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Why Gen Z Should Go Into Insurance

The summer is shaping up to be one of the most uncertain hiring seasons in years. Many companies are hedging their bets, waiting for consumer confidence to recover more fully before adding employees.

One industry, however, is not only intensely interested in Gen Z talent but also relatively immune to the ravages of economic downturns and even pandemics: the insurance field.

Many young people might opt for occupations considered more high-profile. Yet, perhaps surprisingly, insurance offers many of the things most Gen Z candidates seek most: work flexibility, good pay, rewarding work and job security. Insurance is embracing the kinds of technologies that Gen Z “digital natives” are comfortable with.

Insurance is known for its ability to support work/life balance and diverse lifestyle needs. For young people, the ability to work from home, either by preference or for present/future family reasons, is a major plus. As a result, insurance agencies are increasingly adopting a variety of remote and onsite alternatives that allow employees to design a work environment to fit their situations and wishes.

Few fields offer newcomers the kind of job satisfaction and stability that insurance does. Compared with many sectors that had to lay off employees during the pandemic, insurance job losses were small over the past year. The industry also matches many of the values Gen Z workers embrace. In a recent Vertafore survey of over 1,000 insurance professionals, respondents said their favorite part of working in the field is “the ability to work directly with my community.” Informal one-on-one chats, catching up on events in a client’s life and helping customers tailor plans to reduce risk are some of the ways that insurance work provides authentic personal benefits.

Increasingly Digital

As an occupation, insurance is ideal for Gen Z candidates who grew up with technology. The old pen-and-paper methods were on their way out even before COVID-19 hit; since then, the process has only accelerated and the industry is modernizing like never before.

Most Gen Zers would be surprised to see the extent to which technology has overtaken the insurance field. Digital tools are eliminating repetitive tasks and enabling employees to use their higher skills to analyze and interpret client needs. Technology has reached nearly every corner of agency operations. Cloud-enabled agency management systems, digital communications tools, e-signatures and digital payments have accelerated workflows and automated routine tasks. Data analytics, marketing platforms and other cutting-edge technologies are used every day, particularly at carriers and larger agencies. Mobile apps and mobile-responsive websites are also being used to improve customer experience through convenient self-service offerings.

The latest technology to enter the insurance field is artificial intelligence. AI-driven predictive tools are able to accurately determine coverage recommendations, automate personalized client communications and even flag which policies or clients are at risk for cancellation. Candidates with data analytics backgrounds will be increasingly valuable to manage such systems and will acquire marketable skills in the process.

See also: How Well Did Agents Cope With COVID?

For insurance workers, perhaps the greatest benefit from the introduction of technology is the personal and career flexibility it can provide. In the same Vertafore study, 70% of agency respondents agreed that their workplaces already have tools in place to allow employees to work effectively from home. The extent to which the industry will adopt flexible working conditions post-COVID is yet to be determined and will not be a one-size-fits-all solution. Each company will have to achieve a balance between business needs and the needs of the employees, and each company’s balance will look a little different. But, overall, the industry has seen a significant shift in what is possible for employees in terms of flexibility, and the potential for a new way of doing business will attract a younger employee demographic.

The industry is also embracing diversity and inclusion practices. Insurance is a field that recognizes the need to not only reflect the changing composition of its customer base but also to broaden its hiring practices. As a result, the field is creating more options to accommodate more people, more lifestyles and more life stages in more ways than ever before.

Demand Is Strong

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for insurance agents will grow through 2029 at a faster rate than the occupational average. As agency principals retire, the need for skilled candidates is rapidly increasing.

Insurance also offers career-long opportunities for personal and professional development. New lines of business, new forms of analytics and risk assessment and continual upgrades in systems and technologies will be part of the business for years to come. Many insurance professionals expand their skills by branching out into financial planning and advisory services. 

For entrepreneurs, starting an agency or growing an established one can be lucrative. In an alternate career path, insurance brokers specialize in risk management and represent the customer in obtaining the best insurance coverage. 

See also: Intersection of AI and Cyber Insurance

High Satisfaction

Tallo, a firm focused on the Gen Z talent field, reports in its April 2021 industry rankings that the insurance business is securely in the middle for favorability among Gen Z candidates—above more seemingly progressive industries like renewable energy, real estate and consulting services. U.S. News & World Report puts insurance agents at #2 in its list of Best Sales and Marketing Jobs

Vertafore found that 90% of insurance professionals over the age of 40 would recommend a career in insurance. There aren’t many industries that can boast such a vote of confidence from longtime employees. It may be an uncertain time for employment, but the insurance field may be that sure thing Gen Z job seekers are hoping for.

‘Virtual’ Moves to the Head of the Class

When it comes to education, there’s no such thing as one size fits all. That may seem obvious, because teaching spelling to a first grader is way different from teaching philosophy to a college student. 

The nuances increase when we start talking about continuing education. Professionals who are years into their careers have practical goals; they’re seeking knowledge to help them advance in their companies or do their current jobs better. Many of them will earn CE (continuing education) credits by completing a course. To say that they have a lot at stake is an understatement. Their ultimate success depends greatly on the quality of the teaching. 

So let’s talk about teaching industry professionals in a virtual environment, which has become necessary — even in vogue — in the era of COVID-19, and will likely increase in importance as the distributed workforce continues to grow.

Case in point: When the Network of Vertafore Users (NetVU) had to cancel its annual conference this year, staff restructured the entire course curriculum to an online format, and the “Summer of Accelerate” was born. It offers more than 100 courses, which are taken by thousands of independent insurance professionals tuning in from their dining rooms and home offices all over the country.

Based on our experience with our volunteer instructors, here are five tips for successful CE teaching in a virtual setting:

1. Move beyond the lesson plan

You have to prepare yourself differently to teach in a webinar format than in a classroom. Creating a good lesson plan will only get you so far. Yes, it’s always important to develop a solid outline of what you’re going to teach, but it’s also wise to consider that your students won’t be in the room with you. Instead, they’ll be at their computers and likely in their homes, where there are distractions. It may not be possible for them to raise their hand to ask a question or make a comment on the spur of the moment. The technology for virtual learning is good, but not that advanced yet. Which leads to our second tip.

See also: Building a Virtual Insurer Post-COVID

2. Make it practical

There’s no time for theory in a virtual setting. You have one hour to transmit a lot of information. That’s it. When you only have one shot at teaching the material, you don’t have the luxury of wading into the “whys” and “wherefores” of what you’re doing, like the college professor who gets to lecture a class once a week for a whole semester. Create snippets of information that are actionable and repeatable. Give step-by-step instructions, and create your PowerPoint slide or live demo accordingly, like a YouTube how-to video.

3. Adapt your materials to the technology

You probably won’t be able to interact with your students, and there won’t be that lively discussion you can get in a classroom setting. But you can still inject your presentation with personality and relevance. For example, a good way to lead in to a demonstration is, “I had a student just last week sharing with me that she was able to save 15 minutes a day using this technique.” Or, “I got a note from Sara Jones this morning saying she hoped we would dive a little deeper into this topic.”

4. Recognize the objectives

The sooner CE instructors understand a fundamental difference from teaching in an academic environment, the better off everyone will be. In grade school, high school, college and graduate school, the school sets the objectives. By contrast, the desired outcome of continuing education is improved performance, so the student sets the objectives. They are driven by the student’s career aspirations and the firm’s pursuit of happier customers and financial targets. This is true regardless of the classroom setting — at a distance or in person.

5. Understand your students

Because your students drive the curriculum, it’s important to ask them in advance why they’ve chosen your session, as well as their expectations for the session and even career goals. A short survey will open up a world of insight. Remember, you will be imparting practical knowledge, not abstract theory. In our member organization of more than 20,000 insurance agencies, carriers, MGAs and compliance organizations, our “students” usually want to know more about a specific feature of their firm’s Vertafore management system and how to use it more effectively.

For example, numerous times a day a customer service representative, or CSR, needs to engage in a conversation with an insured about that person’s needs while working in the ACORD application. The CSR has to listen, answer questions, give advice, even empathize with the customer while simultaneously looking at a screen full of questions, digesting the information and completing a number of fields. That’s a skill that has to be taught and practiced. 

Rewind and Review

Before I begin those five steps of creating a successful CE course, I like to take a minute and go back to where it all starts: the customer. Remember, the customer doesn’t choose an agency because its CSR is an expert in the technology, but because he’s qualified to give sound advice.

The tool or technology can never become more important than the conversation with the customer.

5 Reasons to Stress API Integration

Historically, most independent insurance agencies have been slow to adopt new technologies, instead relying on their personal service to clients to differentiate themselves in the market. While it’s true that trusting an agent who has your security, protection and best interests at heart is a huge part of what makes the independent agent extremely valuable, customer expectations are shifting.

Modern consumers embrace a digital-first environment. They expect high-end technology and automation to support their shopping, entertainment and banking needs, and insurance quickly joined that list. About five years ago, buoyed by strong capital investment and a surge in insurtech startups, direct-to-consumer personal lines disrupted the industry by bypassing the advisory and guidance upon which the independent agent model was built. Now, it’s the commercial industry’s turn, as we begin to see similar evolution in distribution models on that side.

To remain relevant, independent agents must keep pace with the changing landscape of consumer behavior and the technological demand. Customer experience is more important than ever. When it comes to attracting and retaining clients, and delivering on expectations for speed, it’s critical to be efficient and digital.

API solution integration has become one of the most crucial components of digitization, enabling smoother workflows and increased efficiency and allowing agents to meet customer expectations for real-time, personalized service. By providing a framework for connectivity, application programming interface (API) protocols allow various pieces of software to interact, to share data, and to move data and tasks from one step of a process to the next. For independent agents and the entire value chain that supports them, APIs are game-changing. They give agents the combination of the digital-first approach customers expect, with personal attention and dependable service.

Here’s why APIs are transforming the industry for agencies, customers and insurtech providers.

APIs improve office workflow. As in every business, productivity and efficiency are critical in any agency. The ability to complete tasks faster, to save time and effort, not only means less work but also frees up more time for agents and customer service reps to spend collaborating with clients to better understand their needs. With something as simple as writing an auto policy, an agent may start and end the process in two pieces of software — first in the agency management system (AMS) and then in the underwriting system. This requires the agent to toggle back and forth, rekey data and perhaps even hand off the process to another individual. With API integration, the data is entered once, moves through the entire process with an electronic handoff from one system to the next, and can even be picked up by a second individual seamlessly. By cutting down on time and frustration, employees can spend their time on more productive, revenue-generating efforts.

See also: AI Still Needs Business Expertise  

APIs reduce data entry burden. The problem with lack of integration in most agencies is that it requires redundant data entry. And, each time customer data is entered increases the risk of error and inconsistency. For example, if a CSR enters client Amy Smith Jones’ name into the AMS with no hyphen, but the agent enters it into another system with a hyphen, there are two separate records for the same customer. Now, it’s impossible to see the client’s entire account, and there may be duplicate mailings and other communication breakdowns. With API integration, data is entered once — eliminating the time wasted in redundancy, reducing the risk of data entry errors and ensuring data consistency.

APIs improve customer relations and retention. Insurance customers expect personalized service and attention. So, when they call the agency for help, they expect that their agent is familiar with their policies and situation. But, in many agencies, simply handling an incoming call is a lengthy process. An operator answers the phone and determines how to route the call, and then the agent must ask some questions to find out how he or she can be of service. With an API integration between the phone system and the AMS, the handoff happens seamlessly. When the customer dials in, the system uses reverse phone number lookup to identify the caller and pops up the customer’s policies on the operator’s computer screen and which agent handles them. Now, the operator can greet the client personally and transfer the call quickly. When the agent answers, they already have information about the client’s account and can immediately ask whether the call is regarding the homeowners or auto policy. This is just one example of how an API-enabled, streamlined system not only eliminates extra steps but also provides the personalized customer experience that clients expect from their agency.

APIs demonstrate your digital prowess. As we’ve already established, consumers expect a certain level of modern, digital automation in practically every aspect of their lives. Using APIs to connect digital technologies gives your agency the forward-thinking image that attracts customers who value that quality. For example, even something as simple as mobile document signing technology that integrates directly with your agency management and underwriting solutions can streamline the process for clients. They can log in from wherever and whenever on their mobile device, sign as required and keep the process moving. Even with the personal service an independent agency strives to provide, there will still be clients who prefer less human interaction and a more digital approach, and APIs allow agencies to retain those clients while still addressing their automation expectations.

APIs allow tech providers to remain relevant. There are many solutions in the insurtech industry that solve a niche problem — fillable forms for commercial line submissions, for example, or digital signature solutions. Even some of the larger AMS platforms don’t address every aspect of agency workflow, and many depend on complementary software to fill those gaps. API integrations allow the entire insurtech industry, especially point solutions, to thrive by continuing to provide value in the larger scheme. For the larger platform providers, this saves time and money in developing those features and allows the smaller niche players to remain relevant.

See also: Growing Import of ‘Edge Computing’  

API integrations clearly benefit the entire insurance value chain, from carriers, underwriters and agencies to insurtech providers and consumers. The alternative — continuing to operate with proprietary systems that don’t adhere to industry standards, perpetuating inefficiencies and detracting from the customer experience — will keep the industry stuck in the dark ages and ripe for disruption by new solutions that radically transform the process and the customer experience.

Programs such as Vertafore’s Orange Partner Program are just one example of API programs creating a new model for the industry, enabling rich integrations that empower independent agencies to leverage a broad spectrum of solutions, not only within the platform’s ecosystem but also with a wide range of third-party providers. This type of open API approach ensures both technological consistency through integration standards and allows the entire industry to evolve and grow, while providing a more satisfactory experience for customers.