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Captives should partner with university programs to recruit millennials

Millennials in the office

TUCSON, Ariz. — The insurance industry in general and the captive insurance sector in particular need to work hard at bridging the gap between academia and industry to help attract students into the field, experts say.

According to the Pew Research Center, only 4% of millennials are interested in working in the insurance industry.

Instead of thinking about what the industry wants from millennials, insurance executives, regulators and other stakeholders should consider what millennials bring to and are seeking from the job market, John Talley, captive program manager for the Department of Insurance, Financial Institutions and Professional Registration for the state of Missouri in Jefferson City, said at the Captive Insurance Companies Association conference in Tucson, Arizona, on Monday.

“They seek advancement,” he said. “They want to achieve a standard that their parents either have or they want to go farther than their parents have achieved.”

“Compensation — that’s almost hand in hand,” Mr. Talley added, citing statistics that students want a starting salary around $53,000.

But millennials also want a better work-life balance than their parents, he said. “They want to work and achieve, but they also want to have a life,” Mr. Talley said. “They don’t want to spend all their time working, and we need to recognize that.”

Industry stakeholders need to make sure they develop clear paths for advancement, he said. “This is critical in the regulatory industry because we haven’t done it in the past,” he said.

Meanwhile, the insurance industry, regulatory and captive sectors are looking for critical skills in new college graduates, such as strong writing skills.

“Knowledge is one thing, but if you can’t put it down on paper or at least on a computer screen, it doesn’t do much good,” Mr. Talley said, recounting how one of his best analysts left his department because he did not like to write reports. “Well, the problem is, how am I going to get the information that you have? You have to be able to write that down coherently so that I can push it up the ladder.”

Kristen Peed, director of corporate risk management at CBIZ Inc. In Cleveland, serves on the board for the University of Akron’s risk management and insurance program — which launched as a formal major in September and is graduating its first class in May — and helped the university develop a curriculum guided by the knowledge the industry wants students to have when graduating.

One of the most important things insurance industry participants can do is develop internship programs at their organizations, she said. Ms. Peed recently hired a summer intern, who will participate in different projects and attend all her meetings.

“If I’m meeting with the CEO this summer, so is my intern,” she said, advising companies not to treat interns as assistants. “They’re capable of so much more than you might realize.”

CBIZ interns will participate in a corporate social responsibility project this year and previously participated in a cyber breach exercise where they played different roles in responding to an incident, she said.

Kathleen Larkin, instructor of risk and insurance at Missouri State University, said there is a “disconnect” between the industry and academia — and even among academics themselves — in terms of expectations for students, but her own expectation is “that I am creating someone who is industry-ready,” she said. “Having said that, our graduates usually have four-plus job offers before they leave. I have a lot of people now who are working full time, and they are not even graduating until May because the industry just couldn’t wait. In some regards, I think the industry needs us more than we need industry in RMI.”

There are only 52 active risk management programs in the country, and Ms. Larkin said most of her students eventually go to work for insurers or brokers, while some will enter the risk management profession.

“They don’t go to captives because they don’t know who you are,” she said, urging captive industry stakeholders to go to university campuses to meet with students and faculty. “Come meet us and we’ll get you what you want. I promise you.”

The industry also needs to support these risk management programs, she said. “When I say support, we obviously need money, unfortunately, and you will see that some of the bigger programs are very, very well-funded by industry. But the other thing we need is personal contact.”

Matt Blessing, underwriting manager with RT Specialty, based in Kansas City, Missouri, did not have the business background of many current risk management and insurance students, but he had “real world knowledge and expertise” gleaned from working part time for an excess and surplus lines insurance wholesale broker, which led to an internship with the predecessor organization to the Wholesale & Specialty Insurance Association.

“I had an opportunity to spend time with every single unit in an insurance company and an insurance broker and find out what really appealed to me and what I liked,” he said.

Students need careers, mentorship and room to advance, and retention is critical, said Daniel Freeman, risk and insurance management student at Missouri State University.

“A student that sees the bright future of a career path is going to stay, is going to work hard and is going to advance more and achieve more in that field,” he said.



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