Why the industry needs to stop saying they “fell” into insurance

Businessman falls through an opening in the ceiling above him.

If you asked a room of insurance professionals how they got into the business, they’ll probably tell you they “fell into it.” 

But the industry is doing itself a disservice by being so “self-deprecating,” suggested Rob Marsh, president of Liberty Mutual Canada, at the Insurance Institute of Canada’s GTA Symposium in Toronto.

“How many people fell into their profession or industry versus what they thought they were going to be choosing?” he posed Wednesday during the Leaders Unscripted session. “I would say that unless you’re going to be a doctor or a lawyer, arguably the largest percentage — I would even say maybe 90% — end up in a job or industry at some point in their career that they didn’t [think they’d end up in]. So, insurance isn’t different or special.” 

There are better ways to describe the industry, he said. Among them, promoting it as an exciting, purpose-driven industry that helps people is one place to start. “When I have the opportunity to talk to people about it, I often like to talk about how I chose this industry,” Marsh said. 

“The most important part of our industry is talent,” he said. “We know that we want to move that narrative of how we describe ourselves.” 

Plus, the industry needs to be more intentional about informing consumers about the basic concept of insurance, he suggested. Compared to banking, which has a retail face with which consumers often interact, insurance is sometimes less relatable. 

“But we’re actually seeing from a talent perspective that there are a lot of people, for example, coming from banking,” Marsh said. “Because when you look at things like flexibility, or compensation…a lot of supporters are actually coming into our industry.” 

Instead of letting talent fall into insurance, the industry should be letting people know about their career options in insurance early on and become more intentional about attracting and filling roles. 

Such was the theme of another session, Evolving Workforce: Leading the future.   

“If you ask somebody, ‘Do you want to work in insurance?’ they’ll say, ‘I don’t know anything about it. Why would I work in insurance? Are you an underwriter?’ That’s the first question everyone asks,” said Zahra Hirji, leadership coach, consultant and facilitator at The Talent Company. 

“I think it really comes down to the foundational piece of educating from high school. Right now, the Ontario curriculum is changing. They’re bringing in apprenticeships, high-passing Grade 12s to go into internships, et cetera, given the skilled trade shortage that we’re having. But I think it really comes down to, ‘What foundation are we laying for the generations to come?’” 

Panellists discussed whether the industry is doing enough to get in front of recruits. 

“The other challenge I see is that you have an amazing industry. But you’re not understood and seen as amazing organizations,” said France Dufresne, Canadian market leader of employee experience and M&A at WTW. “The brilliant people that we love to see and the jobs you can offer [are] absolutely awesome. The culture of knowledge and expertise and collaboration is absolutely superb. But, nobody knows.”   

“Are we looking in the right places, and are we doing enough to attract that talent rather than just expecting people to knock on our door?” added Jonathan Weekes, senior vice president and cyber practice leader at Hub International Canada. 


Feature image by iStock.com/DNY59