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Insurance Executives Struggling to Replace, Train Underwriters

Posted on 06 Apr 10

The brain drain in the insurance industry is continuing, as a new survey shows company executives fear their ability to replace experienced underwriters who retire.

Finding replacement for their retiring underwriters, followed by staff development and training, were the key concerns among 50 property-casualty company executives, according to a FirstBest Systems survey conducted at the 2010 National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies (NAMIC) Commercial Lines Underwriting Seminar.

A 2010 McKinsey report states that the number of insurance workers 55 or older has increased by 74% in the last decade, compared to a 45% increase for the overall workforce. With 20% of its workforce is near retirement, the insurance industry will need to hire 25,000 new underwriters by 2014.

The top challenges for property-casualty insurers in attracting high-quality talent, according to the McKinsey report, are poor reputation, lack of understanding about career opportunities and a limited pool of trained talent.

FirstBest asked attendees about their greatest concern for hiring and training new underwriters in the near term. The most common response, offered by 35% of those surveyed, was “ongoing training, underwriting skills and knowledge sharing.” About 30% cited “finding and attracting qualified applicants” as a concern. “Generational expectations” was a concern for 15% of the underwriters surveyed and an equal amount felt “employee retention” was among their top challenges.

When asked about methods for training and sharing best practices among team members, “meetings” (primarily weekly) were cited by 38% of the respondents and another 38% referenced “ad hoc collaboration and information sharing.” A close third was “ongoing training and personal mentoring,” and 15% percent reported still using paper-based internal manuals. Only 20% reported using technology like instant messaging, intranets, blogs, or email to collaborate with and educate underwriters on their teams.