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Finding the next generation of leaders


A majority of young insurance executives surveyed say they found a career in the industry as a result of family, friends or fate.

Signet Research Inc. conducted an online survey in August to see the perceptions of the insurance industry and what younger generations are looking for in their careers.

When asked how they were introduced to the insurance/risk management industry, 43% of the respondents said they had relatives and friends working in the sector, while 32% said they stumbled into it.

Seventy-nine percent of the respondents said they planned to stay in the industry. Eighty-two percent of the respondents were white.

The online survey, which required respondents to be under 35 years old, was given to sample sources who included employees of members of the Diversity and Inclusion Institute, Business Insurance’s rising risk professionals and 40 Under 40 broker leaders, and members of the insurance industry business fraternity Gamma Iota Sigma and Future PLUS, a recruitment initiative by the Professional Liability Underwriting Society. A link was also made available via social media.

Knowledge and technical skill ranked high with employers among skills they seek in young professionals, but many insurance industry executives said they were also interested in such factors as the ability to communicate, self-confidence, empathy and philanthropy.

“I love to see what the students are doing in terms of their own philanthropic and volunteer work,” said Marya Propis, head of broker engagement at American International Group Inc. in New York and a board member with the Spencer Educational Foundation. “Look, I’m always impressed with high GPAs. They’re going to good schools with solid academic curriculums. But I also like to see where they’re spending their personal time.”

Denise Hempe, vice president of human resources at FM Global in Providence, Rhode Island, said strong technical skills are important, “but we’re also looking for individuals who do have some of those softer skills in the communication side and the interpersonal side of things.” “Collaboration is also very important to us and we look at that across all hires, whether its field engineering or otherwise,” she said.

“We look for the will to win or competitive spirit,” said Lorayne Flodberg, early talent program manager at Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. in Itasca, Illinois. “We look for self-confidence and a polished demeanor. We look for energy and enthusiasm, empathy and emotional intelligence and, finally, a willingness to learn.”

Gail Jacobs, senior director of talent acquisition and human resources operations at Newark, California-based Risk Management Solutions Inc., stressed the importance of both analytical and communication skills for young professionals.

“We can’t have a modeler who’s a Ph.D., who just can sit in front of a computer and crunch numbers all the time. You have to be able to communicate that information to a client or somebody like myself who doesn’t have that technical degree,” she said.

The executives said that a degree in risk management is not the only course of study they review when considering applicants.

“We absolutely do look at risk management majors,” said Alice Scarpinato, program manager for talent and learning at Marsh L.L.C. “There are some terrific programs here in the U.S., and that gives us an opportunity to tap into folks who have a demonstrated interest in our industry. That said, we do not look exclusively at risk management majors. I would say that the schools where we recruit for our graduate training program, about half the schools have a risk management training program and the other half do not.” 

“I would say that although risk management is probably on the top end as far as the number of people we look at,” said Kathleen Battle, vice president of talent and acquisition at Gallagher. “I think we’ve done a nice job of trying to look at people from other majors as well.” Ms. Propis said that she personally is interested in risk management-insurance majors “because there are so many students pursuing that degree program that the pool of candidates is much larger than it was even five years ago.”

“I’d say you don’t have to have a degree in risk management-insurance,” Ms. Propis said. “But there are enough students pursing the degree in RMI that I think it behooves the industry to target that group first and foremost because they’ve already identified educational and career tracks for RMI.”