I recently spoke with a group of about twenty young up-and-coming insurance professionals from a dozen or so insurers, brokers and reinsurers, including two from Trisura. They were participating in a Leadership Learning Circle initially sponsored by Andrew Steen of Berkeley which features monthly networking and joint shared learning experiences including the rather unique opportunity to meet and speak with the CEO’s of the supporting companies.
What struck me right away when I met this group is that if this impressive array of young insurance talent is in any way representative of the future of our industry, then we are in great shape and good hands. Courteous, attentive, professional, friendly, well-mannered and well educated, intelligent, eager to get ahead, and demonstrating a look you in the eye while introducing themselves and the company they represent while shaking hands firmly kinda group. Very impressive.
Second, they asked great questions and were genuinely interested in both the industry and even what I had to say. They demonstrated a passion for the industry, and that alone will take them far, but they showed me even more.
It didn’t take long for me to realize that I was, by far, the elder statesman in the room. Of course, I don’t really feel like the old guy, but slowly and surely I am coming to the realization that, unfortunately, I am. This cohort of young up-and-comers are not from my generation (in the event you care, I am from the tail end of the baby boomers, which was not the end to be at by the way, because most of the good jobs were gone when I hit the work force….but I digress) – they are at least one and more often two or even three behind (or ahead, depending on one’s point of view) – but they clearly now represent the future of our industry.
When I fell into the insurance industry over 30 years ago, I had no idea what a truly wonderful business it was – complex, challenging, interesting, relationship oriented, vital to both the economy and to people who have suffered loss (or wish to avoid it!). Sadly, the industry got short shrift then, and that stigma continues to some extent today. Our industry is sometimes looked down upon or looked over by many, primarily because they just don’t understand how great it really is.
However, when I broke into the business in the late 1980’s, I distinctly recall my surprise at discovering that the industry did not always attract A level players, and I remember feeling pretty confident that, given the somewhat shallow talent pool, if I worked hard, here was an industry in which even I could succeed. By the way, I am somewhat more confident in my abilities today than I was when I was 23 but that’s another story.
Fast forward to today. In my opinion, the industry is in better shape now than it has ever been. Today’s new entrants are better educated, more rounded and worldly, and possessing better soft skills (presentation, negotiation, networking and the like) and certainly better technology skills than the average recruit possessed back in my day. They are brighter, more intelligent and more capable than my generation. I also believe that the secret is getting out – that more and more young folks are considering insurance as not only a viable and potentially attractive career choice, but also a profession of choice.
My generation is now retiring in droves – those early boomers with the plum opportunities are now heading off for even greener pastures and along with them is going a tremendous amount of knowledge and experience. This happens to coincide with the greatest amount of change ever seen in the insurance industry with the technological advances now being made that most certainly will impact how the business is underwritten, distributed and processed in the days and years ahead.
The world lost a remarkable man recently with the passing of Stephen Hawking, the theoretical physicist, who stated “intelligence is the ability to adapt to change”. I believe the opportunities available to the wave of young people who are today entering our industry and making their way through it are boundless, particularly for those who exhibit Stephen Hawking’s “intelligence” and have the attitude and grit to go along with it. Some of them, including a number of the twenty I met last week, and a whole host of folks I am proud to work with here at Trisura, will shape and change this industry for the better.
The kids are, indeed, alright and, as Nina Simone once sang, “It’s a new dawn…And I’m feeling good”.