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TIA | The Insurance Apprentice

Marissa van der Westhuizen

Claims Specialist
iTOO Special Risks

Did you choose a career in insurance, or did you fall into the industry like so many others? Briefly share your story.

I had an interest in insurance after taking an insurance law module during my LLM studies, but in the early part of my career, I thought I was going to be “involved” in the insurance industry by being a “hot shot lawyer” who does work for insurers.  The more I interacted with clients (insurers), the more the “inner circle” appealed to me.  I left practice to join the industry itself, with a slight concern that I may miss the hustle and bustle of practice, only to find that working on the “inside” is by no means less exciting and challenging.

Why did you choose to enter The Insurance Apprentice?

I am always eager to learn and grow, but for this specific opportunity, I needed some encouragement to venture this far outside of my comfort zone. I must credit my team at iTOO who encouraged me to go for it. Great risk, great reward – I hope.     

In your mind, what qualities should an ambassador of The Insurance Apprentice have?

Going back to basics, I believe an ambassador should be passionate about the industry with a healthy dose of curiosity to always keep learning. If you enjoy what you do and believe in what you do, it will show, and people will be inspired. Watch this space…

Who has been the biggest influencer on your career and why?

If I had to select one influencer, it would be Willie van Wyk, my legal director during articles.  I had the privilege of basically “shadowing” Willie for a few years where I gained in-depth insight into practicing law in the insurance space.  I attended many (if not all) consultations with clients and counsel from the very first day. Having had the exposure to clients and having seen the value of the work that is done behind the scenes, proved to be of immense value in the work I do today. I often think back to those days as a reminder that the work we do impacts lives, it’s much more than just emailing back and forth.  

Being a recipient of such a significant time and effort “investment”, I will no doubt be on the lookout for opportunities to do the same for younger people in our industry. 

In a tweet of 140 characters explain why insurance ROCKS!!!

Life is simply too risky to be carrying all the risk this life holds yourself. Insurance is a strong pillar which supports and facilitates the functioning of the economy and life in general on a day-to-day basis.  On a small, yet still significant scale, it may protect a person from the financially crippling effects of a car accident or a stolen cell phone.  In the grander scheme of things, it may protect large corporates from significant liability or assets related risks. Either way, sharing the financial risk results in a win win scenario. Innovation is the name of the game these days, so value added features beyond sharing in financial risk will likely sweeten the deal. Being part of an industry, which plays such a significant role in so many spheres of life is an honour.

What would be your dream Apprentice task and why?

Considering pro-active solutions for Artificial Intelligence liability risks for example, self-driving cars etc. This is an imminent, realistic risk which requires out of the box thinking. I work with liability insurance, so it should be interesting to consider the potential risks and insurance possibilities in this innovative space.

What song would you choose for your Insurance Apprentice victory dance?

“On Top of the World” by Imagine Dragons.  

A message to all the TIA sponsors?

A big THANK YOU for the role you played in creating this wonderful opportunity. Thank you for investing in the development and growth of young people. There is a wealth of knowledge in the industry and transferring the practical knowledge and skills to young people is vital for sustainability in our industry.      

How important is winning for you?

Although each step of this journey is important, my life motto is, “there is no fun in being mediocre – let’s go for gold”. 


Advice to yourself about what you should remember and focus on as you are going into the competition.

Remember you love what you do.  Always see the bigger picture and zoom in when necessary.  THIS IS NOT THE COMFORT ZONE – well done for venturing out.