“We sell solutions for risks that nobody else wants to take.” That’s what the insurance industry offers the world, according to Teresa Chan.
And she should know: Chan brings nearly three decades of insurance industry experience to her role as director of the Master’s in Insurance Management program at Columbia University School of Professional Studies.
We recently spoke with Chan about the importance of insurance in our daily lives, what makes the future of the industry so exciting, and what advice she’d give someone interested in pursuing a career in insurance management.
What is the importance of insurance in our lives?
Insurance is misunderstood. Many people think about insurance as something we pay for and don't get any real financial benefit from until something bad happens. But many advancements in society wouldn’t happen without insurance.
There’s nothing that you see, use, or feel that would exist without insurance. Banks don't finance multibillion dollar projects without insurance backing them up, from covering the health and welfare of the individuals who are involved through workers’ comp or protecting against property damage that may occur during construction. From another perspective, new technologies can be brought to market if an insurer can remove the risk associated with its performance. That’s the power of insurance.
What makes Columbia's M.P.S. in Insurance Management program unique?
Our program is online asynchronous, and all our students are working professionals with two or more years of experience in their field. Each of our lecturers has worked in the industry for over 25 or 30 years, so they all bring that real-world context to our program. That’s important because our program features a problem-based learning structure, meaning everything we ask students to think about is based on real-life scenarios.
What does the future of the insurance industry look like? How is the next generation helping to shape the field?
As part of the curriculum, my students work on applied research projects. And out of 18 students in my last class, I've got at least 15 of them talking about AI—and talking about AI in ways that their companies are not using yet. So our students are definitely pushing the envelope for the insurance companies.
The newer generation also wants to see results now. It’s what they mean when they talk about the newer generation being born with technology in their hands. The insurance industry is an old industry where we adhere to many traditional, conventional means, and the younger generation can't get their arms around why it's taking us so long to move ahead. They feel we could be doing so many things that could be so much more efficient and productive.
What advice would you give someone interested in entering the world of insurance management?
I think it's very important to look at insurance as a business like any other. We're a very creative industry—we're creating nonstop. Cyber insurance didn't exist 25 years ago, and environmental insurance didn't exist 30 years ago.
With the myriad of emerging issues in recent years, insurance has become so much more complex since I first started in the industry. So today, there’s so much more opportunity for professionals of all skill sets and levels to find their niche in an industry that must constantly evolve.
About the Program
The Columbia University Master of Professional Studies in Insurance Management equips a new generation of professionals to lead insurance businesses with advanced industry knowledge, strategic and operational expertise, and the skills to champion new ideas.