Collaboration: Are We Capable?
Insurance Experts' Forum, June 29, 2011
At a recent industry meeting, a reader told me the insurance industry was bleeding talent. This annual meeting, the Insurance Accounting & Systems Association’s 84th, counted more than 2,200 in attendance and held as its main theme “Energize Your Career.” The reader pointed out that this theme was great for the folks who chose to attend, but didn’t really fully deal with the underlying problem: the industry’s poor reputation and inability to rebrand itself as a prominent and respected force in financial services.
It’s no secret that as a result of the industry’s long-standing reputation for being ultra-conservative, stagnant and outdated, we are losing core knowledge workers to other “sexier” industries such as banking and retail. There is further concern that consumer demands and the technology evolution enabling Tier 1 carriers to change distribution business models may only exacerbate the dearth of independent agents.
In 2010, the year he died, industry veteran Bob Clements, then chairman of the board of The Risk Foundation and founder of Integro, Ace and other reinsurance organizations, penned an introductory letter to “Building a Talent Magnet,” a McKinsey & Co. study, stating, “As we all know, our [property & casualty] industry has long needed to attract better talent ... all of us in the industry have a great deal of work to do in this area.”
Both academia and the industry’s professional associations devote dedicated resources to attract and retain risk management professionals. Those jobs, by the way, embody many of the qualities that young professionals seek: stability, challenge and growth. Yet, in spite of these efforts and our understanding and acknowledgement of the problem, little is being done to address it. Why?
Because the capitalist nature of this business promotes competitive advantage to a fault. Whether answering to a board of directors or to its mutual fund members, insurance executives are focused on their own organizations’ individual organic growth, returns and success. This leaves little room for organized efforts to educate the greater marketplace. Instead, we see the branding efforts of individual insurers trying to attract consumers with mascots such as a gecko, caveman, Mayhem or Flo, the insurance saleswoman.
True, industry organizations exist by segment (property/casualty, mutuals, life, health) to promote the insurance industry’s agenda in Washington, educate their members and promote growth. But the industry lacks a community of leaders that can act as an organized front—a cohesive voice for all stakeholders—academia, associations, insurers, reinsurers, managing general agents, brokers and agents. And these leaders need to set aside their own aggressive business agendas long enough to collaborate and facilitate changes—correcting long-held misperceptions about the industry and accurately portraying its promise to potential risk management professionals.
Who will step up?
Pat Speer is editor-in-cheif of Insurance Networking News.
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