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"I see something new every day." SFAA Pitches College Students on Surety Careers at Gamma

Michael Assels of Travelers speaks to students about a day in the life of a surety underwriter.

SFAA participated in Gamma Iota Sigma’s International Conference in Dallas last week, where over 600 students studying insurance and risk management gathered to hear from industry leaders and learn about career opportunities.

With talent being a top priority for SFAA member companies, the Association made a concerted effort to educate students on the uniqueness of surety and fidelity, and the rewarding careers the industry provides. Many students who visited SFAA’s booth did not have much exposure to the industry, but upon hearing about this $7.8 billion “niche,” were interested in learning more and considering surety in their internship or job searches.

In order to give students a better understanding of surety and fidelity opportunities, SFAA sponsored a session titled “See Your Future in 2020: Discover a Career in Surety and Fidelity.” The session was led by Michael Assels of Travelers, a Gamma alumnus, who spoke about the "pillars of surety," the uniqueness of the three-party contract, and what a day in the life of an underwriter is like. Attendance was strong with nearly every seat filled, and with other students listening as they attended the career fair.

“I see something new every day,” Mr. Assels said, stressing that being a surety underwriter is not your typical insurance job. “I might be in the office for a few days, out visiting agents in the field, or visiting clients out of state to hear about a new project they want to bid on.”

Mr. Assels, who had never known about surety until he landed an internship in college, also spoke about the investment surety companies make in their employees.

“The companies will train you right, and they will trust you,” he said, noting that he has considerable autonomy, including the ability to make underwriting decisions up to a certain dollar amount.

Mr. Assels encouraged students who were considering actuarial careers to give surety a chance, noting that surety underwriters do very thorough financial analysis, which would suit their skillset and interest.

Myron Adamson of Bunker Hill Community College in Boston attended the session and came away very interested in surety and a possible career in the industry.

“I knew very little about surety before, if anything,” he said. “The presentation answered my questions and opened up a door for me I didn’t know was there. I really like the mix of sales and interpersonal skills and analysis that is required.”

John Hammond, Senior Vice President of AIG, and a member of Gamma Iota Sigma’s Board of Trustees, expressed his pleasure in SFAA being part of the conference.

“It’s important to give students a fuller picture of insurance and let them know what else is out there,” he said. Gamma Iota Sigma leadership also thanked SFAA for taking part, and expressed interest in highlight surety as career option on their website, giving it greater exposure to students at the 85 colleges and universities with a Gamma chapter.

The conference also served as a venue to launch The Surety Foundation’s scholarship and internship program for underrepresented students for 2020. Diversity is of increasing importance to this next generation of insurance professionals, with 60% saying they want their employer to commit to and demonstrate diversity at all levels of the company, and 47% desiring diversity in company leadership, according to a recruiting survey of students released by Gamma.

The Surety Foundation’s decision last year to expand its definition of underrepresented students to include women, veterans, disabled students, and LGTB persons, paid dividends. The 2019 intern class was the first all-female class in the Foundation’s history, with six scholarships being awarded to interns from Merchants, Nationwide, and Travelers.

Examples of The Surety Foundation’s legacy and member company generosity were also visible at the conference.

Nia Gumbs, a former intern, also stopped by SFAA’s booth to thank the Association and the Foundation for providing her with valuable professional experience and a scholarship. She plans to attend graduate school and hopes to use her insurance experience in her career when she finishes.

The Surety Foundation plans to release the 2020 intern and scholarship application in the coming weeks, and encourages all member companies to consider hiring interns as we work to build a talent pipeline for the industry’s future. Companies interested in learning more about the program should contact Barbara Reiff at 202-778-3626 or

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