- Where Insurance & Technology Meet

Technology as a Tool for Knowledge Worker Retention

I am a big fan of continuous, broad-based skill development for employees.  A fair percent of my time as an IT manager was spent encouraging technical IT folks to learn about the business of insurance in order to provide a broader view of their jobs.

I recently saw some material that suggested that an inverse model – providing insurance professionals broad based IT training – might address skills issues facing the insurance industry.  I would be really interested in getting your feedback on this:  Would more exposure to IT training facilitate claims examiners, underwriters, agents/brokers, and finance managers?

Retention is a key factor now

The 2012 Insurance Institute of Canada (IIC)  Demographic Analysis of the P&C Insurance Industry in Canada revealed three major trends apparent in our industry:

  1. Substantial recruitment activity has taken place, despite the degree of economic turbulence in Canada since 2008.
  2. To date, the level of recruitment has compensated for the level of retirement.
  3. Going forward, the impact of retirement should increase substantially. Therefore, the level of recruitment (and retention) will need to increase substantially. [emphasis mine]

The situation was somewhat urgent for most roles.  However, the IIC identified the ‘More Urgent’ roles as:

  • All Claims Roles
  • Broker/Agent
  • Actuary
  • Commercial Underwriter

The IIC conclusion was: “Despite substantial recruitment across most occupations in the last 5 years, recruitment is perceived as ‘somewhat difficult.’ …   Retention is mitigated by high employee job satisfaction.” [emphasis mine]

So ….. What does technology have to do with this?

Virtually all HR professionals and most senior managers are aware of the impending Boomer Reverse Tsunami, but what could bits and bytes do to keep the fish in the bay?

The College for America, is a “nonprofit college built specifically to work for working adults and their employers—and to better connect workforce research, higher education, and labor market needs.”  It recently released an insurance strategy report entitled “Six Insurance Jobs affected by Growing Customer Centricity and New Technology” which draws the necessary lines.  Four of the six jobs are aligned with the urgent jobs identified by the IIC.  These, and the technology linkages, are:

  • Brokers/Agents – “Predictive analytics and customer segmenting technologies are informing lead generation rather than cold calls. Sales agents need to know how to use analytics technologies to identify prospective clients and what kinds of services they, as well as existing clients, will need.”
  • Claims staff – As clients become proficient in using technology and Apps to report losses, calculate damage, and monitor claims process, these tools “have increased customer expectations to have their claims settled faster. So claims staff must truly start to rely on the speed and automation of the modernized computer systems to maintain client satisfaction.”
  • Actuaries –  While predictive analytics and big data will actually help actuaries, these professionals will have to learn to use more complex analytic tools.
  • Commercial Underwriters – The college actually projects that the number of underwriters will decrease due to automation.  However, this will be more on the lower end and within personal lines.  The more sophisticated, tenured underwriters will have to rely more on technology rather than on processing.

And where do we learn about the technology?

The college suggests that workers in the various segments have responsibilities that are unique, and need training to meet the technology components of the jobs.  There are other elements of the roles, however, that cut across lines and are more foundational.  I would assume that basic analytic skills and social media proficiency would be among these.

It seems to me that training in these areas, with a focus on insurance, is not yet common place.  If that’s true, perhaps we could look to the IT folks that have been learning about insurance to return the favour by helping line business users with some basic analytic and data base skills.

One of the best courses I ever took as a manager was something called “Financial Management for Non-Financial Managers”.  The instructor was not great, but the outcome was perfect:  I could have intelligent conversations with the comptroller and CFO.

Perhaps there is room for “IT Business Analysis for the Non-IT Analyst”.

What do you think?

Does this make sense?  If so, are you seeing any of this happening?  If not, who should take this on?