Canadian Underwriter

How to find talent from outside the P&C industry

October 31, 2019   by Adam Malik

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Trevor McIntosh of Zensurance speaks at the IBAO Convention on Oct. 23.

Chances are high that you didn’t choose to work in insurance. Which means that if you are seeking new talent within the four walls of the industry, you are probably limiting your brokerage’s ability to find fresh new talent, experts told a recent broker conference.

A pair of speakers asked hundreds of people attending the ‘BIP Talk’ at the 2019 Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario (IBAO) Convention last week if they “fell” into the insurance industry. A majority of hands were raised each time.

So, if the industry is relying on outsiders to fill the ranks, those already employed within the industry need to do a better job of promoting insurance. “Let’s all take a moment to really reflect and understand how critical it is for us to advocate for insurance as a career path,” said Trevor McIntosh of Zensurance.

Sure, it can be painful to travel for two hours to attend a college career fair. “But the most important thing is that we make those connections with people and we really drive awareness about how awesome the insurance industry is,” he said.

McIntosh counted himself as someone who has fallen into the property and casualty (P&C) insurance industry. Once there, he “got behind the idea of helping people. Insurance is a product that helps people. That’s a value a lot of people can get behind.”

But brokers are facing a bit of an uphill battle. Appearing at the BIP Talk was speaker John McNeil, a full-time professor and program coordinator of the Insurance Management Post Grad Certificate Program at Humber College. McNeil estimated that about half of his students at Humber College want to get into underwriting. Another 45% want to be in claims, which leaves just 5% wanting to be brokers. So how can brokerages get a student’s attention?

“It starts with a stigma,” McNeil said, observing that students are worried about working in call centres, on a commission basis, or cold-calling, and generally being stuck in one role. “We have to demystify this role. They think they’re going to have to meet sales targets and that someone else is going to be benefiting from their hard work and determination.”

The industry needs to promote being a broker as a job in which one never stops learning, he said. “You will drink from the fire hose in terms of the material, in terms of the technical experience, and in terms of the companies you’ll learn,” McNeil listed as selling points. In addition students wishing to become brokers will have the opportunity to make the most of an entrepreneurial spirit and help a brokerage to build a legacy.

“These are the types of things that we need to plug in to,” he said.

Insurance caught the attention of Page Forron of McConville Omni Insurance Brokers about 18 months ago.

She showed the audience her resume before working in the industry; then she asked who in the room would hire her. She had neither insurance experience nor a RIBO licence, so it would have been easy to junk her resume, she noted. But it’s the soft skills, she said, that make her valuable, such as customer service, time management, teamwork, willingness to learn, problem-solving, and so on.

“These are the important ones,” Forron said. “These are the skills that you can’t teach but are built over a lifetime. If you think about your best employee, they probably have most, if not all, of these skills as well.”

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