It seemed like it was only yesterday when Michael Rellosa, a fresh AB Economics graduate, was walking in Makati looking for a job. Frustrated that there weren't any vacancies, he lucked in on a tip given by a friend who worked for FGU, an insurance company owned by the Ayalas. He applied for it, was accepted for training, and was soon ushered into the world of non-life insurance.
Now, Rellosa, already the president and chief operating office of Fortune General Insurance and chairman of the ASEAN Insurance Council, is urging fresh graduates to consider non-life insurance as an exciting career option.
"Insurance is a very interesting and exciting profession," he said. "It is multifaceted and calls for people with analytical and critical minds. Unfortunately, people tend to associate insurance only with selling which is not entirely true."
Because insurance is not as popular as banking, Rellosa said many executives who work in the industry right now entered it by accident.
Melecio Mallillin is one good example. Now the president of Charter Ping-An Insurance Company, which belongs to the Metrobank Group, he started in San Miguel Corporation as an analyst after earning a political science degree.
He was given P1,000 a month in San Miguel about 41 years ago which then was a princely sum. But despite the high pay, he was bored with his job. He got an offer from an insurance company, studied it carefully and eventually took it. The starting salary was P460 a month.
"My father, who was a tricycle driver, asked me after learning about my decision: 'Bobo ka ba?' (Are you stupid?) I just laughed. But I told him later that I saw a better future in insurance. And I was right," he remembers.
Rellosa and Mallillin were guests recently at a student's forum held at the Asia Pacific College where available careers in the insurance industry were discussed.
Rellosa explained to the students that to be able to fully appreciate insurance, they need to first understand risk and how it is managed.
"Insurance is the transfer of risk which is a very important component of risk management. The risks that you cannot handle -- such as your house burning down or your car getting stolen -- these risks you transfer to the insurance company in exchange for your premium. The insurance company then does the worrying for you. You get to sleep soundly at night because you are insured," Rellosa said.
He added that the economy will stop if there is no insurance. "No airplane will fly and no ship will sail or business deal transacted without insurance. You can say that insurance makes the world go round," he said.
Rellosa further pointed out the vital role of insurance in natural catastrophes.
He cited the Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan in 2011 where US$35 billion were paid by insurance companies in claims, or, in the local front, the great flood caused by tropical storm Ondoy in Metro Manila in 2009 where insurers shelled out US$230 million in claims or the devastation in the Visayas by super typhoon Yolanda in 2013 which caused insurers some US$300 million.
"People don't really know it but it is in catastrophes that many get to appreciate the real value of insurance," he said. "They are able to tell themselves, 'buti na lang insured sila.'"
Rellosa added that now is the best time to enter the Philippine insurance industry as companies are expanding to match the higher capitalization required of them by the government.
"Many companies are now beefing up their manpower to match the need," he said.
Meanwhile, students were encouraged further to have a career in insurance so as to imbibe the timeless values that the industry espouses.
Melinda Natividad, assistant director of BPI-MS Insurance, stressed that the values being promoted by the insurance industry are the same values that most employers look for in their workers.
"Insurance promotes critical thinking and trains you to be a problem solver. It also teaches you integrity, empathy, and passion. And above all, insurance underscores the importance of being trustworthy. If you have these qualities, you will always be in demand," she said.