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I recently met with a talented job candidate. She was finishing up her MBA at Harvard and we discussed her dissertation.  It was aimed at disrupting the insurance industry. She told me the majority of her fellow grad students were doing the same thing.

While it’s great to hear how up and coming talent are excited about the insurance industry, I admit it made me a bit unsettled. After all, she was describing how some of the brightest young graduates are hell-bent on disrupting an industry most of us have spent our entire careers building.

I felt like I had a big target on my back. But after thinking about it more, I decided I am ready to embrace the disruption. And, as an industry, we need to get a little rattled. Why?

The insurance industry is aging It’s estimated that 50% of the current workforce will be retired by 2030—that’s 12 years away. We’ll face a talent gap of nearly 400,000 vacancies by 2020—just two years from now. Only 25% of our workforce is under the age of 35, and a significant talent gap exists between the ages of 35 and 55. This has the makings of a crisis written all over it. Our highly competitive marketplace with ample capacity and ample market players lacks an ample supply of new talent.

Who’s got (the) talent? Now, more than ever, our industry has more opportunity for individuals with diverse skill sets—math, actuarial, technology, science, data and statistics. These are the skills that insurance needs. But so do a number of other industries. How will we compete?

Insurance by Accident — When I talk about attracting and growing young talent with colleagues, we ultimately admit that most of us accidentally stumbled into this industry. It’s ironic for an industry that prides itself on trying to minimize risk and prevent accident that, historically, we’ve heavily relied on this accidental approach to acquiring new talent. We need to be more intentional in how we attract--and be seen as attractive to—new talent.

Identity crisis — Let’s face it. Our industry has an image problem. Some might say it’s pretty boring. While I’ve found this industry to be anything but that in my 30+ years, it appears to be a well kept secret. We need to change this perception by showcasing the career opportunities that exist, the products we develop, the risks we assume, and the guidance we provide.

There is no denying our underwriters, actuaries, risk engineers, claims specialists, risk managers and brokers all have special skills.

Changing the face of insurance

Fortunately, in recent years, we have made much progress on all these fronts.

More higher education institutions are investing in our industry’s future workforce. They are stepping up to the challenge with more dedicated RMI programs. As of 2017, there are 64 colleges/universities with RMI programs, up from 43 in 2010. They certainly can see future opportunities in risk management and insurance. And we must also explore ways to expand our internship and mentoring programs.

The Spencer Educational Foundation has also played a huge role promoting and encouraging undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and part-time students of risk management and insurance, having awarded more than $4.5 million in scholarships and $2.1 million in grants to date. This ensures that bright, creative, thoughtful students have the educational opportunity to pursue insurance careers on purpose--not as some back up plan.

Finally, we need to disrupt our own industry or, at the very least, our lackluster image and get potential new talent excited about a career in insurance. Easier said than done…or is it?

Own the cape

A friend of mine recently told me a story about a young colleague whose children asked him what he did for a living. After giving it some thought he responded, “I am a superhero.” He explained that anytime there is any kind of a disaster anywhere in the world, he is there to help everyone; to protect; to rebuild; to put the pieces back together.

I chuckled at first, but the idea began to resonate with me. Think about it:

  • Superheroes help people in distress. We do that.

  • Superheroes have special skills. There is no denying our underwriters, actuaries, risk engineers, claims specialists, risk managers and brokers all have special skills.

  • Superheroes take risks that no one else will, to help those in need. Isn’t that what we do every day?

If we think more highly of our industry and our role in it, we can change how our industry is perceived. We don’t need a cape. We do need to find ways to share our superhero stories with a broader audience—the next generation especially—to make a career in insurance a goal.

What happened to that young woman I interviewed? I am happy to report we hired her and she now works for our innovation team, Accelerate, where she can continue her focus on disruption and innovation.

We at XL Catlin like to say we make your world go!  Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that!



Joe Tocco is Chief Executive of XL Catlin’s North America Insurance operations. 

  • About The Author
  • Chief Executive, North America Insurance, AXA XL
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