of other industry supporters also provided generous gifts to get the program up and running.
The funds from the IIANM gift are also used to reimburse students who are pursuing insurance licensing, actuarial certifications or professional designations. If students pass exams related to these areas, the Risk Management and Insurance Studies Program will reimburse the full fee of the exam.
“By doing this, our students have the opportunity to not only land a top-tier job at graduation, but they will be more trained than their peers,” McGonigle said. “This gift has definitely made it easier for our students to develop their skills and to be fully prepared to enter the insurance and risk management industry.”