To start us off: What are the biggest issues you see agents and brokers dealing with these days?
Attracting, training and retaining talent is the No. 1 challenge that everyone from a small agency all the way up to Willis and Aon and Marsh is facing. We knew the Baby Boomer generation was retiring, and there was going to be a shortfall of people to fill vacant jobs. That problem got accelerated significantly with the pandemic and “The Great Resignation,” as people are calling it. A lot of job postings aren't receiving nearly the applicants that they used to, and the pool of those responding isn’t as qualified. So, the challenge is: Where are we going to find people to fill these roles, and how are we going to get them the skills required to perform those roles?
Are their solutions, or are we just stuck?
There are two things I see the best organizations doing. First, they are identifying new channels of recruitment. They're thinking creatively about where to source their talent, outside of traditional university pipelines and other brokers. They’re marketing a career pathway to people looking to switch industries. Maybe someone who was a carpenter is looking to start a career in insurance, a teacher, someone who has been a stay-at-home mother or father is looking to reenter the workforce. The key is showing them that there is a well-thought-out pathway for them to acquire the knowledge and skills to perform the job. You have to be able to show them the viability and the opportunity of having a career in risk and insurance. And the truth is this could be an extremely exciting and lucrative career pathway. There's lots of opportunity.
Second, the best organizations have an organized plan from day one for you to start learning about risk and insurance and about how to perform your job. Historically, development was more of a learn-on-the-job system. You’d learn informally from your colleagues or your manager. We don't have time to do that any longer. You need to have a training resources format and have already developed a plan.
Those two approaches sound like things that a big broker can do fairly easily. What about the five-, 10- or 25-person brokerage?
That’s a great question. Large brokers do have the necessary overhead. It's still a challenge for them. The smaller agencies are looking for organizations like The Institutes to have an off-the-shelf learning pathway that is effective and relevant to the job, but also cost-effective. We’ve spent a lot of time with our advisory board and other organizations to tailor learning pathways that are ready to go for new hires.
You mentioned a few possibilities of the kinds of people who could form a new talent pool. Are there others?
Several startup companies are sourcing international talent, particularly out of the Philippines and India, where they'll run job advertisements and receive thousands of applicants for a customer service role. They’ll have a training program in place and use offshore talent to service insurance clients here in the U.S.
The approach is innovative, and it does seem to be an efficient solution if you can't find talent in other ways. The troubling part is that customer service reps for agencies have always been the entry point for the industry. Unless there's a viable new entry point, we might just be making our talent problem worse down the road.
How do you advertise to sell people on the possibilities of the insurance industry?
We as an industry have never done a good job with this. Insurance has a negative reputation, or certainly not a positive one, among the next generation of talent, right? They think of a door-to-door insurance salesman. In reality, risk and insurance is extremely exciting. There are a number of different opportunities, from working with Fortune 500 accounts to building your own book of business, which can be an extremely lucrative annuity that most folks just don't know about. You're not going to be able to fully communicate that through a digital ad.
The larger brokers are really investing in campus recruitment to do presentations. It's certainly an extremely competitive landscape. From a digital point of view – which is how you reach the next generation -- there's still a lot of experimentation. Many are communicating that there’s a planned pathway for people to come in and have a rotation program combined with formal training to get the knowledge that leads to additional job opportunities. Many are also tailoring to a changing demographic in the U.S. We've never done a good job at marketing to underrepresented communities, and I've seen a lot more through formal and informal channels to cater to those communities in that next generation. It’s absolutely vital that we have inner city and underrepresented young professionals pursuing careers in this field.
Insurance is a massively important industry, and it’s on the move. Based on a long history of writing about innovation, I tell people that the industry is where all the cool kids are hanging out. But it seems that message still has a ways to go.
Right. Coming back from the RIMS conference, where I just was, it’s hard not to say, Wow, this is a cool field. But most people don't get to see RIMS, right? They just see an insurance commercial. They think of someone trying to sell them life insurance. That's all they know.
But there’s an awful lot more going on. We just have to get the word out.
Hunter P. Fausnacht
Vice President – Agent & Broker Group
As vice president of the Agent & Broker Group at The Institutes Fausnacht leads the client-relationship management efforts by serving as chief advocate for insurance brokers.
Fausnacht joined The Institutes in 2017 as director of Business Development where he led the growth initiative with the Agent & Broker community. He partnered with the top 100 insurance brokers to deliver knowledge development solutions and advised The Institutes on the learning needs of the modern insurance broker.
Fausnacht is the co-host of the Agent & Broker Group podcast, The Voices of Risk Management, a premier podcast giving followers a peek into the minds of risk and insurance leaders.
Before joining The Institutes, Fausnacht served as vice president of Business Development at the Willis Group where he discovered his passion for developing talent. Prior to that, Fausnacht worked in Business Development at Rolls-Royce covering Asia and the Middle East.
Fausnacht earned a bachelor’s degree in finance and marketing from the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University.