Why pursuing a career in insurance can mean changing the world
Special Q&A with Bibi Khan, Underwriting Practice Leader at NSM Insurance Group
Since 2015, February has been recognized as Insurance Careers Month — an initiative that aims to bring awareness to recruiting the next generation of insurance professionals and spotlighting how a career in the insurance industry can be innovative and rewarding.
After 35 years in the insurance industry, Bibi Khan, Underwriting Practice Leader at NSM Insurance Group, is no industry novice. Still, she will be the first to tell you that she is not finished learning either. Bibi, who has been with NSM since June 2018, oversees “NSM University,” the company’s underwriting training and education program. This platform allows Bibi to train new NSM team members and provide continued education and development for existing employees. In honor of Insurance Careers Month, we sat down with Bibi to hear about her learning culture mindset, her role in guiding tomorrow’s insurance leaders and her view on the industry.
“At NSM, we put our relationships above all else because we know that drives mutual, long-term success.”
What do you do in your current role?
My two main focus areas are developing talent, specifically underwriters and underwriting analysts, and establishing underwriting guidance. On the one hand, I train and mentor NSM’s underwriting teams with formal development programs and mentoring relationships. I’m currently working closely with our HR team to develop learning modules for new entrants to NSM and the insurance space that would inform and introduce them to the industry as a whole. NSM is incredibly committed to delivering hands-on client service to our agents and insureds. We focus on enhancing our underwriting teams’ competencies to ensure they provide value through dedicated service and sustaining strong relationships with our partners. Our objective is to add value for our agents and insureds, and that starts with a foundation of competencies and skills to ensure we deliver that unparalleled service.
Additionally, I work with Operations to ensure our underwriting teams meet regulatory, coverage and state requirements. Overall, my role advocates for learning and development and helps employees of all levels across our organization succeed in their respective roles.
What are you most passionate about in your role?
I am most passionate about learning and development, but more importantly, transferring my knowledge to others and, in the process, enhancing my own learning. Three decades ago, when I first started in this industry, colleagues did not readily share knowledge. I had to find it for myself — talk to people, ask questions, make mistakes, persevere in the learning mode — to keep moving forward. My experience of this unwillingness from others to impart their knowledge, influenced me to change that mindset by sharing whatever knowledge I can. Not everyone has access to knowledge — those who do have a responsibility to share it. I experience fulfillment when I see underwriters and underwriting analysts achieve and succeed. It is the best part of my job. We have to learn to lift one another and how we communicate with each other is so important. Insurance is all about relationships and interactions.
At NSM, we put our relationships above all else because we know that drives mutual, long-term success. We collaborate with agents and carriers to build the industry’s best insurance programs that deliver sustainable profit.
I’m currently pursuing my doctorate in Strategic Leadership and Complex Systems Management at Thomas Jefferson University, demonstrating my commitment to my ongoing development. I am excited about my learning, especially around system thinking and design thinking. This methodology has transformed my problem-solving perspective and reflection. I can look at challenges beyond our organization’s parts and focus on how these parts interact to serve NSM as a whole. As individuals, we add complexity to situations; however, we can change our fixed, process-based mindset and embrace a growth mindset to achieve success.
What led you to pursue a career in insurance?
I came to the United States as an immigrant, and I guess you could say an insurance career found me. The principal modern concept of insurance — that of transferring risk — dates back to the commercial revolution and is critical to social operating. Insurance has had a very redemptive history and today serves as a backbone of civilization. Because of that, an insurance career provides excellent stability and the opportunity to change the world meaningfully. Moreover, insurance gives you great insight into so many aspects of life — how businesses operate, the risks and controls in place, etc. — so it is by no means a boring career if you put in the work and are open to continuously learning new things.
What words of wisdom or advice would you give to others considering a career in insurance or those already in one?
Strive to be the best version of yourself, not someone else. You will learn from your mistakes, not someone else’s success. Know your values, what you are committed to and serve it to the best of your ability. Have a purpose in life; this way, you will enjoy any career you choose. Of course, I will always recommend a rewarding insurance career with NSM!
When you’re not educating the future insurance leaders of tomorrow, what do you like to do in your spare time?
I’ve been unable to do so in the last year or so, but I love to travel. I’ve visited 43 countries to date and am looking forward to when I can travel again. I get tremendous value out of experiencing different cultures and appreciate how it changes my perspective on the world and my purpose. I credit this to my learning from being in the Peace Corps.