When Omaha National president and CEO Reagan Pufall thinks back to how COVID-19 has affected recruiting and hiring at the workers’ compensation insurance provider, his main verdict is: not much. The key characteristics that have enabled the managing general agent (MGA) / insurance carrier to grow from eight to 200 employees in a little over five years remain steadfast amidst all the workplace changes affecting the insurance industry.
As Insurance Careers Month 2022 winds down, Pufall hopes that Omaha National can serve as an example for other companies hoping to rebuild or extend their workforce.
The Nebraska-based MGA works with small to midsize companies and provides coverage in over a dozen states. Pufall considers Omaha National to be relatively young company, having been founded by a small group of investors in 2016. According to Pufall, the company reported lower-than-average accident year loss ratio in 2021 and has $135 million of in force premium. In September 2021, the company completed its Series B financing round, raising $45 million.
When Omaha National was just getting off the ground, Pufall and his team had a clear blueprint for the types of employees they were going after. Experience in the industry was a non-factor. They knew that it was incumbent on the company to invest in and develop new hires.
“We very rarely hire people who have previous experience in the workers’ comp industry,” Pufall says. “Most of the people we hire don’t have previous experience. We hire them as trainees and we train them ourselves, which means of course we make a big commitment to having a very strong internal training program.”
It helps that one of Omaha National’s founders, Dave Holloway, has a background as a professional recruiter. Holloway had previously served as director of recruiting for Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway.
“What we found was that really gave us a huge advantage,” Pufall says. “The quality of people we’ve brought into this company is far beyond anything I’ve ever experienced in my career. When you fill a company with great people, it just makes everything so much easier.”
Pufall finds that most candidates, even ones with no prior knowledge on workers’ comp, are most interested in joining a company with a demonstrated satisfied workforce. Pufall says it’s important to hire workers based on how their personality and background fit within their desired line of work.
“We have a very wide variety of people that we need because we do a very wide variety of work,” Pufall says. “The kind of person who is going to love being a sales rep is very different from the kind of person who is going to thrive as an underwriter.”
In addition to its unique sales and underwriting model, Omaha National designs its own software in-house, leading to a demand for a select number of highly-skilled developers. Pufall says it’s crucial to give developers maximum autonomy instead of reviewing the code that’s written by a junior developer or spending their day reviewing the code that’s been written by an outsourced developer.
“Coders don’t enjoy sitting around and reviewing each other’s codes,” Pufall says. “A good coder just really loves to code.”
Whether Omaha National is hiring a veteran software whiz or an aspiring underwriter right out of college, the key trait in a new employee is someone who will contribute to the company’s existing cohesion.
“Regardless of the attributes that are required for each individual position,” Pufall says, “the one thing we’re really looking for is someone who can come in and support to that happy, positive culture.”
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