By Max Dorfman, Research Writer
This year’s Joint Industry Forum (JIF) featured a panel titled “A 21st Century Workforce that Reflects the Communities We Serve,” with the speakers discussing the move to increase diversity in the insurance industry.
Moderated by Margaret Redd, Executive Director, National African-American Insurance Association (NAAIA), the panelists noted that the push to create diversity must be intentional. This, according to Craig Lapham, CEO, The Lapham Group, whose organization specializes in recruiting within the industry, becomes more difficult with the increased desire for specialists. “The generalist is not favored anymore,” Lapham said. “The question is often, ‘who do we know,’ when it should be ‘where do we go?’”
The panel agreed. Although hiring individuals who are highly familiar with the industry can mitigate short-term risk, there may be long-term risk. For the panelists, missing out on highly capable talent to other industries was in itself a concern; to lose this talent because the industry wasn’t willing to look beyond exactly-relevant credentials was myopic.
In fact, for panelist Denise Campbell, AVP, National Accounts, AIG, the insurance industry wasn’t originally part of her plans. After graduating from New York University with a major in music technology, Campbell joined AIG as an administrative assistant. Yet she invested in the company, and in turn, AIG invested in her. She admitted than when she first started rising through the ranks of the company, she would readily admit experience she didn’t have. Yet she knew she could learn. “It was important to have people that believed in me,” Campbell said. For Campbell, many of her first champions were from employee resource groups for African-Americans.
The panel also discussed the shift in age of many employees within the insurance industry. With older generations retiring, the speakers remarked that the next cohort of talented insurance professionals need to be nurtured. Randa Rawlins, Executive Vice President, Shelter Insurance, stated how important it is for millennials and Gen Z to join the insurance industry. However, she acknowledged that challenges remain.
“Millennials want tech savvy, big projects,” Rawlins posited. The panel concurred, remarking that the insurance industry is striving to create more opportunities of this kind.
“They’re also very focused on people management,” said Deborah Aldredge, Chief Administrative Officer, Shelter Insurance.
The speakers noted that although there have been measures to recruit more millennials, it’s still unclear what the future holds. Indeed, recognizing the human element of insurance will continue to be enormously important for the future of the industry and its success.