The Two Great Truths about Insurance

I have to admit, I love reading articles about attracting new people into the insurance space. I read one just recently in Best’s Review about drawing new agents into the field (“The Young and the Restless”, September 2014) noting that there will be a need for 400,000 new people in the industry by 2020. Much of this need is not necessarily from industry growth but the need to replace current employees who are retiring.

The fact is, the industry has always had to work hard to recruit new talent because, let’s face it, no one WANTS to go into the insurance industry. No one grows up playing “what the market will bear” or “claims mitigation” games as a kid. We ALL fall into this industry, myself included. I’ve been in the industry for over 30 years and as much as I may love and enjoy it today it was not my first choice. At college, I started out studying engineering. After my first year, I realized I hated it. While despondent, with no idea of what to do, a friend’s father (an insurance broker) recommended an actuarial program to me (at the former College of Insurance, now St John’s University School of Risk Management). Like everyone else who fell into insurance, I thought, “What the hell, I have nothing to lose”.

The industry has been very good to me and I have enjoyed the profession. It also happens to be a really interesting period in the industry as we dive into new technology, exploit new markets and open up new lines of business plus explore what tools like social media can do.

However, the most important thing that we can impart to “millennials” today is a lesson that I learned 30 years ago from Al Lottman, an adjunct professor and retired insurance agent, in my first insurance class “Principles of Insurance”. This lesson is as important today as it was back then. The Two Great Insurance Truths:

Society as it exists today could not exist without insurance

Without homeowners and property insurance, without automobile and liability insurance, people would not be able to own homes or cars and businesses would not be able to open. Insurance makes it possible by taking the risk out of lending and other funding options. Much of what we take for granted in our day to day lives is only possible because insurance exists as a tool for taking the risk out of investment and creation of value.

Insurance helps people

Claim adjusters and agents see this first hand more than any other group within the insurance value chain. When a family’s house burns down, or a loved one is lost, money cannot make the pain go away but an insurance settlement will help a family to survive and rebuild. Insurance will help a business re-open, it will provide the support people and businesses need to carry on. All agents and all claim adjusters have a story where they see the value that we as an industry bring directly to people

This is a message that must be brought to the millennials. They need to understand this because they are a generation that wants work that has a purpose, one that helps people and makes a positive impact on the world. While I have to admit, I didn’t think Prof. Lottman was a profound speaker and he was stuck teaching a subject that inherently was pretty dry, I have to thank him for this insight. I’ve thought about it often over the last 30 years – it has helped me appreciate the work I do.

Making Millennials aware of the value insurance brings to society won’t be enough though to attract young talent. The industry is behind in the adoption of some newer technology to support not only our clients but the people that work within the industry. No one fresh out of college wants to sit down at their first job, turn on their computer and come face to face with a green screen. They’ll run screaming from the building. Insurers need to adopt more inherently user friendly systems that are intuitive and provide that seamless experience across functionality WITHIN the company, not just externally across channels.

Making new insurance employees effective is an issue, regardless of their role. In the past, much of this was done through intensive training classes. When I started 30 years ago training was a key part of everyone’s onboarding. Both company-provided training and access to external training were prevalent. I don’t think the insurance industry is much different than a lot of other industries, but the level of training available to newbies has deteriorated tremendously. Insurers still provide more than agents on the whole, outside of what agents need to learn to become licensed. This web site is a great way to at least educate millennials on what the insurance industry is all about and helping them to find “their path” into a career that fits their interests and would help them find fulfillment.

An alternative to conventional training is to incorporate training and best practices into the systems they use every day. Regardless whether it’s underwriting desktops, sales desktops, customer service solutions or claims solutions, insurers can institutionalize best practices and the experience of senior insurance professionals within the insurer’s systems. This can guide younger professionals in real-time as they do their work. This can be bolstered with predictive and adaptive analytics solutions that propose what the next best action is, and when it should be taken with a given client/claimant based upon the context of the interaction.

How we enable young professionals must also keep in step with the other changes the millennials are bringing to the industry. Now that’s something Millennials will get excited about.

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