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Reflections on Hiring Talent From Outside the Insurance Industry

March 17, 2020 | Amit Tiwari and Amit Ranjan

In this Q&A, Xceedance chief operating officer Amit Tiwari and chief administrative officer Amit Ranjan discuss ways in which the insurance industry’s talent management strategies must evolve to drive significant business outcomes.

Should the industry be encouraging the hiring of professionals from outside the re/insurance industry (with no previous re/insurance experience) to leading positions?

Amit Ranjan: Harnessing cross-industry talent and synergies can greatly benefit the insurance industry which is on the cusp of a paradigm shift with the advent of next-generation technologies, and proliferation of digital economy/insurtech startups. More specifically, the industry can accelerate modern, business-enabling technology adoption by encouraging the hiring of professionals with experience in a wide range of disciplines, including from related industries such as banking and finance that are also deploying intelligent automation across critical business workflows. With the insurance industry’s well-documented challenge of an aging workforce, energetic and versatile professionals from a variety of backgrounds with the willingness to learn about insurance and with dexterous technical or business skills can bring fresh perspective into the industry’s flourishing trajectory of transformation and growth.

What kind of sector issues are industry outsiders best placed to add value?

Amit Tiwari: Among the most critical issues in which outsiders can add value are legacy IT modernization, lack of robust data management, and integration and deployment challenges in adopting intelligent technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. An injection of diverse new talent can also help to accelerate digitization of entire segments of the insurance value chain, including underwriting, policy service and claims lifecycles. Working with pioneers and innovators already in the industry, new talent can energize the development of robust, user-centric technology platforms and ecosystems. For example, experts from banking and financial services sectors can help to speed up the creation of seamless digital customer journeys and the industry’s abilities to leverage big data in pursuit of process efficiencies, hyper-personalization, and fraud detection.

How valuable are the new perspectives that industry outsiders bring to a role?

Amit Ranjan: It is critical that best practices of other industries are recognized and wisely adopted by the insurance industry and its service provider ecosystem. Some innovations happened earlier in other industries, and with time, have reached a certain level of maturity and tangible productivity —including direct distribution through digital portals, customer experience transformation, marketing and communications, usage of structured/unstructured data to enrich risk evaluation and enterprise decision making, and end-to-end process automation.

Amit Tiwari: Along with implementation experience, some of those experts from other industries also know what works and what doesn’t, as they have been through the entire cycle of deployment-testing-optimization. Ultimately, the infusion of such holistic experiences can result in accelerated time to market for insurer projects, and reduction in the scope and scale of reworks. Moreover, industry outsiders can bring a different point of view as an antidote to “innovation inertia” and contribute new ideas and perspective to drive change.

How significant is the challenge of bringing industry outsiders up to speed on the technical aspects of the industry?

Amit Tiwari: This is a balancing act. It is about embracing and encouraging the complementary skills that outsiders bring, while expecting and managing an inevitable learning curve for both the insurance organization and the incoming resources from other professions. In any case, there is a steep learning curve for any new team member in most enterprises — especially in the complex environments of most insurance organizations and the industry’s service provider community, as factors such as underwriting principles, addressable markets, approaches to business, service, technology, data, and distribution models, plus a host of other strategic and regulatory priorities often differ among firms. Hiring managers need to have an open mindset and must appropriately plan to patiently and comprehensively integrate industry outsiders into the insurance organization. The knowledge transfer can best succeed if it is carried out through a process of reverse mentoring and a thoughtful learning and development plan is in place.

Are there certain roles that might be more appropriate for industry outsiders than others? What are these roles? What roles will always require insurance industry experience as a necessity?

Amit Ranjan: Among the most appropriate roles for industry outsiders are risk managers, underwriting support technicians, data analysts, service consultants, technology experts, product managers, and those areas in insurance operations that require solid attention to detail and data adeptness.
On the other hand, specialist functions such as core underwriting, product development, and catastrophe modelling require a good amount of existing knowledge and will continue to rely on experienced industry talent to support business objectives.

Is the current net for who re/insurance firms are looking to hire too narrow? How can they widen this net while still finding the most appropriate person for the job description?

Amit Ranjan: The target hiring group does tend to be narrow and restrictive, and sometimes this is exacerbated by geography and regional considerations, in addition to traditional skillsets. Insurance organizations, as well as providers to the industry, often look to hire for specific functions within the insurance lifecycle and expect applicants to have, for example, a combination of advanced domain knowledge, technical expertise and line of business experience. However, if the insurance-focused talent acquisition strategy can be more flexible and expansive — and complementary, synergistic roles are reimagined and created to fulfill business requirements — the industry can alleviate some of its talent shortage challenges.

Is the re/insurance industry attractive enough to industry outsiders to make them join the industry? What can the industry do to improve how it is perceived by outsiders?

Amit Tiwari: Fueled by the momentum of intelligent technologies, data sciences, and insurtech, forward-looking professionals from other industries are better recognizing the career potential and opportunities in the insurance industry. There is more visibility and excitement about the emerging use cases of artificial intelligence (AI), robotic process automation (RPA), Blockchain, and cognitive technologies in insurance, just as those technologies are expected to be commonplace in the global digital economy. All employers in the insurance industry would do well understand that cross-functional movement of talent within the company can be a selling point. Additionally, many professionals, especially the younger generation, are driven by factors beyond compensation and benefits. Many are equally focused on a work environment that is engaging and conducive to ongoing learning. In the context of attracting outsider talent, insurance organizations and providers to the industry must also catch up and compete on such factors as providing opportunities for team members to move across functions and broaden the scope of their work and professional experiences.

When making hiring decisions what is your/your company’s attitude to considering professionals from outside the industry with no re/insurance experience?

Amit Ranjan: To answer this question, it’s important to note that as a strategic consulting and technology company focused exclusively on the global insurance industry, Xceedance operates just like an insurance company. The majority of our people “speak insurance fluently” and are the same types of professionals working at insurance organizations. At Xceedance, we try to strike a balance in our hiring strategy. For core insurance capabilities, we look for highly skilled and experienced professionals from within the industry as the foundational resources.

Amit Tiwari: Once we have those expert leaders in place, we are very open to attracting and employing smart and sensible industry outsider candidates with complementary skillsets within our diverse insurance operations and technology teams. Meanwhile, regardless of insurance experience, we value cultural fit, a perpetual learner’s mindset, self-starter tendencies, and behavioral proficiencies as critical characteristics when we make hiring decisions across our worldwide organization.

Some points of view from Amit Ranjan in this Q&A were featured by Reactions Magazine in an article titled “Recruitment revisited.”

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