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Millennials set to step up in P/C sector

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DALLAS — The millennial generation stands to make a major contribution to the property/casualty insurance sector as it enters a critical period, according to one insurance executive.

“There's a big, big brain drain coming to our industry,” with the average age of an insurance agency employee now at 59, said Steven England, president and CEO of Global Special Risks L.L.C. in Houston.

“I believe the millennials will be major contributors to my company and the insurance industry” as a whole, he said.

But employers must reject myths about millennials, said Mr. England as he addressed a session at Dallas-based electronic insurance exchange MarketScout's ninth annual Entrepreneurial Insurance Symposium in Dallas on Sept. 2.

Mr. England ticked off three myths about millennials, who — although the exact years differ — are generally described as having been born between about 1980 and 1998.

The first myth is that they are rebellious, he said. In reality, he said, millennials are conservative — they job hop because they want to learn.

A second myth is that they “don't fit in,” he said. Instead, they are team players, said Mr. England.

A third myth is that they aren't productive, he said. In reality, Mr. England said, they are more productive than other generations.

But managers have to understand how millennials operate. For example, Mr. England said that when he didn't hear phones ringing, he asked a millennial salesperson if he communicated with clients. The man replied yes, he texted them all the time.

Millennials were born into a digital world, he said: “They're always connected.”

Mr. England said that studies show that there will be 400,000 millennials in the insurance industry by 2020. Millennials already comprise 30% of the national workforce, the same percentage as the baby boomers and a greater percentage than Generation X, which is sandwiched between the two larger cohorts.

“Providing an internship is extremely important” in attracting millennials to the insurance industry, he said. But any internship must involve meaningful work opportunities to attract the best and brightest, he said.

Millennials also want mentors, he said. They want to work for companies with strong values and work/life balance. If millennials don't get what they want from their jobs, they find other jobs, he said.

“The companies that win the battle for talent will win the battle,” he said.

A panel of millennial insurance industry employees followed Mr. England's address and discussed some questions that have arisen about their generation's work habits. For example, when asked if earbuds should be worn at work, Allison Warmuth, a health care team leader with American International Group Inc. in Boston, replied, “I go for both earbuds.”

She said she thinks there is a perception that millennials wear earbuds at work for entertainment, but in reality it's a way to keep focus and get things done, she said.

When asked about how to recruit millennials to the insurance industry, MarketScout account executive and production underwriter Courtney Kerr, said that office culture is “very important.” Millennials don't want to feel like an “8-to-5 prisoner,” she said.

Insurers face a marketing challenge in recruiting millennials, said Ms. Warmuth. Insurance is viewed as a “stodgy industry,” she said.

Retention is also an issue. “We want to be part of the organization actually driving the business,” said Brian Tucker, an assistant vice president in broker Roach Howard Smith & Barton's Fort Worth, Texas, office.

Elizabeth White, president of Atlanta-based Peachtree Special Risk Brokers L.L.C., moderated the panel discussion.