SARASOTA – Sometimes it pays to ask the right questions at the right time in front of the right people.
University of South Florida alumnus Alex Sobczak learned that lesson firsthand when the head of a local flood insurance company spoke to his undergraduate class in the School of Risk Management and Insurance.
After the Neptune Flood Insurance co-founder talked about the company and about how it is using technology to innovate the insurance industry, Sobczak posed some thought-provoking questions.
“That talk got my brain thinking about all the different possibilities within that specific company,” he said.
At the time, Neptune was a residential flood company using technology to make obtaining insurance easier. “I started asking questions about whether it could be used for commercial buildings, for different perils, such as wildfire or wind risk. Those were questions they were also thinking about internally. They saw where my mindset was going and thought I asked great questions,” he said.
Those great questions led a professor to connect the two, which led to a job interview. Sobczak landed his first professional job out of college as an associate at Neptune Flood Insurance.
Sobczak is now the director of commercial lines at the St. Petersburg-based flood insurance company and credits the education he received from USF’s Muma College of Business for getting him well-prepared to enter the growing insurance industry.
“USF has done so much for me in my career to get me to where I am,” he said, adding that it is a rarity to study and get a degree in risk management and insurance. USF is only one of two public universities in the state to offer it as a degree.
He graduated from USF’s Sarasota-Manatee campus in 2020 with a dual degree in finance and risk management and insurance. Sobczak grew up in Sarasota and enrolled in the University of Florida as a finance major but decided to transfer to USF to attend a smaller school and to be closer to home.
Sobczak said he added the risk management and insurance major, on top of his finance major after an academic advisor shared that with a few additional course credits, he could get an additional degree in risk management.
Coincidentally, he had a cousin at USF pursuing the same dual degrees two years ahead of him and decided that following in his cousin’s footsteps made academic sense.
“I didn’t think it would be my career, but as a finance major, managing risk is core to finance itself,” he said.
Now two-and-a-half years in the industry, Sobczak said working in insurance is a perfect balance between finance and risk management. Neptune Flood specializes in insurtech, an industry term where companies use technological innovations to make underwriting or buying an insurance policy easier.
“Insurance is appealing to me because not only is there a somewhat mathematical side to insurance and analytical but there’s also that relationship side,” he said. “I spend half my day communicating with agents and working with them to help place coverage for complex risks, whether it is a school or an apartment building that needs flood insurance.”
At first, his risk management classes were just credit courses to fulfill a major. After Sobczak landed an underwriting insurance internship, he saw how his classroom lessons were applying to his daily job, and that convinced him to consider risk management and insurance as a career.
“When I saw insurance in action and saw how everything we were learning in the classroom applies and learning that insurance isn’t some stuffy, corporate type of job, it seemed like it might be the right fit for me,” he said.
Sobczak said the internships, as well as mentorship opportunities offered at USF, helped him get his foot in the door. The experience showed him that an insurance company had a wide range of departments looking for young talent, whether it was in marketing, claims, underwriting, actuaries, legal, or technology.
“I think that was fundamental for me to understand where I could go. Seeing the different opportunities within insurance showed me that this could be a career for life and that it’s something I wanted to pursue,” he said.
Today, Sobczak is still asking questions. But now he is providing answers too.
“It’s usually a problem that needs to be solved and every day there’s a new problem, a new risk coming across that you need to analyze and work with someone on getting coverage for them,” he said.