Looking Back, Looking Forward

Looking Back, Looking Forward
Reflecting on the trends we saw in 2015 and what we’re forecasting for the industry in the New Year.
By: Mike McDonough

2015 was a profitable and exciting year for the insurance industry. We saw ample opportunities arise and strong indications that hiring will continue to increase in 2016. Below is a list of some of the top themes we noticed in 2015 and where we see the industry moving in the coming year.

Mergers made waves
2015 may go down as the year of the merger. We a lot of big acquisitions and higher industry consolidation to go along with the four major talent related transactions. The Willis Group Holdings and Towers Watson brought their companies together, Anthem and Cigna joined forces, Aetna bought out Humana and Ace acquired Chubb. All of these moves were serious game changers, but now that these giants have come together, look for them to focus on organic growth once the fallout from these mergers winds down.

Buying companies for top talent
An unspoken advantage for these buyouts and mergers was to find top talent that’s simply not coming through the doors. Proper training hasn’t been in place for years, so when companies wanted to find gifted executives to steer their organization, they were forced to do one of two things – poach them or acquire them with the rest of their company.

Bringing back boomers
2015 saw a lot of boomers enter retirement …only to be brought back into companies that lacked younger talent. Boomers will continue to enter into retirement at an increasing rate, so whether it’s part-time or contract positions, businesses will have to keep doing everything they can to lure these well-trained and experienced professionals out of retirement. The companies that do have seasoned employees are underutilizing them, and will miss their expertise as they leave the industry. Poor succession planning for top talent has reached critical stages for some organizations, and we’ll likely see them strapped for leadership in the coming years.

Talent on a temp basis
When companies took a chance on unproven talent, they made new hires show their worth before making them a full-time employee. We saw a lot of temp-to-hire and contract positions pop up in 2015, mostly due to skepticism that younger workers didn’t have the right skills to elevate a company to the next level. This model has continued to expand past brokers, carriers, and TPA’s and into higher leadership roles as top talent enters retirement.

No training = Less talent
It seems obvious, but since there’s still a serious lack of training programs in the industry, there’s an absence of well-trained professionals looking for work. 2016 will afford a lot of opportunities, especially for those who seek out insurance industry training independently. CPCU, ARM, CEBS, MBA, and JD designations are still in high demand since they show which candidates are committed and training and upward progression.

Looking for experience that isn’t there
Experience just isn’t available at the level it once was. Companies are looking for executives who have been in the industry for years, but those people just aren’t there. There’s a demographic hole in our country that’s making it hard for all industries to find qualified people between the age of 30 and 45. Those experienced underwriting or insurance professionals will have an upper hand in this year’s job market, but the most important step will be for younger candidates to get their foot in the door and start filling the void by getting the experience and doing the work.

Pressure for prolonged careers
Boomers will continue to face pressure to work more years due to the lack of young leadership. Companies will lean on their senior workers to stay past retirement age and this could be the year that those professionals see big benefits if they’re willing to stay in the workforce longer than expected. This pressure has advantages and disadvantages for talent and employers. The best strategy seems to be hire people with potential and find ways to cross train or build upon the work ethic, values, and desire to grow that they bring to the office every day.

Millennials face a bad rap
Why is there a lack of young talent in the insurance industry and disciplines like underwriting? Companies don’t trust millennials. They’ve gotten a bad reputation from the media that keeps publishing articles saying millennials are lazy, self-entitled and have bad attitudes. As long as upper-management keeps buying into the stereotypes, the industry will miss out on the next wave of top talent. For millennials trying to break into these fields, know that you may face questions about not just your abilities, but also the perception of your entire generation.
This year will be a big one for the industry as more baby boomers retire from the field and a lack of training fuels the talent gap at the executive level. Companies need to fill the talent void, and candidates have to show that they have the necessary skills to make up for decreased training.

If you’re a company looking for the next wave of professionals, know that training and mergers may be the keys to finding the next generation of leadership. If you’re a job seeker, look for training opportunities and experience wherever you can find it. 2016 is poised to bring a lot of exciting developments for companies and candidates, but only if they learn from the trends we saw from 2015.

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