In July 2020, consulting firm McKinsey & Company put out a report detailing the talent transformation within the insurance industry. The topline message: Talent strategy is as important as business strategy.
In a recent edition of AAIS Pulse, Robert Hartwig, Ph.D., CPCU, industry expert and professor at University of South Carolina's Moore School of Business, as well as Maryland Insurance Commissioner Kathleen Birrane both talked about the talent gap and what it will take for insurance to keep up.
The Thirst for Talent
There is a changing tide away from more traditional insurance roles – i.e. underwriting, risk – to more broad, transferrable skills like finance, data and analytics, computer science, and actuarial science. Mr. Hartwig sees many of his students coupling these skills together to make them more marketable beyond insurance to banking, technology, or engineering. This creates resource scarcity and allows the highest performers to seek out their ideal fit.
Commissioner Birrane acknowledges this trend and the need for a talent pipeline. A predecessor in Maryland found that a large insurance agency got its interns from Temple University – in Pennsylvania, not Maryland – because there were no developmental programs in state. This kicked off workforce initiatives in the Commissioner’s office that continue today.
Closing the Insurance Gap
Mr. Hartwig and Ms. Birrane shared similar solutions. According to Mr. Hartwig, to recruit top talent from universities today, companies cannot parachute in senior year. They must be a regular presence on campus.
“My best students have job offers in hand (on) the first day they set foot on campus their senior year,” Mr. Hartwig said. “If you don’t have a regular presence, it can be a case of out of sight – out of mind, as students are considering where they are going to go.” He suggests visiting universities at least twice-yearly, engaging in one-on-one discussions with students, offering internship opportunities that demonstrate an investment in students, and developing other incentives like company scholarships.
Maryland responded to the need to attract students by launching a degree program in risk management at University of Baltimore. Commissioner Birrane said it has “taken off.” Work is also being done at the younger levels, at community colleges and high schools, to guide students toward insurance careers. There are two areas of focus:
- What a job in insurance means. It’s beyond just a traditional sales or underwriting pathway. Insurance requires all types of skills from nursing to engineering, data science, actuarial sciences, and computer sciences.
- Driving innovation. Some of Maryland’s largest insurance companies have come together with other key industry players to identify the opportunities to drive growth and innovation. This includes an institutional partnership to improve diversity in the workforce.