Canadian Underwriter

Revitalizing the workforce

January 18, 2017   by Jacqueline Louie

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An aging workforce, along with unsustainable healthcare and some pension costs, is among one of the major challenges facing not just high-income nations like Canada and the U.S., but also middle-income nations like China in the coming decade.

These looming challenges are front and centre in Zurich’s Reducing the Risks from Rapid Demographic Change report, which examines whether global risks are growing faster than the global economy.

“It’s a critical challenge for countries to manage this,” says Paul Horgan, head of global corporate in North America for Zurich North America, while discussing the report at the RIMS Canada Conference in September. “Our demographics aren’t our destiny if we’re willing to engage now.”

The insurance industry is a prime example of demographic risk, Horgan notes, pointing to a McKinsey study that found 25% of insurance industry workers in the U.S. will be ready to retire by 2018.

This should be a wake-up call to the entire industry, which needs to do a better job of selling itself, he says. “Attracting young talent, and a more diverse talent, into this industry has really been a challenge.”

It isn’t necessarily just an insurance topic; it’s actually an enterprise risk topic that’s important to the boards of companies, he adds.

“We want to arm risk managers and brokers with the things that businesses need to be thinking about, that could truly impact their longevity going forward.”

Previous generations viewed their careers as a ladder, looking for rewards such as pay, promotions and office size, but the millennials are different. “This generation, which is extremely hard-working and very tech-savvy, is much more focused on experiences and on wanting to learn different things. They don’t necessarily want to work in the same place for 40 years. If you’re not challenging them, if they feel their experience is not continuing to evolve, they’re going to go elsewhere.”

To this end, Zurich is reinvigorating its hiring programs in a variety of ways. For instance, the firm introduced a new hire program for its U.S. risk engineering department. After hiring more than 40 new risk engineers, Zurich teamed them up with senior risk engineers who act as mentors. This keeps senior workers on the job longer, while at the same time provides them with the opportunity to transfer their knowledge to the next generation, as well as be energized by them. “They’re teaching each other how to work together.”

This year, Zurich North America started an innovative two-year apprenticeship pilot program in Schaumburg, Ill., just outside its North American headquarters in Chicago, which mirrors a long-established apprenticeship program at Zurich’s parent company in Switzerland. In this program, Zurich is paying for the tuition of 20 apprentices to attend college while they serve as apprentices at Zurich, learning about underwriting and claims. The apprentices will complete the program with an associate’s degree and a job offer from Zurich in underwriting or claims. By 2020, Zurich has committed to hiring 100 apprentices as part of this program.

“This is such an effective model in Switzerland,” Horgan says. “It’s a creative way for us to attract a different demographic into the insurance industry and give them paths to good middle-class paying jobs and careers in a great industry. We’re very excited about it, and hopefully it will be a blueprint for others to follow.”

Zurich is also reaching out to high school students to let them know about what the insurance industry offers in terms of rewarding careers, with perks that can include global travel and work experiences. “When I talk to young people today, I let them know that insurance lets you be involved in whatever the passion of your life is—because every part of society has insurance,” Horgan says. “If you like sports, if you like law, if you like international business—you could do that, really, in any area you’re passionate about.”

Copyright © 2016 Transcontinental Media G.P. This article first appeared in the October 2016 edition of Canadian Insurance Top Broker magazine

This story was originally published by Canadian Insurance Top Broker.