Forget why you fell into insurance. Why’d you stay?

Illustration where one insurance businessman chooses to go up on an arrow staircase, another businessman chooses to go down the arrow staircase

It might be easier to attract recruits to insurance if P&C professionals reminisced on what keeps them in the industry, rather than voicing the age-old adage of how they ‘fell in‘ to the profession, experts at Reuters’ Future of Insurance Conference shared on Thursday. 

Doing so can help attract — and avoid turnover — from recruits in other industries who have the core skills required for a career in insurance, said panellists at the Toronto event. 

“When you say, ‘I fell into the insurance industry,’ how does that excite people? How does that make people want to ask more about what the insurance industry is all about?” Luke Lichty, head of commercial and specialty insurance at Everest Insurance said.  

“As leaders of this industry, we stuck around, even if we did fall into it,” he added. “So, let’s talk about that.”

When it comes to recruitment, insurance lines can be highly specialized. That means no two brokerages or insurers are looking for the same levels of experience from their hires. 

“What an incredible value proposition we have as an industry that [there are a] plethora of careers that you can have from various degrees and diplomas and experiences,” said Elizabeth McSavaney, head of human resources at Zurich Canada.  

Essentially, hiring for a core skill fit might be a better strategy than hiring someone for their insurance skills. Especially given the tight race for inter-industry insurance talent. 

“In a prior life, we were really struggling to get empathetic, caring and knowledgeable claims adjusters on the phone,” Irene Bianchi, president and CEO of Peel Mutual Insurance Company said. “It’s a lot of pressure. You don’t know what is on the other end of that phone.” 

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Rather than hiring for an insurance background, her firm hired for the core skills of a desk adjuster. “We hired a couple of 911 operators, and they were fabulous because they had all the skills,” Bianchi said. 

“You can always teach people insurance, but we needed that skillset we were looking for,” she said, “and that was an empathetic person on that first call.” 

To that point, sometimes pure insurance skill doesn’t cut it for highly specialized lines. Take medical malpractice liability insurance, for example, suggested Lichty.  

“There is a gap in talent on the underwriting side in the Canadian marketplace. Where do you find people who want to launch [a team specializing in] med mal in Canada?” he posed. “It’s really hard to find that talent within the insurance industry.

“We don’t have a hope to teach med mal to somebody who doesn’t know med mal; we’re insurance people. So, we do have to go to other industries to find that talent.” 

Longtime industry pros must also recognize it can be daunting for a new entrants to start their careers among tenured experts. A lack of inclusion could lead to turnover if employees don’t feel credentialed enough. 

So, showing new hires what their career progression could look like is part of the solution that can prevent firms from losing valuable talent. The other piece, McSavaney said, is intervening before an employee makes up their mind to depart.

“Probably a lot of you do exit interviews,” she told the attendees. “In my opinion, an exit interview’s too late; they’re already gone, they’ve already decided to leave. 

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“We need to be doing more stay conversations,” she said. “Talk to the people who you just hired, talk to the people who stay with your company for a small amount of time, a larger amount of time, capitalize on what’s working for you and do more of that.” 


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