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NEWSLETTER: VOL V, #2, November 15, 1999

Staying Afloat in the Insurance Game:

UW-Whitewater Professor's Simulation Gives Students Taste of a Competitive Market

by Jennifer Smith

 

How can students entering the insurance industry get a realistic taste of current market conditions and some virtual business experience? By playing a game, that's how. Dr. Ronald Crabb of the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater has developed a computer simulation that allows his business students to imagine they are overseeing their own insurance companies and competing for market share and profits. The game, "MTIE_R," for "Managing the Insurance Enterprise," places students at the helms of mature auto insurance companies with equal numbers of policy holders. Students must then compete amongst each other for a finite pool of drivers and invest their companies' money wisely. Students typically play in a five-hour session, with the real-time aspect of the game forcing students to make quick decisions. Crabb feels that the fluctuating conditions simulated by the game give the exercise a level of reality that other, non-computer simulations could not.

"Managing the Insurance Enterprise" had its origins approximately twelve years ago, when Crabb was enlisted by Blue Cross/Blue Shield to help the faltering corporation. Officials at the company felt that if all staff members could better understand the insurance business from a broad, big-picture viewpoint, everyone could work more effectively. Although it might seem curious that a health-insurance company would desire an auto-insurance game, Crabb's invention gave Blue Cross/Blue Shield staffers the comprehensive perspective to help them better appreciate their particular roles in their company. At the same time that Crabb was refining his game for Blue Cross, he was developing it for his students at UW-Whitewater, giving them a more realistic taste of their future careers and attracting students to his courses.

In the last five years, Crabb has collaborated with Dr. Arnold Shapiro of Pennsylvania State University, further refining the game and expanding its distribution. The Toolbook program was used to create screens that work smoothly with the spreadsheet that supplies the raw data used by the students to make their business decisions. To see an overview of the MTIE_R game, visit Shapiro's website at http://www.afShapiro.com/mtie00.htm

While the game is a feature of Crabb's Whitewater course, "Advanced Property Casualty Insurance," it is also being used on the UW-Madison campus for the first time this semester. For business undergraduates, the game allows seniors to synthesize and apply their knowledge in several areas, namely finance, accounting, management, and marketing. Students must also write mission statements for their fictitious companies. Ron Crabb's innovative software gives his students and others a taste of what it takes to succeed in a highly competitive auto insurance industry, playing by their wits and having fun at the same time.

To contact Professor Crabb, click here.