Enterprising Developments

Is the Best IT Talent Attracted to Innovation and Experimentation?

Joe McKendrick
Insurance Experts' Forum, October 16, 2013

Over the past couple of weeks, some analysts have released their “Top 50” lists of the world's best companies – one being the best places to work, and the other being the most innovative companies.

Guess what? Not a single insurer is mentioned among them.

In one rating system, Universum, a global branding consultancy, asked both graduating business and engineering students where their ideal place to work would be. No surprise, the likes of Google, Microsoft, Apple and IBM topped the list for both business and academic majors. Further down the list were such luminary enterprises as Coca-Cola, Deloitte, Morgan Stanley, HP, Nestle and Intel. There were even a few banks – HSBC, Deutsche Bank, UBS, Credit Suisse and Barclays. But not an insurer in sight.

Another report, published by Boston Consulting Group, investigated the top innovators across the globe. Again, the tech firms – Apple, Google, Samsung, Microsoft, IBM – took the lead. This year, a number of auto manufacturers rose to the top of the list – Toyota, Ford, BMW and Volkswagen, to name a few. No financial services organizations of any kind made the list, and again, no sign of the insurance industry.

Granted, these lists flow to the big, sexy brands that tend to command a lot of mindshare. But the total absence of insurers also suggests a perceptual problem that will have ramifications down the road. Namely, insurance continues to be perceived as an “old-line” industry that is staid and set in its ways, with little adventure to offer prospective talent.

That's a problem. As insurers evolve into digital enterprises, the need for talent – not just for application developers and analysts, but for visionaries who can disrupt from within and create new business lines – is growing. However, insurance companies are competing with many other industries for this kind of talent. The individual who understands the digital realm and could even someday be that visionary CIO, CFO or even CEO is being drawn instead to tech startups, e-commerce companies or financial services.

Insurers need to get aggressive about embracing digital opportunities and letting their professional staff explore – and even fail at – launching new innovations. Insurers need to communicate to students and working professionals alike that they are not the cautious organizations everyone thinks they are. Insurers, too, are technology companies, looking to reach out and explore new markets and create new types of products and services that will improve peoples' lives.

The insurance industry should be well represented on these lists.

Joe McKendrick is an author, consultant, blogger and frequent INN contributor specializing in information technology.

Readers are encouraged to respond to Joe using the “Add Your Comments” box below. He can also be reached at joe@mckendrickresearch.com.

This blog was exclusively written for Insurance Networking News. It may not be reposted or reused without permission from Insurance Networking News.

The opinions of bloggers on www.insurancenetworking.com do not necessarily reflect those of Insurance Networking News.

Comments (2)

There's a rather simple reason that insurance IT isn't attracting the best IT talent: There's little new development that takes place in insurance companies, anymore. Marketers are increasingly taking tech decisions into their own hands, taking advantage of best-of-breed SaaS and eschewing in-house development that costs an arm-and-a-leg, takes months, and is never as good as what can be, effectively, rented. Insurance IT is now, largely, keeping the lights on kind of stuff.

Posted by: Kenneth H | October 18, 2013 4:18 PM

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While these survey results show that insurers are not perceived as the top innovators, the truth remains that insurers' primary focus is still largely on marketing and new business with new products, with innovative technology solutions as a rapidly emerging trend. Further, insurance industry is an embodiment of a stable operating model (for the right reasons), which can also be the reason for this perception.
Another reason could be: insurance remains a complex business (at least by perception) to operate, hence shifting the focus to technology innovations will gradually happen over time, but we are not there yet.

Posted by: Bharanidharan S | October 17, 2013 1:34 AM

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