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ALPS In Brief Podcast - Episode 79: Exploring Careers in Insurance: Insights from ALPS HR Experts

17 min read

ALPS In Brief Podcast - Episode 79: Exploring Careers in Insurance: Insights from ALPS HR Experts

In this episode of ALPS In Brief, our Bar Partnership Strategist Rio Peterson sits down with Liesel Brink and Amber Kuhlman from the ALPS HR team to talk about careers in Insurance. Learn about their path into HR and learn about all the exciting opportunities that exist in this often overlooked industry.

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Rio Peterson: Hello, everybody, and welcome to this month's installment of In Brief. This is episode 79, and I am your host for the first time ever, Rio Peterson. I'll be joining you, hopefully more frequently in a rotation on the podcast, and very much looking forward to it. So this month is Insurance Careers Month, and so we thought it would be really, really appropriate to speak to the two people here at ALPS, who really make sure that people can have careers at ALPS and bring us new talent, and really keep the lights on and run all the things. So I'm going to be talking to Liesel Brink and Amber Kuhlman. Kuhlman. 

Sorry, Amber. So Liesel, do you want to start by introducing yourself, telling us a bit about who you are, what you do here at ALPS? 

Liesel Brink: Sure. Thanks so much, Rio. This is an exciting opportunity. So I am your manager of HR and payroll coordinator here at ALPS Insurance. Do everything from hiring, recruiting, all the way to payroll. 

Not to take any of this under from Amber, I can't do it all on my own. I've been with ALPS for, it's going on nine years, and yeah, been a great time so far. 

Rio Peterson: Awesome. How about you, Amber? Tell us a little bit about yourself. 

Amber Kuhlman: Yeah. So I'm Amber. I'm the HR generalist here at ALPS Insurance. I've been here a little about year and a half now, but in my role, I focus more on the onboarding, recruiting side of things, but I also participate and help out all things wellness with our employees, so that's great. 

Rio Peterson: Yeah, that's right. You kind of run things on our Employee Wellness program, which I will speak from experience, is an incredible program and definitely a major perk of working here. So thank you both for all your work and for putting that together for us. It's really fantastic. So we're kind of taking some time to explore careers in insurance this month. 

I don't think necessarily, an industry that a lot of people wake up when they're like five or six, and they're like, "Ah, I want to work in insurance," but so I think it's really important that we can take some time and kind of explore what we do and all of the incredible kind of opportunities and possibilities that exist when you do choose to pursue a career in insurance. So I'm really curious to find out kind of from both of you like, "What was your life before ALPS? What did you do? What was your world before that?" 

Amber Kuhlman: Yeah, I can start off. It definitely wasn't insurance. This is my first job in insurance, but prior to coming onto ALPS, I actually came from retail sales, so very different. It's a great learning opportunity, working with individuals, helping them find what they need, but definitely enjoy the insurance side a lot more. Love the stability within insurance. 

Everyone needs it for a variety of things, whether it's car insurance or attorney's liability. So I love that aspect, and we have a lot of opportunities at ALPS as far as diversity within our department. So there's Liesel, myself and HR, but there's also business development folks in sales. We have our claims attorneys, account management, maintaining our policies, and everything else you may need from finance all the way to the C-suite, so it's great. 

Rio Peterson: Yeah. Fantastic. And Liesel, what about you? Where were you at before you found your way to ALPS? 

Liesel Brink: So before ALPS ... I mean, how much time do we have, Rio? 

Rio Peterson: We've got a couple minutes. 

Liesel Brink: Yeah. So I've been doing HR for about 25 years, and in the last, ooh, 12 mostly in HR, previous to that, nonprofit work, and many people know in a nonprofit, you become a jack-of-all-trades, right? 

Rio Peterson: Absolutely. 

Liesel Brink: You do a little bit here, do a little bit there, and that's where I started in human resources, HR, people operations. So for me, what really resonated were employee benefits, and so being able to talk with individuals about what truly they get with the benefit and having that understanding come to light is what fulfills me the most in my role. I not only worked in a nonprofit, but I too did some retail, but it wasn't retail-retail, it was concessions, some more food. Sorry about that, Amber. That was a really long stint. 

And then, I also worked for a third-party administrator, which is insurance adjacent, and then from there, came to ALPS Insurance. I did do three years as a paralegal assistant. Learned a lot. Not sure I'd go back, but who knows? Someday, maybe. 

Rio Peterson: You never know. You never know. 

Liesel Brink: Exactly, exactly. But yeah, that's kind of my journey in the insurance world, mainly having the most excitement and fulfillment from the employee benefits side. 

Rio Peterson: Yeah, got it. Fantastic. So how did you two find your way to ALPS? Was it sort of like serendipitous? Did you seek it out? 

Yeah, I'd love to hear. Maybe Liesel, we'll start with you. 

Liesel Brink: Yeah, sure. So I was actually headed back to the university for a degree in computer science, and I received a phone call from an acquaintance at a local company, and they shared with me, "Would I be interested in considering?" And at the time, ALPS wasn't sure what they were going to fill this position as. They needed a payroll person, and so I decided, "You know, I'll have that conversation with Chris Newbold," the Chief Operations Officer. "I'll just talk to him, and nothing's going to come of it." 

And then, four interviews later, I was made an offer and decided, "Hey, why not try payroll?" And then, because of the previous experience, grew into the HR role. 

Rio Peterson: Oh, fantastic. Fantastic. And Amber, what about you? 

Amber Kuhlman: Yeah. So I kind of go back to the university as well, with my connection with ALPS. I took a human resources course, in which required you to network with a human resource professional. 

Rio Peterson: I love it. 

Amber Kuhlman: Yeah. I got connected with Liesel for a group project, and then we worked on that together, and then I was interested in being an intern, because then, I was very interested in HR after that class and everything. So then I did a summer internship, and then Liesel realized, "Oh my gosh, this girl's so much help." 

Rio Peterson: Yeah. 

Amber Kuhlman: So then, she was like, "I need someone full-time." So then, she posted an opening for a full-time role, and then now, here we are, so yeah. 

Rio Peterson: Fantastic. So you both dazzled each other, and you were like, "This needs to continue. This is an excellent partnership." 

Liesel Brink: Definitely. 

Rio Peterson: That's fantastic. That's fantastic. So it sounds like we have a pretty good connection with the university. And I understand you two also just did some kind of speaking yesterday. You spoke with the HR Program, is that right? 

Amber Kuhlman: Yeah. 

Rio Peterson: Yeah. Is that something we do quite a lot of? Is ALPS pretty involved in working with the university and connecting with students? 

Amber Kuhlman: Yeah. I know Liesel has presented before. That was my first time presenting to a management course. However, we do often go to their career expos, so when we are hiring and recruiting, it's a great way to network with local folks and get connected with them, so it's great. 

Rio Peterson: Got it. Fantastic. So let's maybe shift a little bit and talk about kind of ALPS in general. What are some different career paths that somebody could explore at ALPS? I know we've got quite a lot of things. 

I know, Amber, you touched on them a little bit before. Maybe we can dig a little bit deeper into that. 

Liesel Brink: Definitely. Amber, jump in when I'm off track. So for individuals within ALPS, when they come in and they've learned their job that they were hired into, we always encourage individuals to learn more about different departments, and we encourage them to do continuing education. If it's a department that they were hired into that doesn't require licensure, we encourage them to consider that. We encourage them to do continuing educations, whether it's a CPCU or an IEM, or any of the credentials that you can get in the insurance industry, we encourage them to do continuing education. 

So when a position in another department might open, they can be considered, if it's something that truly interests them that they want to try out. We start individuals, a lot of times, in our lead generation specialist roles, and then from there, they learn a lot about marketing, and sales, and account management, and the insurance, like how insurance actually works in the lingo and the terminology. So it's a fantastic place for individuals to start, and we usually implement an interim program within that lead generation specialist role to get people considering like, "Could insurance be for me?" That is, to be honest, your opportunities are only limited by what you put on yourself. I know that's cliche. Sorry to be cliche, but- 

Rio Peterson: I love it. I love it. 

Liesel Brink: It's one of those things where truly, if you were in sales and you were interested in underwriting, we would love for you to pursue what that might look like. 

Rio Peterson: Right. 

Liesel Brink: We do not put limits on individuals. In fact, we encourage individuals to become more involved in improvements that we're making within our product, and then also, just be more helpful to individuals in different roles, cross-education, which is super helpful. 

Rio Peterson: Yeah, fantastic. And then, I'm kind of wondering, so lead gen, that's obviously part of our sales team, right? And so what I'm hearing is that's a really good place for someone to start. If they don't know anything maybe about insurance, they don't really ... Maybe they're fresh at a university, maybe they're just trying to figure things out. That's a good place for them to start, and to kind of get a broader overview of the rest of the functions of the company. 

Liesel Brink: Definitely. The lead generation specialist role, our client processing specialist role, that's an administration position. And not to change the topic, Rio, and I know we'll come back to this, but what I appreciate most about the insurance industry is that you can learn it on the job while doing it. 

Rio Peterson: Yes. 

Liesel Brink: You don't need a college degree. College degrees are great, but you don't need a college degree to be successful in the insurance industry. 

Rio Peterson: Yeah. 

Liesel Brink: That is the biggest takeaway I try to leave with individuals that I talk with. 

Rio Peterson: Yeah, that is absolutely fantastic. It's really good to know that as well, because I think that's something that can really intimidate a lot of folks like, "Maybe I don't have the right education, the right credentials," so it seems very accessible industry to get into. I know for myself, I mean, coming from the tech industry, I did not know anything about insurance, and let me tell you, I have learned all the things, and that is, I can definitely attest to what you just said, I have learned them all on the fly as well. So that's really important, I think, for people to keep in mind is that you can be taught. You can learn it and go forth and achieve big things. 

Liesel Brink: Definitely. 

Rio Peterson: Yeah. 

Liesel Brink: And if I may, I would share that it's not always easy to break into the insurance industry, however, if you align the skill sets that you already have with the skill sets that are necessary within the insurance industry, such as detail-orientedness, follow-through, dedication to the job at hand, if you align the skill set that you currently have with those needs, you can get into the insurance industry. 

Rio Peterson: Got it. What would be some kind of obstacles or some things that would make it difficult for somebody to break into the industry, is maybe not knowing anyone who's already in the industry, just kind of not having any knowledge of it? 

Amber Kuhlman: Yeah, I- 

Rio Peterson: Yeah. 

Amber Kuhlman: Yeah. I would say not having the knowledge. I don't think, especially coming from the university, they don't really say push insurance or mention it, really, as a career path. That would be a good one. So I would think the biggest obstacle would, for sure be just not knowing it's out there and kind of where you can go from there, for sure. 

Rio Peterson: And it's kind of surprising to me that they don't push that or even recommend it, because to me, insurance is pretty good industry. It's pretty fail-safe, like recession-proof when times are tough, everybody gets insurance. Everyone needs insurance, like it's really- 

Amber Kuhlman: I think there's a misconception with insurance, that it's all sales. 

Rio Peterson: Yes. 

Amber Kuhlman: So that's another one, I mean, but realizing there's office positions as well, like what Liesel and I do, HR within insurance, or finance, or marketing. 

Rio Peterson: Right. 

Amber Kuhlman: It's all needed, so yeah. 

Rio Peterson: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, claims, we hire lots of attorneys as well, and so yeah, there's lots of different options out there, absolutely. So what would you suggest maybe for someone who was looking to get into insurance, like say they were like, "That's the thing I want to do. I want to find out. I want to break into that industry." 

What would be a good way? I know, Liesel, you mentioned kind of aligning the skill set you already have. Would you recommend maybe reaching out to recruiters or HR staff such as yourself, people, operations, et cetera? 

Liesel Brink: So that's a great question, because different individuals, like the hiring teams, different companies think of things differently. 

Rio Peterson: Right. 

Liesel Brink: For me, I would be happy for anyone to connect with me on LinkedIn. That is a fantastic way to start your network. You can connect with one individual, and then from there, you actually can learn more about other individuals within the industry. They post fantastic things from, I believe it's in, and how you can use the skills that you already have in the insurance industry. Networking outside of the computer, of the internet, it was also very helpful. 

Rio Peterson: Right. 

Liesel Brink: I know once in a while, we go to our business after hours for the chamber, and there are a variety of different industries, industry specific organizations that you can connect with, especially in more urban areas, so that would be a consideration. Amber, what am I missing? I know a lot, so ... 

Amber Kuhlman: Yeah. I mean, I would say, just kind of going back to the university, connecting with their resources. Often, nearby universities have a lot of connections with surrounding companies, and who knows, they might be an insurance company, so ... 

Rio Peterson: Yeah, absolutely. And I think you both mentioned the career, the job fairs as well. It's probably a good place to make some connections. Fantastic. I know for myself, I also knew someone who worked at ALPS, and was able to make the move that way, so definitely a lot to be said for putting yourself out there and meeting people and making those connections. 

So let's kind of shift a bit back to you two, and tell me a little bit of like, "What are some of the things you like best about your roles, and maybe also working at ALPS specifically?" Amber, you want to start? 

Amber Kuhlman: Yeah, I can start. 

Rio Peterson: So I'm going to put you on the screen. 

Amber Kuhlman: No, that's okay. Some things about my role that I like is really focused on the wellness side initiative that we strive for. As far as work-life balance or wellness program, really, making it a place that people want to come to and enjoy working with their fellow coworkers is kind of, yeah, a big part of it, for me. 

Rio Peterson: Yeah. 

Liesel Brink: Definitely, Amber. The people are great to work with, what continues for me to bring me back every day, but also, for me, the type of work that I get to do, it's never the same thing every day. The process might be the same, but the individuals are different, the circumstances are different, and so that truly is what the variety is what I enjoy the most as far as human resources and specifically ALPS. 

Rio Peterson: Got it. Fantastic. So talking a little bit about the wellness program, was that in place? I know, Amber, you've been here about a year and a half, but, Liesel, was that in place when you started at ALPS? 

Liesel Brink: So when I started back in 2015, it was not in place. We implemented little things here and there. At that time, I believe it was once a year, we tried to do something fun, and then it went to a quarter. Every quarter, we tried to do something, and then we aligned with a tech company, and then they offered physical, mental, emotional, and then also financial wellness options, and so that kind of started us off. I believe that was in 2017, and then the tech company decided that it wasn't what they wanted to focus on, and so we then went to a homegrown kind of wellness program. That is what Amber has definitely made her own over the last year and a half, so ... 

Rio Peterson: Yeah, fantastic. Amber, do you want to tell us a little bit more about the program, kind of what kinds of benefits we offer, kind of how you come up with all these awesome ideas, because I know there's always something great going on in that program? 

Amber Kuhlman: Yeah, yeah. I get my awesome ideas from all the subscriptions I have. I will say, all the wellness networks, for sure. 

Rio Peterson: Awesome. 

Amber Kuhlman: Awesome. Can't take credit for them all, but no, it's great. I love planning. I try and do a monthly highlighted activity that focuses on kind of those four functions that Liesel touched on, financial, mental, emotional, and physical, so I really try to get those all in the mix. They're all equally important. 

So each quarter, I focus on one of those, and we award our employees for staying healthy in many different ways, so there is an incentive a little bit there, but they get gift cards. It's a point-based system. They get gift cards in PTO quarterly, so there's that, but it's always really nice when we hear the feedback from employees that stop by and really enjoyed a walking challenge that we had going, or earlier last summer, we did a stair challenge, and seeing everyone come up the stairs as opposed to the elevator was great. And yeah, I love seeing that, so it's good. 

Rio Peterson: Yeah, it's fantastic, and it seems like that's something I noticed right from the get-go when I started at ALPS. Everyone's very engaged with the wellness program. It's a very big hit, and just the benefits offered in it are really fantastic and very thorough. It's definitely another benefit to working at ALPS. Just putting it out there if anyone seconds, so ... 

Liesel Brink: But if I may, one of the important wellness aspects I find too, is the financial wellness that we focus on. 

Rio Peterson: Yes. 

Liesel Brink: We've partnered with a fantastic company, Best Money Moves out of Illinois with Ilyce Glink. She is the CEO and founder. They have come up with some fantastic opportunities for employees to learn more about how to save. They do monthly webinars. We've learned to, over the years, that if you help individuals understand their financials, that it could lead to less stress within the employee population. So I just want to do a shout-out to Amber for continuing that program with them because it's definitely very helpful. 

Rio Peterson: Yeah, absolutely. And financial wellness tends to be something that isn't normally included in wellness, but you're so right, it is really deeply connected to a lot of the stress people experience, because financial literacy is something that we're not really taught in schools in any capacity, so it's really, really important to be able to provide that peace of mind and those tools to everyone. Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. 

Liesel Brink: One of the other benefits that we've come up with, well, that most companies provide is the Employee Assistance program, where individuals have access to talk to professionals for personal or professional reasons. If things are going on or they want to bounce ideas off of someone, that's not their supervisor or their family, we offer an Employee Assistance program that has an in-network list of providers that we can go to for free visits, but we've also implemented a reimbursement if our employees want to go to out-of-network providers, and that was a huge, huge implementation last year. Something brand new that we hadn't heard a lot of companies doing, so we're like, "Let's try it," and it seems to be going well, so ... 

Rio Peterson: Fantastic, and you've gotten ... I'm guessing you've heard some good feedback about that program? Yeah. 

Liesel Brink: So we've heard a little feedback, right? It's an anonymous program, so it's one of those things where we do get some numbers about, like if they have an intake, but we get to know other information other than that. So it's great that we are giving utilization. We have, I believe, 13% utilization rate, Amber, where the national is four to six usually. 

Rio Peterson: Whoo, that's fantastic. Love that people are taking care of themselves and that they're able to do so. 

Liesel Brink: Exactly. 

Rio Peterson: Yeah, it's fantastic. So what are some of the other kind of benefits and perks that we've got here, working at ALPS? I know there's quite a long list. Do you guys want to take us through a couple of them? 

Amber Kuhlman: Yeah. One of my favorites, I'll highlight, is the Lifestyle Spending Account. Coming from a different company, that's a benefit I haven't had before. So the Lifestyle Spending Account, ALPS gives us funds monthly that we can utilize towards a variety of things, whether it's an event ticket to go to the movies, or maybe a concert. Pet insurance can go towards that, or just your typical gym membership, so it's great. 

Rio Peterson: Yeah, my standing desk. Thank you guys. 

Amber Kuhlman: Yes. 

Rio Peterson: Yeah, I'm a big fan of that program too. 

Liesel Brink: Nice. For me, we have an Adoption Assistance Program. We also offer discount interest rates through SoFi, and we provide a high-yield savings options through that SoFi option too. We do a 6% match at 100% for our 401(k), so that is something, and we're fully vested as of our first contribution. So for me, those things have been very beneficial for ALPS employees. 

Rio Peterson: Yeah. And it is something that I've really noticed about ALPS too, is that as an organization, we are very invested in our employees, not just well, their employees, but in their futures as well, whether that is moving on to the next company or into retirement. I mean, I know that a large number of our staff has been at ALPS for 15, 20, 25 years, so it's really, I don't know, reassuring and nice to see that we are so invested in everyone regardless of where they're at in their career path. I don't think a lot of companies think about that, so ... 

Liesel Brink: Yeah, Amber does a great- 

Rio Peterson: It's [inaudible 00:27:46]- 

Liesel Brink: Yeah. Amber does a great job with the training and development, and ensuring that our continuing education classes are getting credentialed for continuing education. It's one way we support our employees in licensure, and then we also encourage individuals and have supported them in earning their additional certifications of their choices. 

Rio Peterson: And I think we do student loan assistance as well, don't we? 

Liesel Brink: We do have a Student Loan Assistance program. 

Rio Peterson: Yeah. 

Liesel Brink: And we- 

Rio Peterson: Then, we do all the things. There's too many things to list. We do everything. 

Liesel Brink: I mean, we do employee photos, fun photos, so they're not the stuffy headshots, which is super fun. We have an employee that has a hobby to take photos, and they've been so kind to provide us with photos of employees, so that's super fun to do. 

Rio Peterson: Yeah, and they're so well done too. They're really nicely shot. That's fantastic. So we've got just a couple more minutes here. I think, first of all, what are some of the roles that are currently open at ALPS, if anyone out there listening is interested in checking us out? 

Amber Kuhlman: Yeah. I'll highlight the business development representative that we have open, specifically outbound. So we are looking for individual to come on and do sales. So you're interested in that, definitely connect with us on LinkedIn. It is also posted on LinkedIn, so check it out. But yeah, I'll let Liesel highlight the other one. 

Liesel Brink: Yeah. We are looking for a claims attorney. This position does require an individual to have their Juris Doctorate, so that is an important aspect of this. We will train an individual and get them licensed as an adjuster. However, we do need them to have that Juris Doctorate. We do hope and ask that they've had five years of experience working in the field of law, because what they'll be doing is helping our insureds during their time of need when a claim actually happens. 

So understanding a little bit about how things work in the practice of law is super helpful in this role. Happy to talk to someone about that. If they have more interest, they're welcome to reach out to us. I don't know if you want me to put my email, Happy to have that conversation. 

Yeah, but if someone already has previous claims experience, we'd love to have that talk too. So yeah, reach out. Yeah, or if you live in Montana or want to move to Montana, it's a great opportunity. 

Rio Peterson: Yeah, Missoula is fantastic. It is a really fantastic spot. And so we've got, LinkedIn is a good place to reach out. We have a career section on the website, yup, so we can reach on your website. 

Liesel Brink: Correct. 

Rio Peterson: Can reach out to Liesel directly at And yeah, we hope that you consider a career in insurance. It's a really fantastic industry, and I mean, I'm a little bit biased, but ALPS, in particular, is a pretty incredible place to work. So that's my two cents about the whole thing. Is there anything else? 

Liesel Brink: We agree. 

Amber Kuhlman: Yes. 

Rio Peterson: Is there anything else you two would like to add before we sign off? 

Amber Kuhlman: No. Thanks for tuning in. 

Rio Peterson: Yeah. So well, thank you both for joining me. This has been fantastic. And for those of you listening, we will catch you next month for the next installment of In Brief. Again, I'm Rio Peterson, and thanks for tuning in. 

ALPS In Brief Podcast Intro/Outro Music: Walk In The Park by Audionautix is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license.


Rio is the Bar and Affinity Partnership Strategist at ALPS. In her role she works to build flourishing relationships with legal associations across the United States, and works passionately to educate lawyers on the importance of using technology and data to build better practices and drive the legal industry forward. She is a regular speaker at bar events across the country delivering compelling CLE and other educational content that engages her audience with the information being presented. Rio lives on Vancouver Island in Canada.

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