Developing skills in the insurance industry

Ashley Chetram (she/her) is going into her third year of Honours Arts, with a major in psychology and a minor in social development studies. She gives us details about completing her first co-op term at an insurance company.

Ashley ChetramAshley completed her first co-op term at Gore Mutual Insurance as a ClaimCare advisor for auto insurance. Her role is to adjust auto insurance claims. When a client gets into a wreck, for example, she would set them up with a repair shop, a rental car, cover any costs for the insurance company, etc.

“There’s a lot of rules. You have to know the laws in Ontario and what’s legal or not legal, what opens an investigation and all that. So training was very intense in that way, but I’ve gotten the hang of it.”

“We’re on phones all the time. It’s very professional when talking to our insurance and making sure that everything is correct in our mannerisms and the way we speak. So, we like to keep it quite professional.”

What were some of the main projects?

“Day-to-day you get claims coming in every day and they’re not all the same. So, one will be like someone reared-ended our insured, or our insured rear-ended someone else, or they hit a bin when coming out of a parking lot. It would be the smallest difference between one claim and another.”

“Some of the bigger claims I got would be like a hydro pole fell on someone’s vehicle. So, I have to open up an investigation, contact the hydro company, get all that done and determine whether it’s a total loss.”

“I’m the line of communication between the tow company, auto body, the insured, basically whoever is involved. It’s a lot of pressure on you.”

“Some of the other projects that I’m working on is being tasked with paying off outstanding comms invoices, which are pretty much police reports. We have to pay the invoice and sometimes adjusters forget, so I’m cleaning up and doing whatever needs to be done in the claim and then closing it off again.”

Ashley Chetram with her dogBefore Ashley’s first co-op, she did a lot of personal support worker (PSW) roles. Her employers questioned her a lot on this topic.

She explains her experience in that role:

“You have to take charge in certain times of emergency. If something's wrong, or if something needs to be done, I'm the first person to jump in and be like, ‘Hey, I got this, I’ll do it.’”

“I guess that’s what my employers wanted to see because nothing on my resume encapsulated what they were looking for in the insurance position. Even now, if another adjuster needs to transfer a file over to me because they can’t keep up with it on my end and I don’t have as many claims as they do, I’m the first person to pay off whatever needs to be paid off.”

What has been the most challenging thing so far?

“In terms of my co-op position, we get people who call in who are very angry. With Gore Mutuals, we’ve been really short-staffed because of COVID. The adjuster might be sick or no longer with us and their insured is calling saying, ‘I haven’t gotten in contact with my adjuster for two weeks!’ So, dealing with the angry insured is challenging but you have to stay calm and learn how to defuse the situation.”

What has been the most rewarding thing so far?

“I guess quite the opposite, actually. When you get those insured that really appreciate the time that you’re giving them. Around the midpoint of my co-op, I had over 100 claims and had that many people to deal with. So, you’re not getting back to everybody right away.”

“Getting that person on the phone saying, ‘Ashley, I really appreciated you explaining this to me.’ Because some people haven’t gone through insurance before, I will take that 10-15 minutes and explain everything to them and make sure that they understand what’s going on.”

“Getting those compliments that say you were attentive is probably the most rewarding.”

What’s something you learned that you can take with you moving forward?

Ashley Chetram with her dog“It was the process of auto insurance. I’m an Arts student, I study psychology. Nowhere in there is auto insurance. My other jobs have been working with people who have disabilities or doing PSW work, so I’m used to being on my feet all day. So, this professional office setting was very new to me.”

“Verbal communication was a big one because everything we did took place over the phone. I can’t see them and they can’t see me so making sure that the tone of your voice is nice enough and you choose your words wisely.”

What did you enjoy about your company’s culture?

“I would say that the people at Gore are super nice. As a co-op student, especially someone coming from Arts, I had a lot of questions. Sometimes I would ask ten questions at a time to figure out what I needed to do.”

“Having those people be there and answer them in detail is amazing. They’re super attentive when it comes to helping each other out.”

“My advice for co-op students is to ask questions, no matter how many you ask. I was able to have the confidence and courage to ask questions, even if they seemed completely stupid. I still asked them just so I knew I was on the right page."

Future plans

In terms of the future, I’m pretty much doing school and work. I do my PSW job part-time and I'm  working towards my master's.”

“My PSW job varies month to month. They ask, ‘What’s your schedule for this month?’ So I schedule that around my classes. This term, it looks like I’m going to have classes during the day, so I might end up working nights.”