Insurance

Desperate insurance firms ‘stealing each other’s talent’

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Insurers with talent are going to be robbed.

That’s the harsh reality in the insurance industry today as firms respond to the ever-growing talent crisis. As Alan Jay Kaufman, chairman, CEO, and president of H.W. Kaufman Group, put it: “There’s a talent war. There’s a fight for expertise, and people are comfortable stealing from each other.”

Anyone who’s been to a large industry networking event over the past few years can probably testify that the talent acquisition climate is electric. What’s sold as a catch-up with an industry peer over a quick drink quite often turns into an attractive job offer with a competitor. That sort of behavior has “intensified and heated up” over the years, according to Kaufman.

“I don’t see this talent climate changing any time soon,” Kaufman told Insurance Business. “Business is good at the moment. There’s plenty of insurance to write because the US economy is strong, but alongside that, there’s a shortage of talent and a shortage of expertise. Companies are desperate and they’re taking talent from others.

“In my opinion, great relationships are important in insurance, but if those relationships aren’t backed up by talent and expertise, you can’t win. You need to have both. You won’t have great relationships for very long if you don’t have that expertise, and you won’t have expertise without talent. Hence, the current situation we find ourselves in where everyone’s robbing each other’s talent.”

Kaufman has been a staunch supporter of talent development in the insurance industry for many years. He founded the Kaufman Institute in 2007, an educational and professional development learning hub for the insurance industry. The institute was initially open to H.W. Kaufman Group employees, who could access ongoing professional development opportunities through classroom and web-based training and education programs.

In 2019, the firm made the Kaufman Institute available to all insurance professionals, including their competitors. Kaufman commented: “This is now open to the wider insurance world, whether that’s insurance companies, our clients – the retailers, or our competitors. We’re very focused on education. At the end of the day, we believe our expertise wins.”

As well as championing the Kaufman Institute, Kaufman pledged more than $1 million in 2015 to endow a faculty professorship in insurance and risk management within the Eli Broad College of Business at Michigan State University.

“As an industry, we need to focus on not only educating people once they’re here, but also on bringing people into the industry – and that hasn’t been done,” he said. “I’m trying my best. That’s why I endowed a professorship in insurance and risk management at Michigan State University. And that has worked. The program started with zero students and now there are 100 students taking insurance classes per year. That’s a major school that now has an insurance program. If other people would follow suit at top schools across the US, we’d start to develop the right talent.”

One question that’s gaining traction in the talent acquisition conversation is: How do we attract the right talent for the future? Forward-thinking insurance firms are taking industry evolution into consideration, seeking tech-savvy individuals and those who embrace change.

Kaufman commented: “Yes, the industry is changing, but the best talent can handle that no problem. We’re looking for professionals with the intellectual bandwidth to be able to adjust to change, embrace it and grow with it. The best talent can handle that.”