Ten years in the U.S. Army has provided Ash Thomas with invaluable lessons that continue to influence his insurance career today.
Insurance companies, like so many others, take tremendous pride in supporting the military community. Risk Placement Services (RPS) is one such example, and Ash Thomas, a branch manager in Scottsdale, Ariz., is one of the military veterans RPS is honored to employ.
During his ten years of service, Thomas’s duties included operating two radio stations in Afghanistan and training the Afghan Army in radio station operations and management to enhance relations with local communities. After leaving the military in 2016, he joined insurance as a brokerage underwriter. Today, Thomas combines the leadership and problem-solving skills he learned in the Army with his risk management expertise to provide top-notch service for his clients at RPS.
Here, Thomas shares how his time in the U.S. Army influences his career today and his advice for veterans entering the insurance industry.
PC360: What lessons from the Army have been most helpful in your career as a risk and insurance professional?
Thomas: The military teaches values such as leadership, hard work, integrity, respect for others, and teamwork. These values have been instrumental in my career in the insurance industry, as it requires ambition, self-reliance, integrity, and determination.
Additionally, the insurance industry is diverse, celebrates, and encourages new ideas, and is often very team-oriented. Having served both as an individual contributor and now in a leadership role, my ability to collaborate with others, build and grow teams toward a common goal, and to do it all with integrity has all stemmed from lessons I learned while serving in the Army.
homas: I have held various leadership and operational roles in military organizations of different sizes, functions, and missions. One of the key learning experiences I had was creating buy-in both from internal members of my organization as well as external stakeholders. Many times, when I tried to accomplish a task, the stakeholders involved had competing priorities and incompatible timelines. To create buy-in, I had to show value in what I was trying to accomplish and gain their trust. This lesson has been instrumental in working in the risk and insurance profession.
Daily, I deal with numerous stakeholders who are not on the same page with different decision cycles and completely different perspectives on the subject at hand. My military experience has prepared me to connect those dots for everyone to create buy-in and to complete the task.
PC360: Did you encounter challenges transitioning to civilian life, and if so, how did the insurance industry help with that journey?
Thomas: Leaving the military was a tough decision for me, primarily because of the fear of the unknown. Additionally, I was leaving an established career, deep camaraderie with fellow soldiers, and a value system that I wasn’t sure that I would find anywhere else. I found the insurance industry to be very welcoming of transitioning veterans, as I encountered many programs and resources designed to direct veterans toward success.
Throughout my journey, I have had people within the industry offer mentorship, guidance and friendship, which made the transition smooth. I also feel they value the raw skills that veterans bring to the table and know how to develop veterans into successful insurance professionals. This industry also truly relies on personal relationships to accomplish goals; this value has allowed me to build deep friendships both with coworkers and business partners, making the transition both positive and enjoyable.
PC360: Are there similarities between how the Army and the insurance industry operate?
Thomas: To start, the Army and the insurance industry both value leadership. I have known several great leaders within the Army and have met several in the insurance industry that uphold the same principles as military leaders.
Additionally, I have found that just like the Army, many insurance organizations follow a core value system that provides purpose and guidance to how they conduct business. Lastly, like the military, the insurance industry provides unique challenges. Insurance professionals are constantly required to use high-level intellect and creativity to solve diverse and complex problems each and every day.
PC360: Do you have advice for veterans entering into a new insurance and risk management career?
Thomas: I would encourage veterans joining the insurance industry to absorb as much knowledge as possible.
Often times, you may not even know what questions to ask, which is why I would suggest sitting in on meetings, listening to presentations, and attending industry events. I found that events, especially, brought great opportunities for learning on-the-go. I found it instrumental to write down key terms, phrases, and words overheard in these venues that I did not know or understand to help ask the right questions.
Also, know that the work ethic you bring, your ability to “figure it out,” and your pride in your work are highly valued in this industry and will set you apart as an esteemed member of any team.