- Where Insurance & Technology Meet

Should Insurance-Technology be an Academic Discipline?

Recruiting IT professionals for insurance companies can be challenging for a variety of reasons.  A recent article suggested that alignment by insurers with colleges and universities offers some relief.  We’re wondering if an extension of this – creating an academic discipline focusing on Insurance and Technology – makes sense.  Do you think this idea has any legs?

Recruiting for insurance jobs generally has been a chronic problem.  For a long time, the common wisdom was that no-one ever went to school to become an insurance professional.  However, the continuing demand by the industry, combined with the good work of organizations such as the Insurance Institute of Canada has raised the profile of the sector and a number of colleges and universities now offer course tracks which lead to insurance designations combined with degrees (such as the combined Fellowship/MBA programme offered by Wilfrid Laurier University).

Insurance-technology hasn’t come along at the same pace, however.  As Anthony O’Donnell noted recently in Insurance & Technology:

 Insurance carriers provide outstanding career opportunities for IT professionals with a variety of talents and training, but the industry remains something of a “best kept secret.” Students from the most prestigious schools are likely to aim at other, “more exciting” industries or at vanguard technology companies such as Google and Facebook.

O’Donnell goes on to report that individual insurers – such as Jackson National Life,  Prudential Financial, The Hanover, and Torus Insurance – have established relationships with local universities and colleges to promote careers in insurance.  O’Donnell’s article lists  “11 (US) institutions of higher learning that multiple carriers rate as outstanding institutions to tap for highly qualified IT talent.”

Some of the insurers have gone beyond using schools as talent shopping centres.  Barbara Kostner, CIO of Prudential Life is quoted in the article saying:  “We have good relationships with the universities, and in some cases we’re able to influence the curriculum.”

Our question is this:  Is it time to take this further?  Could/should insurance organizations individually or collectively seek to create courses or tracks within schools which address insurance-technology specifically?  We’re not thinking that there are a lot of insurance nuances in core programming or networking configuration.  But when we look at business analysis, data architecture, predictive modelling utilizing Big Data, etc., there are some very specific insurance needs.

One current pattern is to hire talent and then send them to insurance school.  This works reasonably well and the Canadian insurance CIO community has a representation of Associates and Fellows of the Institute.  But there may be an opportunity to take this to the next level.  But it takes commitment by insurance professionals to drive the change.

The Risk Management community has shown how this is done.  A 2008 article in Risk Management Magazine noted that in 1999 “few schools embraced risk management education as something other than an elective within a larger business, finance or insurance program.”  But, as a result changes driven by the risk management community over the ensuing 8 years, “Students can now receive everything from a bachelor’s to Ph.D. degree in risk management and insurance. Popular executive education and master’s programs for working professionals allow risk managers and insurance professionals a chance to make more money and improve their careers.”

We’d be interested in your opinions.  Give us your comments below.  Is there a need for an academic track that leads to insurance-technology career?  Would you support such a move by hiring new grads?  Is there enough of a community to drive this?