Insurance risk surveyors determine the possible financial risk posed by offering insurance cover for personal items, properties or sites. They 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.

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:

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

Responsibilities

Insurance risk surveyors can work in a general capacity or may specialise in a particular area. Surveys undertaken by insurance risk surveyors comprise a range of manufacturing, commercial, distribution and leisure businesses of varying size. Survey activities may include an element of work on a fee-earning basis for third party insurers.

Key tasks generally include:

  • undertaking commercial and personal surveys;
  • collating and assessing risk information on site;
  • using templates to record assessments and collecting photographic evidence;
  • preparing detailed reports and presentations for underwriters;
  • making recommendations to underwriters about required improvements;
  • advising clients on-site and discussing opportunities and requirements to reduce the risk of future insurance claims;
  • allocating quality grades to the client once improvements have been completed;
  • accompanying underwriters on site visits to help them understand the practicalities of the site;
  • liaising with other professionals, e.g. underwriters, brokers, client representatives, inspectors of health and safety and fire officers;
  • working with the risk control team and other departments to maintain technical knowledge and standards within the business;
  • keeping up to date with technical aspects affecting risks, e.g. trade processes, legislation, hazardous materials;
  • developing the business and maintaining 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.
  • Surveyors with five to ten years' experience may earn between £35,000 and £50,000, plus bonuses and additional benefits. With the right experience, qualifications and skills it is possible to progress to management level and earn in excess of this.

Salaries vary considerably depending on the size and type of employer and location. Other benefits may include a company car or car allowance and medical and life insurance.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

Surveyors usually work 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, although flexibility may be required, particularly if on-call. Working from home can provide some flexibility. There is also the opportunity for part-time work.

What to expect

  • Time is generally split between the office and the site being inspected.
  • Conditions may be cramped, dusty and dirty, depending on the site. Surveyors 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, smart dress is required but with appropriate changes/cover for site conditions. Hard hats, boots and other protective equipment may be needed for some visits and are provided by the insurance company or client.
  • Travel is required for site visits during the working day with the possibility of overnight stays when working on large sites.
  • Overseas travel may be required if working for a multinational company.

Qualifications

Although not essential for entry into the profession, many insurance risk surveyors have a degree. Considerable experience in the insurance industry, often as an underwriter, is usually necessary, along with recognised industry qualifications. Qualifications and experience in a related, specialised profession like building surveying, health and safety or engineering may also be beneficial.

Although insurance risk surveying is not normally an entry-level graduate job, some of the large insurance companies run graduate training schemes. A 2:1 degree in any subject is often preferred, although the following subjects may increase your chances:

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

Engineering subjects are required for specialist engineering insurance surveying. It is worth investigating general graduate entry-level posts into the insurance industry in order to get the necessary work experience.

Entry without a degree is possible at entry-level, working as an administrator for a risk team.

Most entrants have gained experience in other areas of insurance first.

Skills

You will need to show evidence of the following:

  • excellent interpersonal skills and the ability to develop a rapport with people from a variety of backgrounds and to communicate effectively with a range of people, such as site workers, managing directors, insurance company colleagues and brokers;
  • the flexibility to work in a range of physical locations, some uncomfortable;
  • 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.

A current driving licence is usually a necessity.

Employers

The UK's insurance market is the largest in Europe and third largest in the world, employing around 315,000 people (Association of British Insurers (ABI), UK Insurance - Key Facts 2014). 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.

Lloyd's is a unique insurance market where brokers place business on the market for their clients. This business is then taken up by a syndicate of underwriters or individual companies within the London Underwriting Centre (LUC).

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.

Get more tips on how to find a job, create a successful CV and cover letter, and prepare for interviews.

Professional development

Insurance risk surveyors are expected to have or 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 candidates to choose the most relevant modules and study at their own pace.

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

It is becoming increasingly common for employers to also request National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health (NEBOSH) qualifications, such as the NEBOSH National Certificate in Occupational Health and Safety, which covers the following areas:

  • managing health and safety;
  • controlling workplace hazards;
  • health and safety practical application.

The NEBOSH National Diploma in Occupational Health and Safety is accepted by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) as meeting the academic requirements for admission to chartered membership and provides a sound basis for progression to MSc level study.

Some surveyors take the International Diploma in Risk Management offered by the Institute of Risk Management (IRM). The International Diploma provides an entry point to Certified (CMIRM) status and may be particularly useful for progression to risk management posts.

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 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.

Risk surveyors wanting to retain links with on-site work 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. Keeping up to date with recent technological and legal developments and disseminating these to the team is a key part of the role.

Heads of department and senior managers will be more involved with strategic planning and have a more commercial focus to their jobs.

Some surveyors choose to specialise in an operational or technical field and deal with larger and more complex cases, while still retaining their competence in all general areas. With experience, others 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.

Some surveyors set up their own consultancies or become partners within specialist firms of independent surveyors. Engineering consultancies often employ in-house risk surveyors.

Geographic mobility across the UK is often required to gain promotion and to aid career progression.