Industry the May 2024 issue

Data Experts Wanted

The insurance industry must look beyond the usual suspects when hiring to meet fast-changing risks.
By Ken Crerar Posted on April 30, 2024

As climate change, geopolitical tensions, and advanced technology (to name a few challenges) pressure business leaders in new and complex ways, the entire insurance ecosystem is evolving its approach to understanding, managing, and transferring risk.

This became obvious recently as I listened to an industry panel discuss marine risk in the Red Sea. The conversation was about so much more than shipping; it was about piracy, geopolitical alliances, military equipment, and developing technologies.

Keeping up with this fast-changing landscape will require a new approach to data.

Data collection is the long-established method for understanding risk trends, but traditionally we have used historical data. Now we have tools that evaluate risk in real time, such as sensors for building leaks, cyber scans for business networks, and wearables for worker safety. These tools enable better risk management and more precise underwriting.

New products are also being developed to address the transfer of large, complex risks, some of which is being done using specialized mechanisms that pick off smaller pieces of risk. For example, a cyber product can focus specifically on cloud outages or a fire insurance product can use an environmental think tank’s fire-specific modelling to determine active fire risk on a property-by-property basis. These products rely on data-based approaches to better home in on the risk. The ability to see patterns and trends in this constantly changing data will require new computer science skills and new perspectives on data and analysis.

For me, the talent pool has become a much more exciting place. That’s mainly due to The Council’s partnership with BroadFutures, a nonprofit that brings experiential learning to neurodiverse individuals so they can develop workplace skills.

“Every layer of an insurance carrier or agency needs to have a true understanding of customer and internal business data,” writes Robert Clark, founder and CEO of Cloverleaf Analytics, in a Forbes Technology Council article. “This is far beyond Excel or Salesforce data—they should have insights into business strategies, internal operations, insurance products, claims, customer behavior and security along with third-party data that could influence their business or customer expectations.”

He adds that this understanding should run from entry-level to senior employees and that “middle and senior management must stay sharp by working with technologies and professionals that can give them a continuous stream of insights to help with strategic decisions and sensitive business operations.”

This means that understanding the language of data will become necessary at all levels of our organizations. This is not to imply that other skills aren’t just as important. We need client engagement and relationship building, marketing and sales, operations, and human resources, but much of what we do for our clients will begin with data.

To meet this challenge, we’ll need to go beyond standard workforce pipelines for the industry.

Deepening the Talent Pool

I am not alone in calling to rethink this industry’s talent pools. I recently came across this 2022 quote from Anna Beninger, then global head of inclusion and diversity at insurer AXA XL, now vice president of diversity, equity, and inclusion at Liberty Mutual: “Finding people who bring these skills means viewing backgrounds differently. Your next employee may have zero insurance experience but may have the skills to drill into data and analyze trends and opportunities. Your next employee may not have a university degree but has a community college degree and an apprenticeship program background in business management, technology, artificial intelligence or robotic process automation. These are critical skills that the insurance industry needs right now.”

For me, the talent pool has become a much more exciting place. That’s mainly due to The Council’s partnership with BroadFutures, a nonprofit that brings experiential learning to neurodiverse individuals so they can develop workplace skills.

As explained in a recent article by The Council’s senior vice president of leadership and management resources, Elizabeth McDaid, “Neurodiverse candidates think outside the box and are gifted for digital success. For example, ADHD individuals are exceptional at focusing and problem solving. They score higher on creativity tests than non-ADHD people. Autistic brains are said to be highly creative with exceptional concentration, logic, imagination and visual thought.”

These are precisely the skills we need to address emerging risks. The Council is working on a pilot program with BroadFutures to help our member firms build out their talent pipelines to include neurodiverse interns and train managers who will work with these individuals and offer on-the-job intern coaching. 

We have also embraced the fact that everyone learns differently, and our training programs for new and experienced talent use a variety of different tactics—for instance, gamification and role-playing in our Broker Smackdown and safe, private learning circles for difficult DEI topics. This means that we are prepared to provide you with the tools needed to not only hire diverse staff but also support them and their colleagues.

I hope you will consider these talented individuals for your team. Without them, our future will not be bright.

Ken Crerar CEO, The Council Read More

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