James Donald

University / Zurich Graduate scheme

Meet James Donald to find about his Graduate scheme at Zurich Insurance Ltd.
James Donald

Get to know him better...

  • What is your role?

    My current role is a graduate trainee. The Zurich graduate scheme is a rotational programme in which you typically rotate every 6 months for 3 years. My current job role is Specialty Lines Technical Underwriter.

  • What do you do in a typical working day?

    Technical underwriting is highly analytical and is often referred to as Portfolio Management. Through data analysis amongst other skills, the technical team will assess the performance of their respective business area and will act accordingly, thus managing the portfolio.


    As part of the analysis, key performance indicators are used such as new business, renewed business, lapses, rate and claims. Reporting is typically conducted on a weekly, monthly and quarterly basis which provides consistent structure however, analysis is a daily occurrence. Aside from this, the ‘typical day’ can be difficult to summarise due to the variety and scale of responsibilities of the role, which is a key factor of why I enjoy the role.


    A typical day may start with some analysis of one of the 9 lines of business that make up our Specialty Lines offering. This would involve collating data from multiple data sources to assess the performance based on KPI’s mentioned above such as new business, lapses etc. This would involve communicating with the market underwriters to gain a greater understanding of the data. After this, I may be involved in governance work regarding underwriting authority levels or ensuring underwriting guides are still fit for purpose.


    The role of a technical underwriter is varied, but the overarching nature of the work is analytical and entirely dependent on communication with market underwriters, both elements that I thoroughly enjoy.

  • What made you choose a graduate scheme?

    One of the main attractions to the graduate scheme was the variety of experiences I would be able to get through rotating around the business. Having a breadth of experience at the start of my career presents a valuable opportunity to develop a broad understanding of the business whilst also allowing me to develop a range of skillsets along the way. The breadth of opportunities, the highly regarded support network and the ability to study towards professional qualifications were all appealing aspects to the scheme that I felt would be invaluable at such an early stage of my career.

  • What are the benefits of a graduate scheme?

    As stated above the support you receive on the programme is excellent. As well as the support from my line manager I was also assigned a personal development manager as well as a mentor within my team. All of whom provided unique outlooks and ways of working which I believe can only be beneficial to my own personal development.

  • How did you get into the profession?

    When I left university and was applying for graduate schemes like most people but I didn’t have one particular company or even industry in mind. However, I knew that I wanted to work in a fast-paced industry within financial services and also join a graduate scheme. The main draw to the insurance industry was a mix of the vast variety of roles available within the market, the scale and significance of the industry from a financial perspective and also the social nature the industry is renowned for.

  • What would you say to someone that doesn’t have much of an understanding of the Insurance profession?

    A deep understanding of the insurance industry or financial services is not essential to get a role within the industry however, it can only be beneficial. Personally, I feel that general commercial awareness is enough at such an early stage.

  • What do you enjoy most about your job?

    I really enjoy the social nature of the industry and also the variety of work and roles I have encountered so far in my career. The industry itself is experiencing monumental changes which adds to the fast paced and exciting environment that we work in.

  • What career progression have you had so far?

    I joined Zurich in September 2017 so I’m still relatively new to the industry and quickly approaching the half-way point of the graduate scheme. As I rotate roles every 6 months career progression in the traditional sense is difficult to monitor however, I feel that my time on the scheme has been successful so far as I have acquired a range of skills and technical knowledge.

  • What do you need to be successful in your role?

    An analytical mind-set will always be beneficial whatever your role requires whether that’s assessing a risk as an underwriter or adjusting a claim as a claims handler. Good communication skills will always be useful as will a genuine willingness to learn.

  • Have you taken any professional qualifications?

    I’m studying towards my ACII qualification and intend to be ACII qualified by the end of 2019.

  • What have been your career highlights so far?

    Career highlights so far include achieving underwriting authority in Directors & Officers in my first 5 months, delivering specialty lines training to support the cross-selling initiative and independently leading for various pieces of analysis.

  • Would you recommend the profession to a young person making career choices?

    I would highly recommend the industry to young people due to the social nature and range of the roles available combined with the sheer size of the market means there’s a role to suit any preferences.