Is it Better to be a Tech Pro Who Gets Insurance, or an Insurance Pro Who Gets IT?

Joe McKendrick
Insurance Experts' Forum, February 20, 2014

A CIO once told me that he would rather have people who are business-savvy and teach them technology, versus having to teach tech professionals the ins and outs of business.

This statement is basically unfair, since everyone brings his or her own sets of unique talents and experiences to the workplace, and every career path is laced with unexpected turns and openings. I know plenty of tech people who have a lot of business smarts as well.

Still, the CIO hit upon something here, suggesting that it's more valuable to the business to have people who understand the business, and maybe it's worthwhile to teach them to write JavaScript in order to do their jobs better.

As the insurance industry moves into a new world of digitized delivery of products and services, heavily tied to big data-based measurements of risk and outcomes, the question comes to mind again: Do insurers need to work harder to draw in people who are good at this tech and analytics stuff — even if it's from unrelated industries?  Or is it better to bring up and train people who really understand what the industry is all about –people who were trained from day one in underwriting, policy management or actuarial sciences?

By some accounts, we may be getting closer to the time when non-insurance players, such as Google, Amazon or other Internet companies, will be getting into the insurance business. There is increasing demand from today's customers for digital capabilities and delivery of products, and they will go to the providers who make this happen. With this, it's likely non-insurers will be attempting to poach talent from existing insurance companies. Or, just as likely, there will be a generation of tech or analytics-savvy professionals building and delivering new products.

Also see "8 Hot Tech Jobs for 2014"

Every industry has its nuances that business professionals need to understand. Insurance has its share of formulas and policies, as well as mandates from states and provinces as to how it can conduct its business. But established insurers may increasingly find themselves competing with tech-savvy enterprises for the next generation of customers. At the same time, insurance companies will be competing with other companies in other industries for the talent to deploy and manage new digital solutions.

The pressure is growing on insurance industry recruiters to steer promising, tech-savvy candidates away from the Googles of the world and into their companies. At the same time, training and education are even more important, as insurance business professionals hold the keys to how insurance products work, and understand who benefits. Either way, the emphasis needs to be on making insurance organizations attractive, innovative places to work.

There's no reason why the University of Farmers can't be every but as fun and enlightening as the Googleplex as places to learn and grow, while delivering exciting new ideas to the market.

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

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