The Next Generation: Students Speak Out on Technology Issues

By | November 19, 2018

It’s no secret that the workforce in the insurance industry is aging and 400,000 positions are projected to open up in the next two years. Insurers and agents alike have debated how best to attract the next generation, so I was honored to have the opportunity to speak to risk management and commercial risk classes this month at Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington. Apart from sharing my experiences and passion for the industry, I wanted to know what interests them, what they like and don’t like about the industry and how best to persuade them to choose an insurance career once they graduate. What I discovered was both enlightening and reassuring.

Many students focused on available jobs and career paths but just as many wanted to understand the industry from an “in-the-trenches” perspective and how the industry is adapting to the digital world. Some of the more than two dozen questions they asked included:

  1. What has been the most dramatic change in the insurance industry as a result of technology?
  2. What is the biggest advantage of technology?
  3. What has been the most successful digital platform to date?
  4. How will careers in the insurance industry change due to the use of digital tools?
  5. Has technology made being an agent easier or more difficult?

The students also asked questions about social media and how the role of the independent agent will change over time because of technology.

To help answer students’ questions in advance, Greg Jacobson of The Jacobson Group helped provide some insight into insurance employment statistics. Three items stood out:

  • Only 28 percent of the industry workforce is under 35. At the same time, 25 percent of the industry workforce is near retirement. (Bureau of Labor Statistics)
  • The industry is experiencing a challenging recruitment reality from a virtually non-existent unemployment rate. The unemployment rate for insurance carriers and related activities was 2.1 percent in September 2018. (Bureau of Labor Statistics)
  • Technology, claims and underwriting roles are expected to grow the greatest during the next 12 months. (2018 Q3 Semi-Annual Insurance Labor Outlook Study from The Jacobson Group and the Ward Group)

The students talked about the industry’s risk-averse nature as a double-edged sword. On the positive side, the industry must carefully assess, price, mitigate and pay for risk, so it must operate in a disciplined, prudent manner. At the same time, the industry struggles with adapting quickly to changing market forces and consumer expectations. I added, however, that the industry performs yeoman service after a natural catastrophe.

“Recruiting college graduates is really a two-step process when it comes to insurance,” said Joseph Solberg, IWU Business Administration Chair and who also teaches at the university. “We don’t have an insurance major, but our accounting, finance and marketing graduates are all looking for an industry in which they can thrive. Insurance fits the bill for a lot of them because they don’t realize how their college study dovetails with the insurance industry. There are insurance careers for every major.”

About Tom Wetzel

Wetzel is owner of Thomas H. Wetzel Associates, an insurance social media consulting firm. Phone: 708-771-1533. Email: twetzel@wetzelandassociates.com. More from Tom Wetzel

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Insurance Journal West November 19, 2018
November 19, 2018
Insurance Journal West Magazine

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