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More challenges ahead for insurance sector

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The insurance industry will have its hands full in the years ahead addressing issues including a surfeit of capital, a talent shortage and the challenges of technology, observers say.

“The industry has amassed a tremendous amount of capital and surplus. It’s going to have to figure out how to keep that surplus” and must look at ways to use it effectively, said retired risk manager P. Richard Hackenburg, who lives in Southport, North Carolina.

One of the industry’s biggest challenges is “to attract and retain talent,” said Jamie Crystal, executive vice president at Crystal & Company in New York, who added he was pleased about the increasing number of universities offering insurance courses.

Observers warn of a coming talent shortage as the baby boomer generation retires.

“There’s going to be a labor crunch,” while at the same time the insurance industry no longer has the training programs of years gone by, said Roger Andrews, former risk manager for Cynthiana, Kentucky-based E.D. Bullard Co., which manufactures personal protective equipment.

Technology will increasingly become important, say experts. It is going to continue to change the way the industry underwrites and provides services, and will bypass those who “are not willing to innovate and change,” said Mr. Crystal.

For example, he asked, “Why do we have annual policies, when a huge segment of our economy is moving to the internet gig-sharing economy, where work is now being done on a project basis instead of an annual basis?” The good news, said J. Patrick

Gallagher Jr., chairman, president and CEO of Arthur J. Gallagher & Co., is that while other industries may disappear, “insurance isn’t going away.” “We are probably the most important business on the planet because there is no business without insurance,” he said.