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Student Spotlight: Philip Jimenez Focuses on a Career in Underwriting After 15 Years as Baggage Handler

By Keith Morelli

Philip Jimenez

TAMPA (September 22, 2021) -- Thirty-five-year-old Philip Jimenez was working full time as a ramp agent with Southwest Airlines at Tampa International Airport and had been for 15 years when he reached a point at which the physical job began taking its toll on his body.

That’s when he seriously took the advice of an uncle who clued him in on career opportunities in a field he had never considered. Like many not involved in the business of risk management and insurance, Jimenez thought the only options were being an agent or broker selling policies.

“I mentioned going back to school,” he said, “and my uncle suggested pursuing a career in the insurance field.”

Once he began taking classes at the Muma College of Business’s School of Risk Management and Insurance three years ago, Jimenez discovered the wide range of career options within the field. Underwriting was one such option that piqued his interest after an internship this summer.

“I originally thought that I wanted to work on the agency/broker side of the business, but my internship experience showed me a bit of what the underwriting process was and curved my interest to underwriting,” Jimenez said. “Underwriting is a very critical part of the industry.”

Steven Miller is the director of the School of Risk Management and Insurance, which is one of the newest at the Muma College of Business since consolidation of campuses and programs last year. It is one of only two such programs offered by public universities in the state of Florida and is designated as a “program of strategic emphasis” by the State University System’s Board of Governors. Classroom instruction is combined with internships to prepare students for jobs with competitive salaries and leadership skills upon graduation.

Miller said the program collaborates with insurance companies to build a pipeline of qualified graduates to address a growing industry talent gap.

“Through internships, scholarships and mentorships, we’re helping students explore a variety of risk management and insurance career paths so they can find the path that fits with their abilities and goals,” Miller said. “Helping students find their fit is impactful and rewarding.  A good fit leads to increased job fulfillment, early career success and retention.”

For Jimenez, who graduates in the fall of 2022, underwriting has become his chosen path.

“Insurance is a business and if the carrier takes on risks that produce an abundance of losses, the company will not be around for long,” Jimenez said. “As an underwriter, you are assessing risk every day. It is up to you to make sure the risks that the company is taking on gives adequate coverage to the insured while also fitting the appetite of the carrier. If you do not balance those two aspects well, you will not have a job to show up to for long.”

Jimenez was accepted at the University of Florida in Gainesville.

“But once I saw that USF Sarasota-Manatee started the risk management program, my decision was made and I applied immediately,” he said. “It has been an amazing experience so far and I am extremely happy that I made the decision to attend classes on this campus.”

Earlier this year, he saw a post for a summer internship with the Frank Winston Crum Insurance Company and figured he would give it a shot.

“It was an amazing experience,” Jimenez said. “We were given challenging tasks that left me feeling like I truly learned about what it takes to work at an insurance carrier. Additionally, the company culture made me feel very fortunate to have had the experience.

“I was not sure which way I wanted to go – between an agency or carrier – but my experience at Frank Winston Crum made that decision clear for me. I wanted to work on the carrier side.”

The internship led to a full-time job as a junior underwriter for Jimenez while he completes his education. The firm will keep him on after graduation, Jimenez said.

Matt Crum, president of Frank Winston Crum Insurance said his company has a strong commitment to serve students seeking careers in the risk management and insurance industries. That’s why he offers quality internship opportunities.

“We implemented our internship program to help develop the next generation of risk management and insurance professionals as well as meet our own growing need for top talent,” Crum said, “and we’re looking forward to the future as USF’s risk management and insurance major plays an increasingly important role in promoting a fulfilling career in this dynamic industry.”

Jimenez’s goal for the next five to 10 years is to earn the bachelor’s degree, acquire the General Lines 2-20 license, which is Florida’s license for insurance professionals, and get the CPCU designation, a premier professional designation in the insurance industry.

“I would also like to progress in my new career,” he said, “and hopefully still be working for Frank Winston Crum Insurance.”