Is underwriting a good career? Ask Brendan Keating, who enjoys the opportunities to learn from different cultures that his current role with Argo Surety provides.
“It allows me to broaden my understanding of legal jurisdictions and corporate culture outside the U.S., and that’s giving me a better sense of the ‘glocal’ economy,” says Keating, vice president, national underwriting officer and international practice leader for Argo Surety.
A recent trip to South Korea is just one example of an illuminating experience.
“One minute we were sitting down with the CFO of the company, and the next we were touring a vessel covered by our surety product,” he says. “I don’t know if all industries are able to offer something like that.”
Is underwriting a good career?
Keating joined Argo Group in 2011 as a commercial surety senior underwriter, having previously worked at Zurich Financial Services. He earned a bachelor’s in marketing and an M.B.A. in finance and accounting, but an internship with a property and casualty insurance company changed his career path.
“It was a nice balance to what I was looking for,” he says of the insurance industry. “I felt it had a sales side, a legal side and financial credit analysis side, and it blends well with what I enjoy.”
Executing against a business plan as a smaller company is challenging, he says, which makes succeeding especially gratifying.
“We have been able to build a really strong global reputation within the surety line of business specifically,” he says.
Patience – and hard work – are virtues when career building
Keating urges those new in their careers to work hard, be patient and be resourceful.
“It’s a big industry that affords a lot of opportunity, and it’s up to you to create your own destiny, but while doing that, patience goes a long way,” he says. “If you work hard and are able to educate yourself and be resourceful, it will be really rewarding.”
Support from his managers over the years has shaped his attitude toward challenges.
“They really have been good at maintaining a positive outlook and have always been encouraging, even when there were difficult times,” he says. “The sense that we are in it together has been really helpful.”
Keating makes time to share his enthusiasm with those just starting out in the industry. A finance class from Keating’s alma mater visited his office and later told their professor the surety discussion at Argo – highlighting the role insurers play in enabling companies to take risks – was the most interesting of their visits to different companies.
“They were with investment banks, the Chicago Board of Trade and various financial institutions that probably sound a little sexier than insurance,” Keating says. “But my team and I took the time to help them truly understand what the corporate insurance world can offer and what type of things we are doing to help the overall economy move forward.”
Making the most of family time
Keating grew up in Buffalo, New York, the middle of five brothers. Married with two young sons, Keating enjoys traveling with his family. He works out to recharge.
“I used to play a lot of squash,” he says, but with a busy young family, he now focuses on workouts that get the most results in the least amount of time.
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