Canadian Underwriter

How the pandemic has affected industry recruitment and mentorship

January 25, 2022   by Alyssa DiSabatino

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The war for talent has been an ongoing struggle for the P&C industry. Mix that with the influx of workers leaving their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the search for talent has become that much more difficult.  

As a result, companies have had to take a fresh look at talent acquisition, mentorship and retention methods during the pandemic, three P&C insurance company executives said during a Canadian Underwriter webinar on Jan. 25.  

When it comes to mentorship, Bernard McNulty, chief agent and head of claims in Canada at Allianz Global Corporate and Specialty says mentees are suffering from a lack of in-person conversations. 

“That very organic process where a young underwriter or a young claims person…has that spur of the moment conversation with a senior underwriter [or] senior claims person…has to become a little bit more formal,” McNulty says on the hardship of gaining mentorship remotely, as conversations often have to be booked in advance.

“When people have to take that extra step to book that time for guidance  for some coaching and mentoring  I don’t think it happens as often. So, that’s why we’re keen to get back to the office, certainly in a hybrid way…where we can mentor much better,” McNulty says.  

“We learn from the people sitting next to us,” adds Carol Jardine, executive vice president and president of Canadian P&C operations at Wawanesa Mutual Insurance Company. 

Jardine says Wawanesa is reinvigorating their technical training process to account for a lack of formal education in the insurance industry.  

With university graduation rates increasing year by year (nearly 30% of Canadian adults hold a university degree today – almost double from two decades ago), Jardine wants students to see insurance for what it is – a viable career option.  

“We’ve got to be the best marketers,” she adds. “I always ask insurance executives, how many of your children are following you into the business?” She explains that positive dinner-table conversations contribute to young people’s interest in the industry.  

“It is really on us to, to sell [it]” adds Andy Taylor, CEO at Gore Mutual Insurance Company.   

Taylor says embracing the “workplace of the future” and “the opportunity to attract new and different talent from different locations and different backgrounds,” is what will bring new hires through the door.  

Succession is another concern for the industry, with many experienced C-suite executives passing the 50-year age mark and potentially retiring. How are insurers addressing leadership succession right now?  

“If you think of the knowledge [of those] retiring, and the remote work environment that we’re in right now…we’re not having the opportunity to mentor in person,” Taylor explains.  

Taylor says younger staff are losing an opportunity to learn soft skills from their mentors. This results in  gap in knowledge between employees.  

“There’s a real risk that I see in the younger generations who are embracing the new model [of remote work],” he says. “[They] may not be appreciating what they’re losing by not having some of what we’ve had in the past. I think it’s on us as leaders to create that environment,” he adds.  

Panellists emphasized the importance of having succession plans in place. 

“We have very robust succession planning that actually works from everybody in the organization up to the CEO and back down again,” Jardine says. “I’m really proud of the youth that we have in our organization.”  


Feature image by Klaisataporn