Editor’s note: This blog is the first in a series of posts from new adviser Brian Murphy as EBA follows the rookie through his first year in the field.

Here I am at the end of week four in the industry. While majoring in risk management and insurance in college was a great starting point for my career in benefits consulting, I soon realized how little I know about the industry. College education and internship experience was fantastic for conceptual and high-level strategy, but there is so much nuance and detail that just can’t be learned in a classroom or a three month internship.  But that’s why I’m here at Willis — to learn!

Three weeks prior to starting at Willis, the company announced its merger with Towers Watson and I learned that the company I was about to work for was doubling in size. This led to a bit of personal panic, which was quickly followed by excitement.  Here’s a gross over simplification of why: Willis is primarily a property and casualty broker and consultant with a hefty benefits shop and Towers is a benefits consultant, among many other things. I was designated to work in the benefits consulting division of Willis which is now merging with a benefits consultant—Towers Watson. Where does this leave me? In panic. What would this mean for my first years in the industry?

Also see: "Broker of the future 'captivated,' shaped by ACA debate."

Now to the exciting part: I quickly realized that my career opportunities had quite literally doubled. I also realized that this was a very exciting time for Willis Human Capital. Our overall ability to compete with the other two mega-brokers — which will remain nameless — was growing. This announcement, along with other big mergers this year, reinforced my suspicion that this was an aspect of the industry I would have to get accustomed to. But then again, evolution is one of the attributes that intrigued me about this industry.

17 month rotation

Here’s some background on my position: post-graduation I entered into Willis’ Risk Management Analyst (RMA) Program in the Human Capital Practice. This is a 17-month rotational program that exposes graduates to different areas of the business. RMAs can rotate across coverages (e.g. property, casualty, or human capital/employee benefits) or within a specific coverage. For example, I will be rotating within human capital to different areas such as financial services, client service and possibly global benefits. The program is leadership development training so we can see how it all fits together. Assuming all goes well, upon completion of the program you are placed into a role that fits you. This type of non-committal entry level position is perfect for a college graduate who doesn’t know much about the day-to-day tasks of each position.

My first rotation will be assisting the financial service group which handles the marketing, renewal projections, and any other financial analyses. I have a hunch that this rotation is where I will learn much of the financial foundation that I will carry throughout my career. Being surrounded by experienced underwriters and “Excel wizards” is just enough to make your head spin at times. But this is where I need to be. Lesson by lesson, project by project, and bit by bit I will slowly learn an industry that is constantly changing.

Murphy is a risk management analyst in the human capital practice at Willis of Greater Philadelphia. Reach him at Brian.W.Murphy@Willis.com.

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