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Younger Workers: Old-School Pay and Perks Not Enough

Posted By Emily He, Tuesday, August 13, 2019


Millennial and Gen-Z employees want to do well by doing good.

When it came to job hunting, people of my parents’ generation—as well as a good chunk of those my own age—saw a competitive salary and medical benefits as the ultimate career package. What else could you possibly want?

But for today’s younger job applicants, the mindset is shifting dramatically. More and more Millennials (those born in the early '80s to mid '90s) or Gen-Z prospects (born after 1996) want to feel a sense of value and meaning in their work.

The desire to succeed not just for oneself but to contribute back to the greater good is the underlying theme of the “purpose economy,” a term coined by entrepreneur and author Aaron Hurst in a book of the same name.

Increasingly, I see this desire for a “purpose career” as a key motivator for the post-baby-boom generations. To learn more about this concept and why younger workers have such shifting workplace priorities, I recently had a chance to talk with John Jersin, vice president of product management for LinkedIn’s Talent Solutions and Careers unit. Here’s what we discussed:

Wanted: A Purpose Career

Given LinkedIn’s expertise on the job market and candidate experience, Jersin had a wealth of data and knowledge to share on this purpose economy evolution, noting he agrees with the theory and sees considerable relevant data on hiring trends to support.

“We see that 64% of Millennials define a good job as one that they’re proud to talk about,” he said in a recent chat. Additionally, 75% of those surveyed said they would work even if they didn’t have to and 40% said they want to “feel passionate” about what they do.

I attribute part of this mind shift to the way children have been raised over the past few decades. Many parents tell their kids to pursue their dreams and that they can be whatever they want to be. It’s no longer: “Get a job so you can pay your bills.” The message is now something more like: “Find a situation that fulfills you and makes you feel like a productive member of society.”

Jersin and I both agree that one very real effect of that self-empowerment movement is that younger workers aren’t afraid to ask their managers, maybe even their managers’ managers, for what they want. And what they want may very well be to combat global warming, clean up the oceans, or save endangered species, making room for dedicated sustainability and social impact teams within organizations.

Another profound generational change that we discussed is that Millennials and Gen-Zs know that they’re not going to stick with the same job or company for 30 or even 10 years. That’s a far cry from the early baby boomers, who may themselves have been raised by Great Depression-era parents and who aspired to a 40- or 50-year stint at a company like Procter & Gamble or Ford.

For that reason, post Baby-Boomer generations want to be able to learn new skills continually so they can take on new challenges over time.

Balancing Purposeful Skills and Technical Prowess

This desire to continuously learn new skills has never been more important than it is in today’s society. The question is, though, what skills do we need to learn?

We live in a tech-obsessed era, so most people focus on the need to build data analysis, computer language, and other technical skills. But when asked if I should advise my children to prioritize tech or “soft” interpersonal skills, Jersin didn’t hesitate: “Both,” he said.

While companies undoubtedly need data jockeys and programming wizzes along with human AI experts, managers in HR and other departments also must build strong personal connections with job candidates and team members to recruit and retain the best.

According to LinkedIn’s data, a whopping 90% of companies surveyed said soft skills are at least as important as tech skills, which is why employee training — whether company sponsored or through personal development — should span from presentation skills and personal networking, to more computer-oriented coursework.

What it Means for HR and the Future of Work

The rise of the ‘Purpose Economy’ is only just getting started. As more Millennials become managers and Generation-Z enters the workforce, these meaningful motivators will become more front and center. Companies must respond to these intertwined aspirations for a “purpose-based career” and continual education if they want to hire the best and brightest.

At the corporate level, some companies are already tailoring new socially-conscious messaging to woo customers as well as employees. Look at what Patagonia has done first with its eco-conscious mission statement and its recent decision to stop selling bulk goods to firms with “poor” social values.

Some companies are expanding their efforts to match employee charitable contributions or granting more time off for them to work with philanthropies. Flexibility in time as well as workspaces is very important to this cohort of young workers.

And, companies must make it easy for employees to learn new skills by producing online courses internally, or subsidizing the cost of outside classes.

Thirty or forty years ago, college grads probably thought their degree conferred the skills they needed to sustain a life-long career. That has not been the case for a while, but now with new job entrants anticipating 10 or 15 career changes over a lifetime, continuing education is essential to attract ambitious applicants.

That constant retooling could be provided at the government, academic, industry or personal level, but right now the bulk of the work falls to each individual and employers: The latter needs to step up.

While training gives employees the skills they need to grow their career, potentially with another company, it also promotes internal mobility by empowering star employees to grow and develop while staying at the same company.

There’s No Time to Waste

The growing demand for value-based jobs is relatively new but companies who haven’t already prepared themselves, in terms of strengthening their education efforts, and identifying and promoting their own core values, should act quickly.

This massive change is happening far faster than many companies realize, Jersin said. There has long been a notion that some companies are more mission-driven than others, but, in his view, every company’s going to need to embrace purpose as a business imperative if it wants to compete for the best talent and have a lasting future.

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10 Tips for New Agents

Posted By Kendall McEachern, Wednesday, July 31, 2019


The insurance industry is ever-changing. With the average age of insurance agents being around 60 years old, it is important for our industry to recruit new talent. Whether you are a recent licensed agent or agency owner who is working to groom our industry’s next generation of agents, follow these ten tips to guarantee success for those who are new in our profession.

1. Dress for success
First impressions matter, and in the insurance business, you are selling trust. By dressing for success, your clients will likely take you more seriously and have more confidence in you. Dress for the job you want, not always the job you have.

2. Find a mentor
A mentorship program can be beneficial to both a new and veteran agent. New agents are able to learn the industry, viable sales techniques and more from a veteran leader, while gaining valuable leadership skills and building confidence. With technology shaping our industry, new agents can influence veterans of the business to adapt while embracing this shift.

3. Use your resources
What resources does your agency have available? What are your differentiators? Perhaps you work alongside niche producers you can bring in on accounts to better serve your clients. Do you have a fellow agent who is experienced on reading policies and doing coverage reviews? Do you have a risk management, marketing or other essential departments you can tap into?

4. Build a rapport
Building a rapport with your clients and prospects is critical in this business. Get to know your clients on both a professional and personal level. Set yourself apart from your competitors by remembering the little things, relating to them and reaching out throughout the year … not just when it’s renewal time. Just as equally important — build a rapport with your peers. This will aid in building trust with your co-workers, and the rewards will pay off when they want to refer business, bring a producer in on an account or more.

5. Market yourself
The insurance industry is extremely competitive. Other agents often have access to the same products and services you do, so be sure to set yourself apart. Brand yourself. How you carry yourself, speak, your demeanor, punctuality and more help build your brand. Additionally, with resources like LinkedIn, differentiate yourself by utilizing your resources and posting educational content. You will be viewed as a true insurance professional and also be at the forefront of your client’s mind by creating multiple touchpoints throughout the year. Don’t forget, too, a handwritten note still goes a long way.

6. Transparency is key
There is nothing more persuasive than transparency. Be sure to be clear, concise and transparent when providing a quote, going over coverages, reviewing potential risks and more. Clients need be presented all the information so they can make an informed decision. It is critical to be transparent with your employer and peers, as well, in order to effectively achieve your short- and long-term career goals.

7. Don’t talk the talk
As a new agent, don’t be so quick to exhibit your new found knowledge of the industry by using insurance jargon and lingo. You may come across as too eager, and often times, potential clients may not fully understand what you are trying to convey or sell to them. By avoiding the terminology, you are more likely to relate to your clients as you work to find them the best possible solution for their insurance needs.

8. Listen
Epictetus said, “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” Listen to your clients. Know when to speak — and when to listen. You may discover additional opportunities for account rounding or more! Also, listen to those who have been in the business and learn from their experience.

9. Dial for dollars
Set aside an hour each week to “dial for dollars“ and increase your prospect list. In order to make your time effective, take a few minutes beforehand to strategize. Develop a call list and briefly research those companies/clients you will be reaching out to. This will allow your full hour to be spent actually prospecting rather than wasting your time looking up who to call, phone numbers and more.

10. The price of success is hard work 
It takes an average of eight attempts to reach a prospect. It can take weeks, months and even years to land an account. Don’t give up. Continue to brush up on your industry knowledge, new products and services. This is a tough business, but with hard work … it is very rewarding.

As Greg Reid said, “A dream written down with a date becomes a goal. A goal broken down into steps becomes a plan. A plan backed by action makes your dreams come true.”

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So You Want to Attract Millennials?

Posted By Kristen Nease, Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Three Crucial Hiring Questions


You see it every day: Another baby boomer coworker packing up their belongings and setting out on the road to retire. Trying to fill these positions can be a challenge. So here are three short, simple questions to evaluate whether your agency is as appealing to millennials as avocado toast.

No. 1: How do you announce job openings, and where do most of your recruits come from?

For potential candidates who may not know about your company, LinkedIn and online job postings are valuable methods to reach the right audience. These platforms are effective at communicating current openings, however Vertafore’s fifth-annual “Millennials in Insurance” report surveyed 1,252 professionals and found that referrals and word-of-mouth from friends and family speak volumes when reaching the right audience. In fact, 36% of millennials were recruited through employee referrals. Take advantage of the 87% who would recommend a career in insurance to friends and offer new-hire or referral incentives to further motivate employees to tap into their networks.

While word-of-mouth is a key component to recruiting millennial talent, local validation is also an important consideration that shouldn’t be overlooked. Do some research, then apply to local ‘Top Workplaces’ awards to validate your company’s presence in the community and give your employees something to brag about.

No. 2: Do you encourage and empower the use of technology in business?

Insurance is known as a traditional industry. But in recent years, there’s been an influx of InsurTechs, acquisitions and solutions that enforce technology’s place in the insurance landscape. Millennials are the most tech-savvy generation and tend to rely on technology and social networks not only to make their work more efficient, but to better communicate and build relationships with their peers, customers and clients. Our research indicates that most millennials believe technology has made a positive impact on their company over the last 12 months. Sixty-one percent of them state that technology has increased overall efficiency, enabling them to strengthen customer relationships.

Social media in particular has emerged as a powerful means of connecting with customers. Roughly three out of five millennials use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and the like to strengthen customer support and retention. Fifty-five percent use social media’s wide reach to increase brand awareness, and 49% focus on generating new business leads. Encourage the use of these channels in the workplace, and have an active presence online to communicate with both prospective employees and customers.

No. 3: Is your employee value proposition compelling?

To ensure you’re attracting top-tier talent, it’s important to take the pulse of both industry competitors and companies in your community to know where you stand. Benchmarking is a healthy practice that should be done regularly to ensure your salaries match industry standards and competitors. Vertafore’s survey found that 59% of millennials make between $30,000 and $60,000 per year across varying levels of seniority and positions. If you use a recruiter, utilize their expertise and recommendation as they will be familiar with the market in your region.

While monetary compensation is important, it isn’t everything. Nearly 65% of millennials value a healthy work-life balance, which can include flexible schedules and the ability to work from home or remotely. Millennials are known for valuing experiences over money, so it’s important to accommodate these values when attracting the most competitive candidates.

Outside of work-life balance, more than half of millenials look for the ability to grow in their career (61%) and seek professional development (58%) when evaluating a job opportunity.

Millennials also are known as the job-hopping generation, though millennials in the insurance industry have broken this mold. Over three quarters (76%) of millennials surveyed have been in the insurance industry for three years or more, and 72% plan to work in insurance as long as possible. Reward longevity and seniority by supplying added benefits and compensation through bonuses and work-from-home privileges. Ask what’s important to your employees, and consider how you can meet their needs to reward their hard work and loyalty.

The insurance industry has made great strides to attract and foster a millennial workforce. But there is still work to be done to ensure the employment gap is filled. Companies that adapt to meet the priorities of the millennial generation will undoubtedly reap the rewards of a loyal, high-achieving workforce. By catering to these individuals, the industry will be able to capitalize on fresh talent and new perspectives to transform the future of insurance.

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A Five-Step Staffing Plan for Agency Growth

Posted By Troy Korsgaden, Wednesday, July 31, 2019


When I started my insurance agency, I worked by myself for years, with no staff. It wasn’t until I hired my first staff person that my business started to grow — and it grew by leaps and bounds.

As you begin 2019 and plan beyond, take a hard look at your business. Are you spending time on what you do best — spending time in front of customers and prospects?

Or are you doing support work that someone else could and should be doing? Imagine how much your agency firm or practice could grow if you had staff members helping you manage all aspects of your business every day.

Let’s look at five main steps of a staffing plan.

No. 1: Determine how many staff members you need, and in what roles.

 Many agents hesitate to hire staff members because they think they can’t afford to pay someone a salary. Think of it as an investment in your business. Time is finite. You can’t work many more hours than you’re currently working, most likely. The only way to increase your productivity is to add to your staff. Crunch the numbers to figure out that sweet spot between the amount of money a salary will cost you and the amount of revenue you could generate if you have an additional full-time support person.

No. 2: Create positions before you fill them.

Start working on the big picture. Write down all the tasks you need to delegate so you can spend your time in front of clients and prospects. Write a job description for each position you want to fill. Then, when you have the money to invest, you can hire someone because you’ve done all the preparation work.

Don’t switch people around to fill positions they don’t fit into well. You might specialize in life insurance, but you also help people with auto and home insurance. You might be a home specialist, but you help people with life. You might be an auto person, but you help people with life.

Here is the key to paying for your staff members’ salaries: life is the fuel that gets us more staff.  All staff members are paid for their first six months, by Agency life insurance commissions. After six months, if they’re not paying for themselves, they don’t belong in the building. Does that mean they don’t make us money in their first two or three months? Of course they make money, but for you to be a profit center, there has to be consistency.

No. 3: Set up a review program with your employees.

Set specific goals for each staff person, and for the agency team as a whole, in terms of production and customer satisfaction. Ask your staff members what types of resources and technology they need to accomplish those goals. Stay in front of this; don’t wait for them to come to you three, four or five months later and say, “I needed this four months ago.” Constantly review the ideal resources with them.

I recommend meeting with your staff members twice a day, if they will be meeting with clients: once in the morning to discuss what their game plan is and once in the evening to review the day.

In our office, the office manager meets with our staff team members every day. They write out a pre-plan, discuss what they’re going to talk about and role-play the situation — whatever the discussion with a client might be. The staff member might need to present life insurance to a new client or gather details for a claim. These meetings with the staff are brief, no longer than 15 minutes each.

I think it’s best to hold meetings like this on Tuesdays, not on Mondays. Mondays can be super busy because people are thinking over the weekend about calling your agency on Mondays for whatever reason. Meet with staff members every day if they will be meeting with clients.

At the end of the day, we discuss the client meetings — how the conversations went, and if the client didn’t make it to the appointment, why not? We don’t wait until the next day to “rewind the tapes.”

The purpose of these meetings is to improve our staff members’ skills every day. We want to improve their scripting, the way they deliver those scripts so they sound conversational instead of stiff and the way they respond to questions.

No. 4: Require employees to maintain current calendars and client files.

In our business, it’s critical for everyone in your office to have a daily plan, and that comes in the form of a calendar. Everyone in the office keeps a calendar to keep track of all the people they’re going to see, call and follow up with. Every reminder is on their calendars.

Underneath the calendar should be working files. They contain clients’ information — which coverage clients do and do not have and what we will be presenting to them.

No. 5: Mechanize everything. 

Technology effectiveness will help make each one of your new hires a profit center.

Everything related to sales and service in your agency needs to be completely mechanized. You can keep a paper copy, too, but everything has to be transferred/scanned into the computer. If it’s not in the computer, then it never happened — you won’t have vital details recorded about client interactions. Also, it needs to be in the computer so everyone else in the office can tell, at a glance, the status on any service issue, sale, claim, update or meeting.

Computer access gives you the 360-degree view of every client. Everyone in the office needs to know details such as the name the client likes to be called. You can never say a person’s name enough.

Hiring your first or additional staff member will give you an incredible boost in your ability to build your agency the way you’ve always dreamed.

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Insurance Jobs & Recruits: Learning to See Things Differently

Posted By Rosalie Donlon, Wednesday, July 31, 2019


It’s May, the month when many are making plans to attend college commencements.

Those graduates are taking their new diplomas with them in search of careers — or at least gainful employment. I’d like to see them consider insurance, but I know it has the reputation of being stodgy.

It’s a challenge to us all to explain to new grads that “nothing happens without insurance.” Think of the expansion of the drone industry or autonomous vehicles, for example.

What does ‘diversity’ mean?

As the insurance industry competes for new graduates, I’d like to urge hiring managers to look outside the traditional sources for finding new employees. You hear a lot about “diversity” in business media as well as the popular press, but what does it really mean? The May cover story for National Underwriter Property & Casualty magazine, “Talent Search,” takes an in-depth look at where innovative companies are looking for employees and what skills they value.

One recent insurance company executive I interviewed noted that there are many different kinds of diversity to consider. In addition to looking past race, gender, ethnicity or religion, he believes it’s important to find diversity of thought. All too often employers recruit from colleges or geographies that they’re comfortable with. But everyone who graduated from the same college within the same few years is likely to have studied with the same professors and were subject to the same influences.

Nontraditional sources

Colleges are expanding programs in insurance and risk management, which gives students a look into the exciting world of insurance, as demonstrated by the number of schools that are part of the University Risk Management and Insurance Association. Yes, I said “exciting.” If you’re a risk professional, your job is to keep your company out of trouble, keep its employees safe, and make sure its products arrive at their destinations intact.

A recent college graduate can learn those skills, but another good option is to consider members of the military who are leaving the service. Many are involved in supply chain management and the logistics of moving soldiers and supplies across the country and across the world. A critical need, especially after a natural disaster.

Another overlooked source of potential employees are those over the age of 40. Many mid-level managers lost their jobs due to cutbacks in other industries. They have solid managerial skills, they’re eager to continue their careers, and they can learn the nuances of insurance.

Possibly the most overlooked group of potential employees are people with disabilities. They often report feeling invisible to employers. Customer service reps spend most of their time on the phone with clients. Being blind doesn’t affect a person’s ability to carry on a conversation. And one of the top sales clerks in the men’s department at my local Macy’s zooms up and down the aisles in his wheelchair.

When you’re recruiting new talent, be sure not to look in the mirror and hope to find someone who looks, thinks and acts as you do. You’ll be missing out on people with skills that you didn’t know you needed until that employee arrived in your office.

Think of it this way: The Broadway show “Hamilton” is a great success even though the actors look nothing like the Founding Fathers. But they get the job done, as the box office receipts demonstrate.

And that’s what’s top of mind this month.

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Talent Gap Ahead: How to Adapt

Posted By Michael Brown, CPCU, Wednesday, July 31, 2019

When Your Senior Staff Retires


The insurance industry has been operating in the looming shadow of a talent gap for several years now.

The senior tier of insurance company, reinsurance company, wholesale and retail broker operations professionals is nearing or passing retirement age, and the next generation is significantly underrepresented in the workforce.

A 2017 McKinsey & Company survey indicated that 25% of the current insurance industry workforce would be retiring by the end of 2018 — which leaves some 400,000 positions at predominantly senior levels that will need to be filled.

The last 20 years have been volatile, one might even say tumultuous, for the insurance industry and the business sector overall. We have weathered the DotCom bubble bursting, September 11, 2001, the foreclosure crisis, and more. During these rough financial times, many organizations, insurance organizations included, slowed down their hiring. Open positions went unfilled, new positions and departments were left undeveloped.

The net result is that not a lot of my generation (sneaking up on 50) entered the industry in those years. Now, as the generation ahead of us is retiring, companies and other organizations are finding that there are some gaps — the second-in-command in some units are 20-somethings or 30-somethings and may not be adequately prepared for a leadership role so early in their careers.

Adding to this delay in bringing new talent into our organizations is the sad fact that the insurance industry is often not perceived as an exciting or sexy career opportunity. So even when companies wanted to bring new talent on board, we didn’t always have a lot to choose from. A 2015 Harvard University Millennial Leadership Survey found that only 4% of those surveyed saw insurance as an appealing industry in which to pursue a career.

Adding insult to injury, a 2017 survey from the College Board found that only 82 national universities offering formal risk management and insurance degree programs. Eighty-two (82) in the entire nation. No wonder the best and brightest young talent is largely unaware of the opportunities that a career in the insurance industry can offer!

So how can the industry adapt to the new reality of senior staff retiring within ranks in the tier below them? We have to embrace the younger generation. There are an awful lot of bright, talented young people out there. We need to make it a priority to try and entice young talent to give insurance a chance, and then make genuine investment in their training and development.

Stacey Jackson, General Counsel for M.J. Hall and Company, Inc, a wholesale insurance brokerage, described a broker career development program in which two recent college graduates were offered a two-year training program to introduce them to the industry, the wholesale distribution model, admitted and non-admitted carriers, and reinsurance.

Along the way these brokers-in-training obtained their P&C broker licenses, and completed several institutes designation programs, including the Associate in General Insurance, Associate in Surplus Lines Insurance, and started working towards the Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter designation. They were also given the opportunity to intern at Lloyd’s of London for a few weeks, attend NAPSLO and AAMGA (now merged into the WSIA) schools, and complete training courses at some of the carriers with which M.J. Hall and Company works closely.

More than three years into the experiment, one of the two is building a successful book of business with M.J. Hall and Company while the other has moved on to another wholesale brokerage. Fifty percent (50%) retention within the organization after three years is very promising, and 100% industry retention after the same interval is also worthy of note.

In a similar fashion, M.J. Hall and Company subsidiary Golden Bear Insurance Company has been refining an underwriter training program for a number of years (an author near you may have been one of the early underwriter trainees lured into Golden Bear nearly 16 years ago).

Over the course of my career at Golden Bear we have brought in eight underwriter trainees from other industries and provided the opportunity to learn how to be an insurance underwriter in one or more of our departments. Seventy-five percent (75%) of them are still in the industry (five underwriters and a wholesale broker), and 37.5% are still with Golden Bear.

Again, these retention statistics are very encouraging — especially considering that the 25% who did not choose to remain in the industry made the decision fairly early, minimizing the expense of salary and education somewhat.

These examples are in no way unique. Arthur Gallagher companies have a long history of bringing college interns into one or another of their businesses, with the notion of offering full-time positions to the interns who impress them the most (I am told that one such intern each year is selected for an extended internship with the Gallagher Lloyd’s broker in London).

WSIA (formerly NAPSLO) internships are in high demand and provide the lucky recipients with an excellent opportunity to both test the waters of an insurance career, and to make industry contacts and connections that can assist with job placement when the time comes.

The major reinsurance companies also bring in college interns routinely. Peter Grace of General Reinsurance (San Francisco) reported that a number of Gen Re offices have very successful internship programs. The property facultative unit in San Francisco has hired three recent college graduates in recent years to be property facultative reinsurance underwriters, two are still with the firm after at least two years, the third returned to school to pursue a graduate degree (and may someday return to the industry, one never knows). Their retention in recent years is as heartening as the other programs.

One of the AAMGA (now WSIA) white paper contest winners from 2017, Matthew Pauszek, reported the results of his survey of university students before and after taking an entry level course in Risk Management and Insurance. Prior to taking the first course 50% specifically stated that they were NOT interested in a career in the insurance industry.

After completion of Introduction to Risk Management and Insurance, 80% of those students reported that they were more interested than before. Clearly the challenge is how best to introduce the college students and younger workforce members to learn more about our industry. Once in the door, many will choose to stay and lend their talents to this great industry.

These programs all come at a cost, though. Many of these candidates are paid a salary from day one, and interns often receive a stipend to live on while they are learning about the industry. In addition, there is the cost of the education materials, exam fees, conference and convention fees, travel expenses, and maybe most valuable of all, time invested by their mentors in their training and development. It’s not enough to make the education materials and opportunities available to the younger generation; we must invest our time and attention to their growth and development.

I am reminded of an old joke (origin unknown) — one manager asks another, “What if we train our people and they leave the company?” and the other manager responds, “What if we DON’T train them, and they stay forever?”

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Tackling the Insurance Talent Gap

Posted By Shannel Clubb, Wednesday, July 31, 2019

It Starts With Raising Awareness


It’s no secret that one of the most pressing issues facing insurance companies today is the persistent struggle to attract new, diverse talent to the industry amid an aging workforce.

Insurance may have a challenging and unglamorous reputation among millennials, but young professionals working within the industry find their work fascinating, impactful and lucrative.

In fact, a recent Vertafore study found that a whopping 87% of millennials working in insurance would recommend it to friends as a career option. The same study found that 76% of millennials in insurance stay in the industry for at least three years.

These numbers provide some much-needed relief to those who stay up at night worrying about the insurance talent pipeline. It’s increasingly clear that once a young professional is in the industry and begins to fully grasp the inner-workings of insurance, these individuals are satisfied and enthusiastic about their career path.

So the real challenge for insurance companies is how to raise awareness, educate younger professionals about the benefits of working in the industry, and convince them that insurance can offer them the exciting career they desire.

The characteristics of cool

To solve this puzzle, it is first helpful to get a sense of what exactly young professionals are looking for in a career. After interviewing young insurance employees, as well as speaking to insurance agents to gauge their thoughts on recruiting initiatives, one fact stands out above the rest: Young professionals want to work for new, cutting edge technology firms. “Cool” is a buzzword often used to describe these companies, but what gives these companies a “cool-factor?”

Based on our intel, “cool” companies share a number of unique characteristics. For one, they make their employees feel as if the work they are doing is meaningful and impactful to both the individual and community. To put it simply, today’s younger generation wants to make a difference in the world, oftentimes pursuing purpose over profit.

Another key characteristic of “cool” is innovation. Prospective employees are increasingly looking for companies that produce game-changing products that transform either the efficiencies of a certain business or the actual lives of individuals.

On the other side, insurance companies desperately need the fresh skills that are going to drive the innovation and digital-driven products of the future as digitization continues to disrupt the industry.

Not only do innovative products attract the top-notch talent that insurers need to thrive in the industry’s next era, but they also drive brand recognition and positive reputation. Brands that showcase their innovation with new products witness many benefits including a consumer perception that a company is both an expert in its industry and that shoppers are personally benefiting from a brand’s cutting-edge work.

Finally, “cool” companies have a casual, collaborative, and flexible work environment. Having a healthy work-life balance is extremely important to younger generations. The Vertafore study found that 65% of millennials listed it as their top priority when looking for jobs.

Is insurance cool? Yes!

What may come as a surprise to those outside of the insurance industry is that these “cool” characteristics can easily be used to describe insurance companies.

Given the large amounts of data insurance companies collect and use to make thoughtful, preventative decisions, one could argue that insurance companies are essentially tech companies. For example, when a hurricane is barreling towards the Florida coast, property & casualty risk managers will use technology to provide clients with live risk assessments of the expected property damage to the company.

Insurance also provides an essential safety net for businesses when faced with new and emerging risks, and it’s what restores companies after a natural disaster or a cyberattack strikes. Yet when young professionals think about working in the insurance industry, they do not immediately think of the inventive and impactful nature of insurance companies, nor do they see that making a positive difference is truly the core of the insurance industry model. Although it’s not glaringly apparent to the everyday consumer, insurance companies work with innovative products every day. Insurers are using drone solutions and intelligence tools to assess damage from national disasters. They’re adopting wearable devices as a component of health insurance and they’re playing a pivotal role in the employment of smart home monitoring devices in households.

This lack of awareness among consumers could partially be due to the way insurance companies, at least those focused on commercial lines, market themselves.

Attacking the awareness gap

Now more than ever, insurance professionals worldwide need to step up as advocates for their industry and showcase insurance careers as modern, impactful and innovative. One way to do this is by marketing products as something consumers want to have instead of need to have.

One challenge in attracting young talent to the field is due to a serious knowledge gap: Most recent college graduates simply do not understand the business of insurance. While most understand the basics at play, many lack a greater understanding of the many nuances of commercial insurance or how insurance touches nearly every facet of business. Additionally, younger professionals do not realize that working in insurance often comes with flexible working hours, autonomy and an unlimited earnings potential in the long-term. The lack of education is a detriment to insurance companies and does not do the industry justice. From terrorism insurance, to policies for rare and expensive art, to maritime trade insurance, the industry impacts every business in every industry.

So, the jury is out: How can insurance companies educate prospective young employees about the exciting career opportunities within the insurance industry? As the statistic in the first paragraph noted, fellow young professionals in insurance are one of the industry’s greatest weapons. Insurance companies should encourage their younger staff to attend more career fairs and explain the benefits of working in the industry to peers. Social media can take on a larger form either through educational videos or showcasing some of the cool products that insurance companies produce.

Insurance companies should embrace the idea that they are tech companies. The innovative products they produce aid individuals and are the backbone of every business and community. By positioning insurance companies as cutting-edge tech companies that are passionate about doing meaningful work, insurance companies can get young people interested in the profession and attract the next generation of top talent before the looming talent gap gets even larger.

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Insurance Needs More Women to Step Up and Lead

Posted By Belen Tokarski, Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Women make up 60% of the insurance workforce but are scarce in leadership roles


Many in the insurance industry are hyping their digital transformation efforts, proudly sharing data points and revenue numbers that result from these initiatives.

However, there is a clear lack of focus and subsequent celebration of success on an equally important topic in the industry: diversity and inclusion.

Why is this? Research shows that companies where men and women are equally paid earn 41% more revenue, and racially diverse teams outperform non-diverse teams by 35%. Clearly there is a business case to make for better representation of women, but it is apparent the case hasn’t been made strongly enough in the insurance industry.

As it stands, women make up 60% of the insurance workforce but are scarce in leadership roles. Just 19% of board seats in insurance companies are occupied by women, and make up only 12% of top officer positions. To make matters worse, the support to lead women to higher positions just doesn’t seem to be there. Only 8% of insurance companies have a formal program or training to help women advance in their careers.

I realize I am an outlier. I am an executive at an InsurTech company that boasts a nearly 50% female roster, and I broke into the industry with little relevant training in insurance. It took a great deal of hard work, patience, persistence, risk and, most of all, mentor support to defy the odds and become a leader in the insurance industry. This isn’t bragging. Instead, it’s acknowledging my responsibility to help women in my industry to equalize these statistics and bring a much more diverse group of professionals to leadership tables.

In nearly 20 years of working in the industry, I’ve found some tried-and-true methods to set myself apart, and also identified some areas I believe all businesses could focus on to be more inclusive.

My path to insurance was never written in stone. Like many undergrads, I was unsure of exactly where I wanted to land, and concentrated my efforts studying psychology. It wasn’t until I cut my teeth in customer service for a large human resources and benefits consultant that my career in technology as a business enabler and insurance began to take shape.

It was during these years, along with a completion of a Masters Degree in eCommerce and a decade and a half at another global insurance conglomerate, that I learned many valuable lessons about how the industry works and what it would take for me to get noticed and advance.

What follows are the most important things I learned about the industry — and how to stand out — along the way.

No. 1: Learn constantly

When I was first hired to work the phones in an insurance and benefits call center, I knew very little about the industry and was little more than a cog in the machine. What set me apart was my willingness to learn. I took every opportunity to ask questions when appropriate, and made it a point to always say “yes” to opportunities that would allow me to further educate myself about the industry. Before long, I headed up the phone team and was recognized as a subject matter expert. The new role enabled me to build skills in project management, business development and other areas.

Insurance is a very specific knowledge area, and not being well-versed on complex topics like underwriting, actuarial work and the financial underbelly of insurance decision making can be intimidating. However, I harnessed that feeling and overcame it. Any time I found myself on solid ground with a new topic — whether it be tech, operations or other areas critical to keeping the business running — I set out to find another unfamiliar topic to renew my discomfort. Especially in insurance, it is essential to educate yourself to stay ahead of the curve. Even if the subject matter isn’t at all related to your current role, it is bound to be useful in the future. Intellectual curiosity is a must.

No. 2: Speak up

I would not have gotten nearly as many learning opportunities or as much recognition for my work had I stayed quiet throughout my career. If you aren’t invited to a meeting where you feel like you have a place, ask to be. If you’re passed up or talked over when a decision is being made, raise your voice. And, whatever you do, never let a meeting go by without participating — even if it is to offer a perspective that doesn’t align with the majority in the room. Meetings are a real time opportunity to demonstrate what you have learned and add value. Ultimately, getting leadership and other team members to recognize the value of my industry knowledge played a big role in my success.

Speaking up also means offering support. Whenever possible, you should make an effort to help other women learn and get recognition. Ask less experienced colleagues at the table to offer their thoughts.  Encourage their voices.  By acting as a mentor, you can help keep women on the path toward leadership in insurance.

No. 3: Take (smart) risks

Part of growing in any industry is knowing when to stay in your lane, and when to step into another. For the early part of my career, I spent every moment I could with my head down focused on the task at hand, learning and asking questions to get a better understanding of the industry. It took time. However, once I’d really begun to understand the business and where I could create value, it was time to take risks by challenging the status quo. I also took a much more critical look at the underlying metrics and data we used to make decisions.

It is critical women make calculated decisions to step outside their comfort zone. The reality is that insurance remains very much a people business, one where important decisions or strategies are determined in places like golf courses or dinner meetings. Women looking to advance need to smartly evaluate each opportunity and have the confidence to participate when there is a clear business objective. While these interactions may be relics of a different time in business, they aren’t likely to go away anytime soon.

Women have many opportunities to break the glass ceiling in the insurance industry by taking actions of their own, but leadership has its own responsibility to correct gender imbalance. As the conversation surrounding diversity and inclusion evolves, companies should be proactive about examining their own culture. This can mean engaging with a diversity consultant for an audit of current diversity efforts, conducting unconscious bias training or adopting software that helps make candidate evaluation more fair. It also means being far more dedicated to training — the 8% of employers that offer programs to help women advance is laughable, and a statistic that is relatively easy and inexpensive to improve.

Additionally, insurers should promote the diversity and inclusion efforts at their own company, even if their track record hasn’t been stellar. By simply acknowledging there is progress to be made, and sharing a plan of how the company will become more diverse and inclusive, companies show they are taking the issue seriously.

Climbing the ladder in the insurance industry hasn’t been easy — but it has been rewarding. If every woman with a similar experience took some time to mentor and share their experience, we could reach a future where women’s share in leadership is far more equitable. And, if companies commit to concrete steps to making the workplace more inclusive for women, we might finally see a real sea change in the industry.

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What Do Insurance Professionals Really Do?

Posted By Christine G. Barlow, Wednesday, February 20, 2019


February is known as Black History Month, American Heart Month, Oral Hygiene Awareness Month, and many others. For those of us in the insurance industry, we know it as Insurance Careers Month. We’ve been hearing for a while about how the industry is aging, and more insurance professionals are or will be retiring, which means that the industry needs to attract people to it. Unfortunately, insurance is widely considered boring. If you mention it at a party, unless someone has an open claim, people’s eyes tend to glaze over. Many, however, are not aware of the variety of jobs within the insurance industry and their duties. We’re here to remedy that.

Start with marketing and sales

Let’s start at the beginning: insurance is a product that must be marketed and purchased. Therefore, there must be people to market and sell it. Insurance companies typically market their products through employed sales representatives, but these representatives don’t sell the product directly to the insured. Rather, they offer the product to people known as agents or producers. These agents or producers may be direct employees of the carrier, but more often, they are independent operators that represent more than one insurance company.

Agents tend to be outgoing, extroverted types who find it easy to talk to people and like to help them out.

You need a license

Insurance is a complicated business; it’s not like many jobs where you’re hired, you receive a few weeks of on-the-job training, and you’re good to go. Agents must be licensed, and to be licensed they must take a required number of hours of classes and pass a licensing exam.

There are multiple lines of business that an agent needs a license for; one license doesn’t cover all aspects of the industry. A property & casualty license allows an agent to sell personal or commercial property and liability coverages, which include homeowners, personal auto, personal umbrella, commercial general liability, commercial property, commercial auto, truckers, garage, and many others.

Life and health insurance requires a separate license, and annuities and financial planning require yet another license. When agents are licensed they’re allowed to write policies in the state in which they received the license; to write coverage in a different state, they must pass that state’s required exams.

Getting a license to write insurance isn’t the end of the story. Licenses must be renewed on an annual or semi-annual basis, depending on the state requirements. Each state has different licensing and renewal requirements. Likewise, a certain amount of continuing education credits must be accumulated before a license can be renewed.

What do underwriters do?

An agent works with a person or business and when that person or business decides to buy coverage, the agent fills out an application. Agents writing personal lines generally use quoting systems that provide the rates from multiple carriers at one time. Agents writing commercial coverage complete an application and send it to one or more insurance companies for underwriting and to obtain a quoted premium.

Insurance company underwriters review the applications and determine whether the risk presented fits the company’s pre-established eligibility guidelines. The underwriter also reviews reports submitted with the application, such as driving records, and Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Experience reports (CLUE) that show the applicant’s past accident history.

Not everyone is totally honest on an application, although if they’re not that’s considered fraud. If the underwriter discovers losses or other characteristics of the risk that make the applicant ineligible for coverage, the underwriter advises the agent. Underwriters do have the power to make exceptions based on the quality of the agent’s book of business and the risk in general. An underwriter may allow a marginal risk for an agent with an overall profitable book of business, but there are some risks that will never be eligible.

Individual underwriters don’t write all lines of business. They’re broken out by specialty: personal lines underwriters, commercial lines underwriters, and life and health underwriters. Each underwriter reviews applications for specific types of risks and determines whether to accept the risk for the company. They also review risks at renewal, looking at an insured’s losses to determine whether the policy still fits the guidelines or whether there have been so many losses that the carrier is no longer able to provide coverage.

Underwriters also match the information on the application to the guidelines and determine whether the risk is eligible. Property applications are often required to have a picture of the property, or an underwriter may require an inspection of the property. This is where a picture truly is worth a thousand words; pictures that show debris in the yard, loose dogs that won’t let an inspector out of the car, or trees growing in the gutters are all factors that an underwriter uses to decline a risk.

Insureds have the right to file a complaint with the insurance department if they dispute a cancellation or nonrenewal. The insurance department will send a request to underwriting to explain their reasons for the cancellation or nonrenewal. Underwriters tend to be analytical and must be able to explain why a risk has been declined, nonrenewed or canceled.

Actuaries set rates

The underwriters approve or decline the risk, but the actuary sets the rates. Actuaries are very mathematical and numbers oriented, and they’re incredibly analytical.

An individual must pass a series of difficult exams to become an actuary. Actuaries look at loss data as well as other variables to determine how to establish adequate rates for every type of risk and what variables should be considered in the development of the rates. For example, the actuary may decide based on the data that males between ages 16–25 have poor driving skills and their rates need to be higher. Actuaries must be sure that the rates are adequate so that the company is able to pay claims when they arise and cover expenses.

Statistics are a large part of the data actuaries review in order to set rates. Actuaries also determine when discounts may be applied to certain coverages. All rates must be filed with the state insurance department for approval, and actuaries create and submit those filings. They field any questions the department has concerning the proposed rates.

Claims professionals

After the policy has been underwritten, rated, sold and issued, it may sit there for years without a loss. But when a loss occurs, a number of different professionals will be involved. An insured may call his agent or the company call center. The call center is staffed with customer service representatives (CSRs) who take all the information about the loss: what kind of damage happened to what property, whether there were injuries, when the loss occurred, the cause of loss, and other details. The CSR then assigns a claim number to the loss and assigns an adjuster who works that area or that type of loss.

Depending on the type of loss, it may be assigned to an inside or outside adjuster. Inside adjusters are company employees who handle injury claims, liability claims, glass and towing claims, auto claims when the vehicle is a total loss — basically any claim in which the adjuster doesn’t need to see the damage. For auto claims, the inside adjuster also sets up the insured with a rental car if it’s needed and that coverage is available on the policy. A carrier may at times use non-employee adjusters for areas where they don’t have an office or for catastrophic losses.

Outside, or field, adjusters visit the site and inspect the damage; for vehicle losses, there may be a drive-in center, although carriers more commonly work with repair shops to review the damages for them.

Outside adjusters review the cause of loss and the resultant damage, and they’re generally assigned a particular area to work so they can efficiently handle claims without being spread too far out. They also review the policy coverages and exclusions to determine whether there is coverage for the loss and process the claim from there. Following company guidelines, adjusters handle salvage property, set up contractors for repairs, set up the insured in substitute housing or offices if the damaged building is uninhabitable, and settle the claim.

At times the claim is handed off to an inside adjuster for completion. After coverage has been determined, an inside adjuster may work with a repair shop or contractor to complete the repairs while the field adjuster goes on to look at other losses.

Like agents, claims adjusters are often personable and enjoy working with people. They must also have specific training so they know what type of damage has occurred and whether the property is repairable. Injury adjusters need to have some degree of medical knowledge to know whether the injuries being claimed are likely to have been caused by the type of accident reported.

Fraud investigators

Not all claims are legitimate, however, and there may be indications that everything is not as it seems. A field or inside adjuster who suspects fraud then assigns the claim to a special investigator. Special investigators are trained to spot inconsistencies in the details of a claim and interview the claimant to determine what actually happened. They may look at the salvage and talk to fire or police personnel.

Often, special investigators are former police officers trained to interview people. They may surveille the claimant or verify addresses to confirm that the claimant lives where he says he does. Fraud is an enormous issue for the insurance industry, and special investigators are important in detecting fraud.

In-house counsel

Insureds and claimants may sue the company when they feel they have been treated unfairly in a claim. When a company is sued, they may have an employed in-house attorney who handles the case. The in-house attorney reviews the suit and the claims files to determine whether the declination or the amount of settlement was reasonable. The in-house counsel also deals with the claimant’s attorney and represents the company in the case if and when it goes to court. In other cases, the in-house attorney works with a law firm to manage the case.

Legal staff also reviews new coverage forms before they are filed.

IT professionals

Like many organizations, insurance companies use computer systems to store data including who and what is covered, what coverages are on the policy, whether payments been made and other information. Although the accounting department tracks premium and claim payments, information technology (IT) systems ensure that the policies are correctly rated according to the actuarially defined specifications. A reduction may need to be added to the premium calculation at a particular point in the rating process, and IT ensures that the system properly rates the policy and tracks premium and claim payments.

Auditors and compliance professionals

Many insurance companies employ staff auditors who are responsible for periodically reviewing underwriting and claims files for compliance with state regulatory requirements. This enables a company to monitor its own employees and make sure that the decisions made and the forms and rates applied are in accordance with the company filings made with the state. In addition, some commercial policies with fluctuating exposures are written on an auditable basis. At the end of the policy term, the exposures used in pricing and writing the policy are matched against the insured’s actual exposures for that year. Depending on the result the insured may be required to pay an additional premium or may receive a return premium if the exposures were less than expected.

Finally, some carriers maintain staff to ensure the company policies and procedures comply with current state regulations and track new requirements. Agents must be properly licensed and appointed, and carriers need to know that agents’ licenses have been renewed.

Insurance careers are many and varied, but they all help policyholders in some way. To learn more about insurance careers and participate in the conversation, check out

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4 Best Practices to Make Insurance an Appealing Career

Posted By Matt Masiello, Wednesday, February 20, 2019


The insurance industry continues to face a crisis and this one is not due to the deluge of recent hurricanes affecting the Southeast or devastating wildfires out West. What the insurance industry faces — from large corporation to Main Street independent agent — is a talent drought. 

As with most industries, property & casualty insurers are dealing with huge numbers of professionals leaving the workforce as they reach retirement age and job descriptions evolving with technology. Fueling the problem is attrition. A report from McKinsey & Company found that the number of workers in the insurance industry over age 55 increased 75% during the previous decade – leaving 20% of the insurance workforce approaching retirement. Meanwhile, the report also found that those graduating from risk management and insurance programs met only 10% to 15% of the industry’s need. And the situation has only gotten worse.

Moving forward, we are at a critical point. The excessive number of people retiring from the industry coupled with a low number of young people signing on to insurance as a career presents a great risk for each organization in the industry — big or small.

What can independent agents, in particular, do to combat the looming talent drought?

Let’s admit it: We have an issue

In some ways, we, as an industry brought this problem on ourselves. The industry neglected to focus on attracting talent and educating the next generation about the benefits of an insurance career. Now, we’re facing a deficit of qualified or even interested candidates. In order to attract younger candidates to the field of insurance, the industry — known in many circles for its drabness — must change with the times.

In its report, McKinsey blamed three realities for the insurance industry’s lack of appeal to the younger generation: “a poor reputation, a dim awareness and understanding of career opportunities among high school and college students, and a shortfall of trained students produced by professional schools.”

The industry can’t deny those realities, but it can embrace change and tackle the problem head on. From the perspective of independent agents, there are a number of best practices to adopt to raise awareness of the industry and highlight the positives of their business with the goal of attracting new talent.

1.    Understand the needs and wants of the new generation

The habits, likes and expectations of millennials seem to make headlines every day. If an agency wants to ensure its future, it will need to understand what millennials want and align those wants and needs with the opportunities within the agency. They will need to try to match the interests of those millennials with those of the agency.

Agencies should consider using language to catch a millennial’s eye, including keywords like flexibility, opportunity, innovation, charity and independence. Additionally, they should consider offering in-house mentoring and promote its availability, along with descriptions of the agency’s culture.

2. Plug the variety of opportunities and challenges available

Insurance careers engage a wide range of skills and talents and offer competitive pay. Agencies need to let potential insurance professionals know this. Insurance is an innovative industry offering opportunities to work in more than just claims and sales. New hires will tap into their math and technological skills, among others. Opportunities are available from sales to marketing to legal, and internships are available for those looking to get a foot in the door.

Further, agencies should let these prospects know that a full career awaits in insurance with many opportunities for growth both professionally and financially.

3. What’s the employee value proposition?

According to the headlines, Generation Z is looking for more than just a job. Volunteering and charity are often significant parts of their lives, and painting an agency with a philanthropic brush can only help attract these community-minded individuals.

Agencies need to explain what sets them apart from other employers and be sure to highlight philanthropic activity as well as the agency’s awareness that it’s part of a larger society that needs to give back. Agents should motivate candidates and new hires to get them excited for a career in insurance.  

Agency owners should point out the benefits of the agency, including paid time off, remote work options, anything that highlights a focus on work-life balance and in particular, highlight the agency’s volunteer opportunities.

4.    Get the word out

Agencies need to advertise for new hires, including anticipated openings or additional staffing requirements. To keep a steady flow of professionals coming into the field, they should solicit new candidates year-round. One place to establish an awareness is the local community college. A number of these students may not have finalized their career path, and seemingly have ties to the local community. Agencies should also explain how such a career can be satisfying on a number of fronts. Working in insurance, professionals are helping people protect their homes, are available at their time of most need, and are giving back to their communities regularly.

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