What's challenging young insurance professionals in the MGA market?

There is a pressing need to bridge the talent gap

What's challenging young insurance professionals in the MGA market?

Diversity & Inclusion

By Mia Wallace

With the MGAA annual conference in full swing today, what better time could there be to discuss the talent pipeline in the managing general agents (MGA) market with somebody who has come up through the sector?

Having grown up in a large, close-knit family, Kaj Pankhania (pictured), director at DA Strategy found a natural home in the insurance industry with its heavy reliance on relationships, collaboration and strong interpersonal skills

Describing her journey into the sector as “serendipitous”, she highlighted how her passion has underpinned her career trajectory to date, including her move to chair the Managing General Agents Association (MGAA)’s Next Gen Committee.

It’s a role which underscores her commitment to nurturing the next generation of talent in the MGA sector, as exemplified by the launch of the MGAA Next Gen Mentoring Scheme in 2023. “The [scheme] was born from our committee’s collective experiences working in small MGAs and the recognition of a crucial need in the industry,” she said. “When I was starting out at an MGA, the guidance from external mentors was invaluable.

“I’m not shy to admit when I do not know something and ask for help; however, I realised that not everyone is as outgoing or has the opportunity to seek mentorship independently, especially in the fast-paced environment of a startup.”

Pankhania emphasised that with a significant proportion of the market set to retire in the next few years, there’s a collective responsibility to pass knowledge and experiences to the next generation. The dynamics of post-COVID work, with many companies operating on a hybrid model, further limit in-person interactions, she said, and the natural mentorship that occurs in an office setting.

How mentoring in the MGA market has evolved

There has been a “significant” evolution of mentoring in the MGA market, Pankhania said, not least because it’s grown to be about so much more than just traditional one-to-one support structures. There’s also group mentoring, reverse mentoring and speed mentoring to consider, with younger people keen to learn from established individuals and so many people wanting to give back, because everyone has had someone who has helped them.

In order to support opportunities for enhanced networking and professional development, it’s essential to keep a close ear to the ground regarding what young professionals actually require in terms of support.

Looking across the market, Pankhania highlighted that these individuals are facing several challenges and opportunities today. “One major challenge is the tension between traditional methods and the adoption of new technologies,” she said. “Embracing advancements like AI, data analytics, and alternative distribution methods can drive significant progress and should be embraced by nimble MGAs who are at the forefront of innovation and customer success.

“Developing broad knowledge is also challenging in a market where young professionals often have limited exposure to other elements of our industry. Our MGAA Next Gen ‘Insight Series’ addresses this perfectly, giving both a general oversight and deep insight into different specialisms.”

The MGA sector offers limitless opportunities for fresh, innovative thinking, she said. Young professionals can move between roles, from data, to claims, to underwriting, or transition from being a broker to an underwriter or vice versa. The sector is at the forefront of innovation, providing solutions that benefit the entire insurance value chain.

“It is really encouraging that MGAs are investing in their talent pool, offering training and advancement opportunities, and ensuring that young professionals are exposed to significant deals and high-impact projects early in their careers,” she added. “My advice to young professionals is to seek and take every opportunity and to use your voice to express fresh alternative perspectives, while also learning from those who have the experience and knowledge.”

Future for young MGA talent

Pankhania said she feels “absolutely” positive that the future of the MGA talent pipeline is bright. The insurance industry has evolved, she said, attracting individuals from diverse backgrounds who choose this career path informedly rather than by chance. The real challenge lies in retaining this talent.

She warned that MGAs, known for their nimbleness, must continue to innovate in how they nurture and retain their younger team members. Offering clear career paths, aligning individual goals with organisational objectives, and providing exposure to diverse opportunities are key strategies for retention.

“It can be a lot to think about in a startup environment, but planning for long-term talent retention is critical,” she said. “And with this kind of forward planning in place, I firmly believe that the MGA sector, with its dynamic and innovative environment, is well-positioned to attract and retain the next generation of insurance professionals.”


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