You'll need excellent interpersonal skills, the ability to inspire confidence and a methodical and thorough approach to work to succeed as an insurance risk surveyor

As an insurance risk surveyor, you'll determine the possible financial risk posed by offering insurance cover for personal items, properties or sites. You'll undertake commercial and personal surveys and prepare and present reports for insurance underwriters. These reports are used to determine whether insurance should be offered and provide advice on improvements that can be made to reduce the risk of future insurance claims.

Surveys comprise a range of manufacturing, commercial, distribution and leisure businesses of varying size and may include an element of work on a fee-earning basis for third party insurers.

Types of insurance risk surveyor

Insurance risk surveyors, also known as risk consultants, risk control surveyors and risk control advisers, work for general insurance companies, brokers or firms of specialist surveyors. They normally specialise in one of the following areas:

  • accidents and liability - looking at possible risks to employees and customers
  • burglary and theft - checking business premises for security and storage methods
  • engineering insurance - covering mechanical and industrial plants
  • fire - including plans, construction and fire protection systems.

Responsibilities

As an insurance risk surveyor you'll need to:

  • undertake commercial and personal surveys
  • collate and assess risk information on site
  • use templates to record assessments and collect photographic evidence
  • prepare detailed reports and presentations for underwriters
  • make recommendations to underwriters about required improvements
  • advise clients on-site and discuss opportunities and requirements to reduce the risk of future insurance claims
  • allocate quality grades to the client once improvements have been completed
  • accompany underwriters on site visits to help them understand the practicalities of the site
  • liaise with other professionals such as underwriters, brokers, clients' representatives, inspectors of health and safety, and fire officers
  • work with the risk control team and other departments to maintain technical knowledge and standards within the business
  • keep up to date with technical aspects affecting risks, e.g. trade processes, legislation and hazardous materials
  • develop the business and maintain the professional reputation of the company with brokers and clients.

Salary

  • Starting salaries for trainees typically range from £20,000 to £22,000. Those on graduate training schemes with large insurance companies may earn more.
  • With experience you may earn between £35,000 and £50,000, plus bonuses and additional benefits.
  • With the right experience, qualifications and skills it's possible to progress to management level and earn £70,000 to in excess of £100,000.

Salaries vary considerably depending on the size and type of employer and location. You may earn more once you've achieved chartered status. Other benefits may include a company car or car allowance, pension, discounted insurance, and medical and life insurance.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

You'll usually work 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, although this may vary, particularly if you're on-call. Working from home can provide some flexibility. There is also the opportunity for part-time work.

What to expect

  • Your time will usually be split between the office and the site you're inspecting.
  • You may need to work at heights, for example on factory sites and in hazardous locations. Some sites cover a large area and could involve a lot of walking to conduct the survey.
  • Jobs are available throughout the UK.
  • As surveyors represent the company on site, you'll need to wear smart dress but with appropriate changes/cover for site conditions. You may need to wear hard hats, boots and other protective equipment for some visits.
  • You'll need to travel to site visits and may need to stay overnight when working on large sites. There may be opportunities to travel if you're working for a multinational company.

Qualifications

Although a degree isn't essential, many insurance risk surveyors have one. Some of the large insurance companies run graduate training schemes and you'll usually need a 2:1 degree in any subject to get a place, although the following subjects may increase your chances:

  • actuarial science
  • building surveying
  • business studies
  • economics
  • engineering
  • insurance
  • law
  • management
  • risk management.

Many insurance risk surveyors have gained experience in other areas of insurance first, often as an underwriter, and have recognised industry qualifications. Qualifications and experience in a related profession like building surveying, health and safety, engineering or fire safety are particularly useful for some areas of work.

Entry without a degree is possible at entry-level, working as an administrator for a risk team. You can then build up your skills and knowledge through experience and industry qualifications. You can also get into the insurance industry through an apprenticeship or advanced apprenticeship in insurance and financial planning.

Skills

You will need to show:

  • excellent interpersonal skills in order to develop a rapport with people from a variety of backgrounds and to communicate effectively with site workers, managing directors, insurance company colleagues and brokers
  • negotiating and influencing skills with the ability to handle occasional conflict situations
  • the ability to inspire confidence in clients and to persuade clients of the need to implement the advice given to reduce risk
  • the aptitude to investigate and assess technical risks and to retain large amounts of technical knowledge
  • an eye for detail
  • strong organisational, planning and time management skills
  • the ability to work alone and as part of a team
  • the capacity to complete projects and keep to deadlines
  • a motivated, results-driven approach
  • the ability to use appropriate technical equipment, e.g. survey templates and digital photographic equipment
  • a flexible approach for dealing with changes in working methods and techniques
  • report writing and presentation skills
  • IT skills.

You'll usually need a driving licence for travel to sites.

Work experience

Most insurance risk surveyors have prior experience in insurance and it's worth investigating general graduate entry-level posts into the insurance industry in order to get the necessary work experience.

Some insurance companies, particularly the larger ones, offer summer placements for undergraduates in various areas of insurance, which will help develop your skills and knowledge in the insurance industry. Smaller firms may offer work experience but you may need to approach them direct to find out about opportunities.

Employers

The majority of surveyors work for general insurance companies, but some are employed by larger firms of insurance brokers (the intermediaries between clients and insurance companies).

Engineering surveyors usually work for specialist engineering insurance companies. Other surveyors might work for specialist insurance surveying firms, loss adjusting companies or risk management consultancies.

Because of mergers that have taken place in recent years, many insurance companies are large organisations. The top ten general insurance and life and pension insurance groups are the most likely to recruit and train graduates through formal schemes.

Insurance risk surveyors are also employed by Lloyd's, the world’s specialist insurance and reinsurance market.

Look for job vacancies at:

Specialist recruitment agencies handle vacancies. See advertisements in the national press and specialist journals. The large insurance companies also advertise vacancies on their websites.

Professional development

Insurance risk surveyors are expected to have - or to be working towards - the Chartered Insurance Institute (CII) Advanced Diploma (ACII). Qualifications are offered at Certificate (Cert CII), Diploma (Dip CII) and Advanced Diploma (ACII) level and are organised in a modular structure in order to allow you to choose the most relevant modules and study at your own pace.

Upon successful completion of the CII Advanced Diploma in Insurance you're entitled to use the designation 'ACII' and are eligible for chartered status (subject to having five years' experience, not necessarily post-qualification).

It's becoming increasingly common for employers to also request NEBOSH (The National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health) qualifications, such as the NEBOSH National General Certificate in Occupational Health and Safety and NEBOSH National Diploma in Occupational Health and Safety.

Some surveyors take the International Diploma in Risk Management offered by the Institute of Risk Management (IRM). As a Diploma graduate, you're eligible to apply for Certified Member (CMIRM) status and can use the title Certified Risk Professional after your name.

Other training takes place on the job through in-house training programmes, mentor support, distance learning and some external training.

Career prospects

Progression is usually clearly defined within each company, from trainee roles to senior surveyor positions, heads of risk management departments or senior management roles. In general, the more senior the role, the more desk-based the work. Progression may lead to risk manager, senior risk manager and corporate risk manager positions.

If you want to keep your links with on-site work, you may stay within surveying, where more senior posts are concerned with leading and motivating a home-based workforce and ensuring that team members have adequate training and skills. Heads of department and senior managers will be more involved with strategic planning and have a more commercial focus to their jobs.

You may choose to specialise in an operational or technical field and deal with larger and more complex cases, while still retaining your competence in all general areas. Alternatively, you may move from more 'straightforward' industries, such as retail, into more hazardous and complex areas, such as steel works, chemical manufacturers, electronics manufacturing and the automotive industries. It may be possible to move out of the insurance sector into areas such as engineering, construction and the public sector.

With experience, it may be possible to set up your own consultancy or become a partner within a specialist firm of independent surveyors. Engineering consultancies often employ in-house risk surveyors. You could also move into insurance loss adjusting.