Training a new generation of insurance professionals

Filling the ranks of those departing industry veterans – the Baby Boomers – who will be taking that gold watch within the next decade, raises the question: who will be tomorrow’s industry leaders? And how is that knowledge base to be replaced?

Training a new generation of insurance professionals

Industry insights


Filling the ranks of those departing industry veterans – the Baby Boomers – who will be taking that gold watch within the next decade, raises the question: who will be tomorrow’s industry leaders? And how is that knowledge base to be replaced?

Preparing for it, and attracting top talent to an industry that demands not only people with great people skills, but impeccable product knowledge, are the issues that RSA Canada have anticipated and are actively dealing with through its mentoring and education programs.

Finding the talent
There are a few success stories across the country that have graduates not only finding jobs in the insurance industry, but thriving.

“BCIT (British Columbia Institute of Technology) and Alberta have a 100 per cent placement rate to a number of different insurance companies and brokerages,” says Margaret Parent, the Director, Professionals Division, Insurance Institute of Canada. “BCIT has a wonderful career fair where the various employers all have their booths out, and it’s a 100 per cent placement rate for all of these colleges.” Entry level jobs are being filled by young people, it’s when greater skill set or deeper insurance industry skills are required is when it’s more challenging to find new talent.A new way of looking at those who are coming into the brokerage for the first time is to not treat them like cattle – nameless, faceless agents who have interchangeable talents and skillsets.

Not ‘one-size-fits all’
“I think one of the challenges is we’re kind of treating the people who work in the brokerages as almost a ‘one-size-fits-all structure,’” says Martin Thompson, senior vice president of global specialty lines with RSA Canada. “A key point of understanding is you need to look at the different profiles. You’ve got personal lines, which is where the agent or CSR resonate. But as you start to move further into commercial, it’s a different animal.”

As specialization becomes more narrow, the movement within the industry will also change, says Thompson.

“You’re seeing a different approach from some of the bigger national brokers where they’ll have armies of people doing specialized technical jobs,” he says. “You will see very few people go from the highly technical side of insurance  to become producers or brokers.”

Beyond the independent brokers, Thompson thinks producers will be brought in from the industry associations or people who have been plugged into different clients and customers.

“In my experience, it doesn’t tend to be from the industry as much,” he says. (continued.)

Where the real challenge will be
But the real challenge for the industry will be on the deep technical expertise required, Thompson points out, saying, “There are fewer and fewer who I believe have a robust understanding of what we manufacture and what we sell.”

And that has a direct relationship to the quality of the conversations not being as strong as they were in the past, says Thompson, because it takes time to get people up to that level of knowledge.

“Looking at RSA data, we find that the quantity and the quality of the knowledge further down the ladder of those who will replace those moving up the ladder is not on the same level,” he says.” And part of it is the industry’s fault because we’ve started to automate things. We try and make everything a process, and we’re not teaching people the fundamentals of the business.”

Making mentoring matter
Bringing that level of training up, helping those understand the basics, and tapping into the vast knowledge base that exists internally, is part of RSA’s initiative around mentoring, says Stacey Shepherd, Vice President of Talent and Change at RSA Canada.

“One of the programs that we’re fine-tuning is around mentoring,” she says. “We’re going to be rolling out an automated system that’s like an online dating site, where people get matched up based on their skills and capabilities.  It’s one tool to formalize that relationship, and I think that really is an important part of bridging that knowledge gap.”

Mentoring is an important part of development, and from a retention perspective, it’s critical that for people entering the insurance business, we position it as a career rather than just a job and try to share the breadth of the career opportunity within the business, and get people matched up quickly., says Shepherd.

Making on-the-job learning and development a focus is key, she points out.

“We are shifting our learning and development platform to the 70-20-10 model, where 70 per cent is on the job, 20 per cent is developing through informal and formal relationships ,  and 10 per cent is in the classroom,” says Shepherd. “This is considered best practice for learning, and is a relatively low-cost proposition of development.” We are also trying to build internal communities of practice because there is so much knowledge and experience to share


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