The insurance industry staffing crisis is the talk of the town. Around 25% of the workforce is set to retire by 2018 and there’s a serious shortage of millennial candidates seeking to take their places.
So, what can be done to recruit, engage, train and retain the best and brightest of the younger generations to join the insurance industry?
Insurance Business spoke to Nicole Ricigliano, a millennial high-flyer and senior underwriter at Markel West Region, about the opportunities for younger generations in the workforce.
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“I think we’ve done a better job over the last few years of marketing the insurance industry and doing more college outreach and communication campaigns,” said Ricigliano. “It helps to have people that are closer in age to the college students explaining the ins-and-outs of the industry and the added benefits like travel, having a market and getting to meet some really cool people.”
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Lots of the younger insurance workforce have family ties to the industry. Ricigliano became interested in a career in insurance after she did some summer filing work at Arlington Roe, the wholesale broker her father was working at. She grew curious while stamping surplus lines policies and took that curiosity back to college, where she changed her major and enrolled on to a risk management and insurance program. She claims she “fell into” the industry but also saw “how well the career treated” her father.
But what about those with no link to the industry? What stumbling blocks are getting in their way?
“We do have this huge age gap in the industry which sometimes causes a disconnect. Occasionally, there can be a bit of a hostile environment because older generations sometimes feel threatened by millennials coming after their jobs – but that’s not the case at all. The younger workforce wants to learn from the older generation. After all, a lot of insurance (especially underwriting) is about years and experience,” Ricigliano told Insurance Business.
“Another challenge is technology. The insurance industry is so far behind when it comes to technology that it can be a little bit frustrating. We grew up with computers and cell phones and we’re used to getting things at lightening speed – and the industry needs to keep pace with that.”
The tech lifestyle and the rise of social media have spawned a generation in need of instant gratification. That doesn’t have to be the perfect job, the plush car or the massive pay package. It can be something as simple as a positive work culture and company flexibility.
As part of her training, Ricigliano was a NAPSLO intern and worked at Essex Insurance Company, which was part of the Markel Corporation. After graduating, she joined Nautilus Insurance where she stayed for seven years before taking a job in Excess & Umbrella at Markel West Region. During that period, Markel Corporation relaunched its Markel University program.
“Markel’s doing a really great job of trying to bring younger generations into the industry through its university programs,” she said. “People on the programs get to see the industry from all different aspects and there’s a real small family feel to it. The company is really big on making sure that the associates feel engaged. They’ve done a really good job of being a huge corporation with a really great family foundation.
“Another important factor is flexibility. Insurance is not always a standard 8am-5pm job. Sometimes you might have to work a 15-hour day or catch a flight somewhere at 4am and not get to bed until midnight. Millennials crave flexibility and I think Markel’s fantastic at providing it. It’s important to remember that there’s still life outside of work.”
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