Let’s face it – it is unlikely that most people in the insurance industry considered this line of work as a career choice when they were still in school. I bet if you asked current insurance professionals, “What did you want to be when you were a child,” almost none would answer underwriter, rater, or account executive. I’ve heard many times during my 20-plus years in the field, “you don’t choose insurance; it chooses you.”
My first insurance job was as a receptionist. I also had other duties such as checking endorsements and preparing ID cards and certificates. Each new task brought a new set of terms; one of those was “general aggregate”. It took me a while, but I eventually understood it to mean the maximum amount a policy pays out for claims. Without getting too “insurancey”, a general liability policy contains sub-limits: the occurrence limit, medical payments, etc. But the general aggregate is the big daddy. It combines all limits (and sometimes a little more) resulting in the highest monetary value of the policy. Once the general aggregate is met, the policy’s limits are “exhausted”.
Working my way through the ranks at independent agencies, I learned more and became excited about my career. I felt the thrill of winning new clients and despaired when losing some. I worked past closing time to secure quotes for clients and to create slick presentations. Sixty hour weeks were not unusual. I never complained and considered this as normal. I was certain I would eventually develop a book of business allowing me to step back and spend more time at home; I figured another 5 years at the most.
This vision of the future changed, forcing some difficult choices. Being a member of the “sandwich generation”, with elderly parents to care for and a young adult child who sometimes required parental guidance was a double-whammy. Initially, I was up to the challenge, going to my parents before and after work, traveling to my daughter’s as frequently as possible. It was working; I was balancing. Yes, I dropped some balls, putting co-workers in tight spots, but nothing too horrible. But it all came crashing down within a one-month period. My mother was diagnosed with a degenerative disease, my dad’s dementia worsened and my 10-week old granddaughter was hospitalized after developing a bruise-like rash all over her tiny body.
Both parts of my family needed me at once! Adding to the burden I had 3 large accounts up for renewal within the next 3 months. I pared back every wasted minute – no more lunch, no more reading, and no more than 5 hours of sleep. There was nothing left for me to give – my limits were exhausted; I reached my general aggregate.
I decided to leave my insurance job. It was unfair for me to expect coworkers to pick up my slack. I hoped that when things settled down I might find a decent part-time job, allowing me to help my family.
After weeks of looking it became clear that the job market for women over age 50, with a narrowly defined skill-set, was meager. Yes, I had a master’s degree (in an unrelated field), but my work experience was with insurance. I resigned myself to the idea that I might never work again, a sobering realization.
One day I called a former co-worker to chat. She mentioned that the agency was using a service called WAHVE. From what she described, WAHVE provided them with an experienced insurance professional to process work remotely. I decided to check out WAHVE’s website to learn more.
From the minute I saw WAHVE’s web page I was intrigued; this might be the answer. I could use my insurance knowledge while working from almost anywhere and have an income again. I was cautiously optimistic and went through the formalities of filling out an application and completing computer and insurance proficiency assessments. In less than a week I received a call from a member of WAHVE’s qualifying team. I became hopeful again!
The fates must have been smiling on me because after a couple of anxiety filled weeks I was offered a position within the company. Originally I assumed I would be an independent contractor completing tasks for WAHVE’s large network of clients. But an in-house position was like hitting job lotto! I accepted and began working for WAHVE in May 2015. I’ve never regretted it for a second.
There are still days when I feel like I’ve reached my general aggregate. But I know the limit will be refreshed. WAHVE provided a practical solution to my problem. I’m able to help with my parents’ care and travel to my daughter’s when she needs me. (My granddaughter is now a healthy 2 year old). WAHVE has given me the ultimate work-life balance
– Deborah Falco
This post is part of our Making Wahves series that highlights members of the WAHVE team.