While insurance isn't exactly the Rodney Dangerfield of career choices for college students, industry recruiters face daunting challenges when competing for the best and the brightest.
Part of the problem is insurance's image as a rather stodgy industry, they say. Aside from preconceived notions, some students don't even think about insurance as a possible career.
In an interview shortly before his induction as the first laureate of the Midwestern Insurance Hall of Fame in June, Ryan Specialty Group L.L.C. Chairman and CEO Patrick G. Ryan said he thinks that insurance offers a “unique career to young people,” but “too often, they get a good education and think they ought to be a lawyer or a banker and don't look carefully at the insurance industry.”
“The greatest challenge is that the insurance industry isn't necessarily a destination for top students,” said Brian Little, vice president, human resources and head of business partnership at Zurich Insurance Co. Ltd. in Schaumburg, Ill.
“That sometimes prevents talented students from getting into the pipeline to begin with,” Mr. Little said. “We have to do a better job of telling our story.”
“One of the greatest challenges is that students really don't understand the industry,” said Maura Quinn, Boston-based manager of university relations for Liberty Mutual Group Inc.
“And second, if they think they know something about it, they think it's boring,” she said.
“Liberal arts majors don't even think the insurance industry would hire them, and business majors are tempted by other fields,” she said.
Amanda Mullan, senior vice president and director, human resources for Willis North America Inc. in New York, said she doesn't think the industry faces a unique challenge as it seeks to recruit on the college level.
“I don't think we face an image challenge when we're out on campus,” she said. “In general, the competition for strong sales people is tough. It takes a special person to have a real strong sales capability and be successful.
The competition for that type of talent is fierce. But once we get them talking to us about Willis and what we have to offer, we have a real competitive edge in our industry.”
For FM Global, a big challenge involves the type of professionals the engineering-driven insurer has to compete with other noninsurance industries to hire — engineers.
“A lot of those graduating don't necessarily think of insurance when they have an engineering degree,” said Enzo Rebula, senior vice president, human resources at the Johnston, Rhode Island-based insurer. But he said the uncertain economy throughout the past few years has made more young engineers consider insurance rather than more traditional career paths.
The insurance industry has “really had a resurgence” because it has been more stable than some other industries that would draw engineering students. The stability and job opportunities have made it more attractive, Mr. Rebula said.
Because the insurance industry prizes specialists, that should make it an attractive destination for students, Mr. Ryan said.
“In the insurance industry, I have not seen hard-working, talented people made redundant,” he said.
“It can happen in a particular company, but that talent is immediately grabbed up by others,” Mr. Ryan said. “If you become really good at something in the insurance industry, you should have lifelong employment.”
This story is from the October 15, 2012, issue of the weekly print edition of Business Insurance, a special issue featuring how insurers, brokers and corporations are developing and attracting talent.
Copies of this issue, which includes a data poster featuring information on recruiting risk management talent, are available for $100 by contacting our Single Copy Sales department at 888-446-1422.
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