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Gig economy, tech to shape future of insurance


The rise of the gig economy will lead to significant employment changes across businesses, including the insurance and risk management sector, a panel of experts said.

Workers may change companies more frequently and fluctuate between gig economy jobs and traditional employment, so companies will need to adjust their cultures to reflect the shifting job market, they said.

In addition, as technology is used to perform tasks previously performed by people, employees will look to new career paths and insurers, brokers and others will need to retrain workers so they can survive in the changing work environment, they said.

A significant portion of U.S. workers will be so-called gig economy workers within the next 10 years, said Don Ortegel, resident managing director at Aon PLC in Chicago.

The gig economy refers to jobs such as ride-share driving or freelancing where people work from job-to-job, usually as independent contractors.

As a result of the surge in the gig economy workers, the insurance industry “will have a significant opportunity” to provide new coverages for the workers, Mr. Ortegel said during a panel discussion in Chicago on Wednesday at the annual Insurance Executive Forum sponsored by the Katie School of Insurance and Risk Management at Illinois State University.

Insurance industry firms can also employ gig workers, for example, by employing early retirees with subject matter expertise on a flexible basis, said Andrew E. Liakopoulos, a Chicago-based principal at Deloitte Consulting LLP.

Older workers might log on for a few hours a day to hold “office hours” to advise less experienced staff, he said.

The insurance and risk management sector will also have to adjust to reflect the new work environment, said Luke Figora, senior associate vice president, chief risk and compliance officer at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.

“We always assume that once someone gets into the risk management and insurance industry, they are in. They might jump around from broker to carrier, but when you’re in you are in and how you got there doesn’t matter,” he said.

With the emergence of the gig economy, companies in the sector may see workers move more frequently into other industries, Mr. Figora said.

To keep people in the insurance industry, organizations will have to build better career development models, Mr. Liakopoulos said.

Companies need to offer workers the opportunity to try the full range of jobs within the industry, he said.

“We need to break out of this silo mentality where if you start in claims, you stay in claims; if you start in underwriting, you stay in underwriting. Yes, some people do that, but you also need to allow people to move around in the organization to diversify their skills,” Mr. Liakopoulos said.

Insurance workers, though, need to take responsibilities for their careers, said Barbara Bufkin, executive head of business development at Assurant Inc. in Charlotte, North Carolina.

“We have a responsibility to pivot toward something that interests us, take advantage of continuous learning and be willing to stay in this industry, but recognize the change that we can contribute. We have to own this as well,” she said.

Many insurers have rotational programs that allow workers to develop a range of skills, said Stacie Graham, senior vice president and general manager national insurance – Central division for Liberty Mutual Insurance Co. in Chicago.

“It allows them every nine months to try something different and new and to continue to build that talent pool and interchange back and forth. I think that’s critical for the new generation,” she said.

But clients and policyholders, who usually don’t like to have their service teams change frequently, also need to adapt, said Mr. Ortegel of Aon.

“Clients are going to have to be flexible like we are going to have to be flexible with our colleagues,” he said.

Risk managers appreciate the need for insurance workers to develop a range of skills, Mr. Figora said.

“We see the value of people that can see broadly across lines of business and types of coverage because, hopefully, they are the kinds of people that we are trying to recruit into our spots someday,” he said.

In addition to training staff, insurance industry firms must also be prepared to invest in technology to take on some roles, such as repetitive mundane tasks, Mr. Liakopoulos said. Companies will likely need a combination of traditional staff, robots and gig economy workers, he said.

In addition, companies will have to retrain their staff for new roles.

“You are not going to be able to recruit your way out of this,” Mr. Liakopoulos said.

But companies must inform employees if their jobs will potentially be taken over by technology in the future, said Ms. Graham of Liberty Mutual.

“It’s really important to be transparent about what’s happening, why it’s happening and what you are going to do to help retool, reeducate and redeploy them to do something else, because if you are not transparent about it, they are going to fight the implementation of the technology,” she said.








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