Let's face it, the insurance business is up against it on this score. Like it or not, it's broadly and unfairly viewed as a collection of bores and chiselers. American boys and girls want to grow up to be doctors and nurses, cowboys and firemen, teachers and astronauts, not actuaries and underwriters.
For me, writing about insurance was hardly a childhood dream. I wanted to patrol center field at Yankee Stadium.
The matter is every bit as pressing elsewhere. Look no further than an article in a recent European edition of PricewaterhouseCoopers' Insurance Digest titled "Tomorrow's Workforce: Securing the Talent to Succeed."
Its authors come to grips with the growing competition for talent in a historically unattractive field that becomes more complex, more globalized and more consumer-driven by the day.
"We need to be able to outthink, outsmart, out-innovate and outperform the competition," they quote Lloyd's CEO Dr. Richard Ward as saying in a speech before the Insurance Institute of London.
"And to do that we must recruit and retain the best people."
"In many cases," write the authors, Christopher Box, Ron Collard and Henk Van Capelle, "the difficulties of recruitment stem from image rather than remuneration.
Barely 10 percent of U.K. graduates would consider a career in insurance. The sector is losing out to seemingly more exciting and glamorous professions such as investment banking or alternative career options that appear to provide more flexibility, work-life balance and a commitment to corporate social responsibility."
"The key," they write, "is to think about how the company's business model and objectives are likely to evolve, what kind of people will be needed to meet these goals and whether the rewards, career development and other key aspects of the employment 'brand' are geared to attracting the necessary talent.
"Adapting to these changes will be a huge business and cultural challenge for many organizations, though it could provide an opportunity to make a career in insurance more relevant and attractive to young people coming into the work force."
Here in the United States, recruiting at a higher level than ever before is made somewhat easier by drawing on talent pools at such insurance programs as the University of Georgia, Temple University, Georgia State University, the University of Wisconsin and The College of Insurance in New York.
But, one broker executive told me not so long ago, Marsh alone of the largest players on the distribution side has mounted a sustained college recruiting effort. He guessed that the others have been focusing on growth by acquisition.
Recruiting, this broker said, is the crux of the matter, not retention.
"If you're able to recruit talented people, generally you're able to keep them. Once you bring somebody in, they find it's a great industry."
Which it is. Go get 'em.
THOMAS J. SLATTERY, a veteran editor and writer on industry affairs for more than 40 years, is also the managing director of Slattery-Esterkamp Communications, Baldwin, N.Y.
September 15, 2008
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