As is often the case in life, timing was everything when Chris Schramm entered the job market after college.
He’d planned a career in real estate and – fortuitously – took a risk management course to fulfill a requirement for his business degree at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. That class piqued Schramm’s interest, and he decided to double-major in risk management.
“It was really fascinating,” he says. “It was shortly after 9-11, so there was a lot of talk about how those events affected insurance companies.”
When graduation rolled around, Schramm found himself looking for jobs just as the real estate bubble burst. He landed an internship with a Madison-area insurance company and worked there for almost 12 years – becoming an underwriter assistant, an underwriter and then the manager of an underwriting unit – before joining Argo Casualty as its Chicago-based East Region Manager in March.
Challenges and opportunities in the E&S market
The E&S property and casualty industry is all about finding solutions, Schramm says.
“It’s not always the price or coverage they’re looking for,” he says. “But being able to work with people to find those solutions is pretty rewarding. It’s nice to bind big deals, but I really enjoy the process – building those relationships and getting the job done.”
Underwriters must feed their curiosity by engaging people and listening to their ideas to identify potential opportunities that apply to the market, Schramm says. Being an active listener and learner is essential for success in one of Argo Casualty’s sweet spots: emerging risks.
“We are really looking to find those things that nobody has perfected, that nobody has expertise in, where we can do that leg work and developed that expertise and figure out how to underwrite the business to a profit,” he says.
And while the internet of things (IoT), drones, automated vehicles and vertical farming are definitely part of Argo Casualty’s appetite, in his new role Schramm is focused on what is yet to come.
“A lot of what we will be going after, we don’t even know about yet,” he says. “Our targets and our opportunities are going to evolve as time goes on.”
Ask questions and keep bridges intact
Schramm encourages those early in their insurance careers to build a network of trusted colleagues and to commit to lifelong learning.
“Never stop learning, never stop being curious and never burn your bridges,” he says, explaining that the industry is small enough that the impact of both good and bad professional relationships is long lasting.
Asking questions is a solid strategy for success.
“Early on I made a point to make sure that I was never afraid to ask questions of people that have been around in the business, and that has really helped me a lot.”
A zest for cooking and travel
Schramm enjoys spending time running, cycling and sailing. During his travels, he tries to fit in hikes while working toward his goal of visiting a new state and country each year and touring the seven wonders of the world. So far, he’s been to Machu Picchu and the Taj Mahal.
Schramm grew up in Addison, Illinois, a western suburb of Chicago, and considered attending culinary school after high school.
“That’s not because I was really good at cooking,” Schramm says. “It’s because I enjoyed cooking. To this day, it’s something I still really enjoy doing.”
Rosemary and sage make frequent appearances in the dishes he concocts sans recipes.
“My fiancée tells me I’m a good cook, but I feel like she has to say that.”
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