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Smarter with ISO: How the ISO Emerging Issues team is nurturing the rising generation of insurance talent

As the poet William Butler Yeats observed, “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”

This past summer, Verisk's ISO Emerging Issues team connected with three talented Risk Management students at Illinois State University after their separately planned internship opportunities were lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The ISO Emerging Issues team worked closely with these students to help them kindle a deeper interest in insurance and risk management by giving them the opportunity to choose and research an emerging risk in tandem with the team.

For Nicole Sabin, who’s considering a career in risk management, the multi-billion-dollar e-sports industry proved to be an intriguing avenue of study. “I was a competitive swimmer for 11 years, so I thought this topic would be a good fit for me,” she said.

While professional video-gaming may appear to be a relatively low-risk pursuit—given that there is no physical contact between participants as in several other sports—Sabin still discovered several significant risk exposures. “I found out that some of the top issues for the e-sports industry include risks pertaining to health and to the game itself… including repetitive motion injuries, lower back pain, screen staring, and virtual reality headset use,” she said. “Risks pertaining to the game include gambling and betting, cheating, and hacking.” (Learn more about the emerging risks of e-sports.)

The rollout of 5G mobile technology caught the attention of ISU actuarial student Brian Ponton, who explored not simply the potential (and to date, unsubstantiated) health risks, but how 5G could enable a wider variety of hacks and facilitate the spread of dangerous misinformation. “I chose to investigate some of the more obscure topics/risks since they provided a much more interesting angle,” he recalled. Indeed, Ponton noted that “the spread of misinformation about 5G networks is also a relatively new concept” that may be responsible for damaging attacks and vandalism on 5G infrastructure in Europe.

Graduate research assistant Elizabeth Adutwumwaa Ababio was drawn to the causes and risks of obesity—one of the leading causes of death and serious chronic disease in the United States.2 “My research showed that obesity is caused by myriad factors ranging from genetics to economic factors and affects children and adults; hence, both the insured and insurance company [could be] at risk,” she said.

Aside from furthering their academic and professional interests, the ISO Emerging Issues team/student collaboration illuminated how insurance and risk management topics can intersect with our everyday lives. For Ponton, it was recognizing the importance of insurance when renting a car to travel across state lines, while Ababio says that her obesity research spurred her to pursue a healthy lifestyle filled with exercise, rest, and nutritious foods.

Carrying the torch for a new generation of industry talent

Cultivating the next generation of insurance talent is a widely-recognized industry challenge. To that end, the ISO Emerging Issues team currently plans to continue its collaboration with risk management and insurance departments in several colleges in the coming year. If you’d like to learn how your university can work with the ISO Emerging Issues team, please email me at

To learn more about ISO Emerging Issues, please visit our website.

  1. Kelvin Chan et al., “Conspiracy theorists burn 5G towers claiming link to virus,” ABC News, April 21, 2020, < >, accessed on November 23, 2020.
  2. “Cleveland Clinic Study Finds Obesity as Top Cause of Preventable Life-Years Lost,” Cleveland Clinic, April 22, 2017, < >, accessed on November 23, 2020.

Andrew Blancher, CPCU

Andrew Blancher, CPCU, is director of commercial automobile product development and Emerging Issues at Verisk. You can contact him at

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