Spotlight on: James Sheehan - Underwriter

As an underwriter, Jason Sheehan is awesome at handling relationships so his company and its customers are happy; and he understands the maths of risk.

If you’re thinking about going into insurance, underwriter Jason Sheehan says don’t be influenced by stereotypes or your own perception of the industry.  “Insurance will surprise you with its diversity and complexity and it offers excellent long-term career opportunities,” he says.

What surprised him most at first, was the number and different kinds of insurance options available. 

“Growing up, you only ever really see insurance from your family’s perspective in terms of what they buy and what’s advertised.  Car and home policies was where I thought insurance started and stopped.”


Although he’s now in a senior position at Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance (BHSI), Sheehan didn’t always aspire to be part of the insurance industry.

“I was on a gap year from university after deferring my course in electronic engineering when I got an entry level insurance recovery role,” he recalls. “I spent my first three years in a call centre.”

When a chance to work with Marsh came up, he jumped at it and spent four years working there before being approached for an underwriting role in the property team at Vero.

“That was the third time in seven years I started a new role without knowing much about what it would involve, but it turned out to be the right move.”


Wondering what an underwriter actually does?

“Mostly, it’s about putting a price on different sorts of risk, using the company’s money wisely and having great relationships with brokers and clients,” Sheehan says.

“It probably comes as no surprise, but the way you communicate is crucial and can really make or break a relationship. The way a message is delivered and the detail that you go into is more important than the actual decision on many occasions.”


But what’s the job like on a daily basis?

“The biggest positive is that there’s always a need to learn and to be curious about the world around you. Because we need to evaluate the businesses we deal with, we get an in-depth view of what different industries do.”

As a fairly social person, Sheehan really enjoys this aspect of the role.

“It’s been a great opportunity to work with so many like-minded people who are all here to achieve the same goal.  I’ve also been lucky enough to forge some really strong friendships with many of the brokers I work with, not to mention other underwriters.”


Sheehan says his favourite thing about working in insurance is the opportunity available for those who want it and who apply themselves in the right way.

“I’ve had the chance to travel, work with some fantastic people and most importantly, keep on learning on every level. I’ve grown my skills as an underwriter, learned about building a business — like we’re currently doing at BHSI — and got a view about how so many other industries operate.”

He says there isn’t a lot to dislike that’s really unique to insurance.

“Most of the challenges we face as an industry are really just areas to be overcome … and, in many ways, can be turned into opportunities for those who can respond quickly.”