With more than 70,000 expected U.S. retirees in 2017, the insurance industry faces an imminent talent crisis. Industry leaders have been eagerly searching for ways to recruit and attract young talent to replace the outgoing staff, but, due to poor industry perception, it remains an uphill battle.
The Insurance Careers Movement began as a grassroots, industry-wide initiative to combat the coming talent shortage and the ill-fated perception of the industry. We endeavor to empower young professionals who already work in insurance to share their feedback and experiences, educating their peers and students about the vast career opportunities available to them. As a part of the annual Insurance Careers Month each February, we conducted interviews with more than 30 millennials from a wide range of insurance carriers and agencies about their thoughts on the industry.
Contrary to the general perception outsiders have of insurance, findings from the interviews revealed that many younger workers view insurance as a dynamic field with significant opportunities for growth and development of personal relationships with customers and coworkers. In fact, their responses largely resemble the theme of the movement, referring to insurance as, “the career trifecta,” to emphasize the idea that pursuing a profession in insurance is stable, rewarding and limitless.
Here are the three recurring themes mentioned across all the interviews:
In many of the interviews, one of the distinct benefits of working in insurance is the extensive career options, and the flexibility to try different sections of companies. A recent graduate can begin with underwriting, then branch into marketing, risk management or any other career path she wishes to pursue.
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The insurance industry holds a long, rich history and is in nearly every part of the world. Therefore, there is a vast number of opportunities available in many areas of the field, adding to the stability factor. Ashley Jenkins, controller at Pioneer State Mutual Insurance, said, “Insurance companies are very stable compared with many other industries. As an example, my current insurance employer and prior insurance employer did not have to lay off any employees during the major financial crises in 2008 and 2011.” Additionally, according to the National Insurance Brokers Association, the median salaries in insurance are all well above the national average at around $30,000 a year. With more than 75,000 jobs opening up due to retirement, members of younger generations are being afforded regular growth opportunities, promoting a stable career path that doesn’t exist in many fields; today’s young employee tends to change jobs four times before they’re age 32.
Although many jobs require employees to sit in cubicles, a career in insurance allows people to interact and cultivate relationships with other customers and coworkers. Koory Esquibel, TRAC risk analyst at Marsh, said, “One of my favorite parts about this industry, and the reason why it is so easy to recommend to students and new graduates, is the ability to form so many strong relationships with colleagues and business partners.” This is a pivotal time in insurance where improved employee and customer interaction is happening at all points of the workflow. Between mobile technologies to better interact with customers and analytics to improve speeds of underwriting and claims processes, the industry has never prioritized innovation so aggressively.
According to the survey conducted as a part of the Insurance Careers Movement, more than 92% of millennials working in insurance said that they are proud to work within the industry and want to promote the benefits and opportunities it provides. Their answers also revealed that millennials are already putting efforts into recruiting their peers, as 73% of respondents said that they have tried to convince at least one of their friends to choose a career in the risk management and insurance industry.
With the wave of digital innovation looming and new regulations and product offerings being created daily, the insurance industry is more dynamic than ever before. Employees at all levels, regardless of their areas of focus, are challenged to come up with creative solutions to tackle emerging problems. Yasmin Ahmed at Marsh said that she was “drawn to work in insurance because of the career mobility and succession planning. Seasoned insurance professionals plan to retire within the next five years, providing more career advancement for young people.”
In fact, according to the Jacobson Group and Ward Group Insurance Labor Outlook Study, the insurance industry has added 100,000 new jobs in the past five years, and 66% of insurers expect to increase staff this year. The number of opportunities and intellectual challenge are perfect for millennials as, according to the My Path survey, new graduates are more interested in career advancement possibilities (25%) and learning opportunities (20%) when considering a job than older generations. Therefore, young professionals consider development within their careers more important than salary or benefits.
While the industry remained largely stagnant for years, the technological disruption is closing the experience gap and opening important roles for those interested in data science careers combined with creativity. In fact, Accenture’s fintech report found that investments in insurtech more than tripled from $800 million in 2014 to more than $2.6 billion in 2015. In addition to the heavy focus and investments in IT, startups like Lemonade are joining the industry with new technology-based business models. The entrance of startups has already brought recent changes as it motivated insurance giants to expand their focus. Some of the world’s largest insurers, such as Aviva, Axa and XL Catlin, announced their efforts to establish in-house venture capital funds and stated that they will be dedicating more than $1 billion investments in startups to spearhead digital transformation. This focus on new technology also creates more opportunities for the younger generation, as they can make contributions to their team regardless of the job titles.
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Most say that millennials are known for job-hopping. However, according to a recent Census study, once they’re satisfied, most will stay at the place of employment for three to six years. The bottom line is that carriers must not blame the generation for their lack of interest in insurance and instead work on raising awareness about the value the industry offers. Right now, a lack of talent is one of the biggest challenges for innovation growth. Insurers will have to make concerted efforts to follow through the recruitment process and provide robust training program to attract and retain young professionals. Through recognizing the underlying cause of the crisis and making an industry-wide endeavor, the insurance industry will be able to grow as a whole and successfully combat the talent shortage.