Insurance executives call for change in approach to recruitment

Insurance executives call for change in approach to recruitment

Insurance industry leaders should expand their recruitment efforts to attract more candidates with diverse backgrounds and skill sets to address the staffing challenges facing the sector and drive growth, a panel of senior executives said.

A significant proportion of the insurance industry workforce will be at retirement age in the next five to seven years, said Sabrina Hart, New York-based president and CEO, Munich Re Specialty Insurance, a unit of Munich Reinsurance Co.

She was speaking during a session of the Business Insurance 2023 Women To Watch Awards and Conference held last week in New York.

Attracting people to the industry and ensuring they have the skills to manage emerging risks and uncertainty in the world going forward will be critical, said Ms. Hart, who was a 2013 Business Insurance Women to Watch honoree. 

“We need a different skill set in the future,” she said.

Transitioning to a workforce that can use new technologies will drive growth and innovation, said Michelle Sartain, New York-based president and CEO of Marsh U.S., a division of Marsh LLC, and a 2022 Women to Watch honoree.

Businesses “absolutely have to figure out how to utilize” not just available technologies but those coming online so they can continue to find growth opportunities and stay ahead of the competition, she said.

Patrick Tannock, CEO of Axa XL Insurance in Bermuda, a unit of Axa SA, said navigating uncertainty and responding to continuous change will require new performance metrics and organizational structures.

“It’s going to be contingent on being able to instill a culture based on innovation, diversity and agility, and it’s a lot easier said than done, especially in this period of unprecedented complexity,” Mr. Tannock said.

Part of the challenge companies face is how to attract younger people to the industry who can drive growth and innovation, said Kim Wilkerson, Bermuda-based senior vice president, head of claims, at Axa XL, who moderated the panel discussion.

When she asked members of the audience if they were under the age of 25 only three raised their hands. “That illustrates the challenge because I believe this room is a microcosm of the industry,” said Ms. Wilkerson, a 2014 Women to Watch honoree.

Insurance executives must do a better job of being their own best advocate for why it’s good to be in insurance, Mr. Tannock said. “We need to get comfortable with dealing with ambiguity and making the case for diverse thinkers,” he said.

In 2015, only 4% of millennials had any interest in coming into the industry, he said, adding: “In 2025, 75% of the workforce is going to be of that generation, and in insurance only 25% of our workforce is under 35.”

The industry should be more thoughtful about how it recruits people, Ms. Sartain said.

“Diverse talent means that you need to think thoughtfully about the people that you’re trying to attract and specifically go to where they are and recruit them as individuals,” versus as a category of diverse talent, she said.

Collectively, insurance organizations should be more intentional about working together to go to colleges and high schools to encourage students to consider the opportunities in insurance, she said.

Ms. Hart said progress is being made in creating continuous learning opportunities, setting up apprenticeships and stepping up high school outreach.

But the industry collectively needs to do a better job of humanizing the brand by focusing on its commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion and its commitment to helping people in their time of need, she said.

“It is a wonderful industry, it’s a noble industry. It doesn’t always feel that way, maybe to the consumer or the claimant,” Ms. Hart said.

The industry should expand where it traditionally looks for staff, Mr. Tannock said. “People have expanded the search to historically black colleges, but we need to do more than that,” he said.

Making people feel welcome once they enter the industry is key, Mr. Tannock said. “There’s no sense going out there and attracting a whole bunch of people and then two years later they leave,” he said.

For an industry that prides itself on data collection “when we look at the numbers, whether it’s gender or race, we’ve done a really poor job,” he said.

There’s an opportunity for the industry to improve in these areas and address the talent shortage, he said, adding, “It will pay real dividends.”