The insurance industry has a hard time recruiting new talent because many college students aren’t naturally attracted to the insurance industry. “Why not?” you ask. Probably because there’s a lack of understanding around what insurance professionals really do.
New graduates are probably thinking, “What’s fun, sexy or interesting about an insurance policy?” There are many doctor, lawyer, fire fighter, and cop shows out there, but no point of reference for people to imagine the possibility of a career in insurance. There are no sitcoms depicting underwriters or actuaries discussing the probability of loss from a lava flow. On the contrary, commercials show khaki-wearing claims adjusters in sensible shoes answering phones from a cubicle at 3 a.m. (yawn).
At Golden Bear Insurance Co., we’re proud of what we do, and we set out to tackle the talent gap that’s predicted to hit our industry by proving how innovative and exciting a career in insurance can be, and in doing so, attracting the brightest minds to our company.
We began our summer internship program in 2002 by tapping into student talent at our local university, the University of the Pacific (Stockton, Calif.), and inviting the students in for a closer look at what we insurance professionals actually do. We have successfully retained five of the 19 students who interned at our company as full-time Golden Bear employees, and more than 75% of our interns remain in the insurance industry. In 2013, we launched a dynamic two-year, full-time internship experience aimed at students returning home after college to the Stockton area.
Our decision to target local college graduates was purposeful. Our premise is simple: By offering meaningful employment to those already invested in living in the local area and by supporting their engagement in the community, we create higher job satisfaction, and consequently, increase retention.
The renewed program offers a comprehensive curriculum that allows for multi-disciplinary exposure, so our interns gain experience in the underwriting, accounting, and claims departments. We couple the hands-on experience with continued coursework via the Institutes which gives interns the opportunity to receive Associate in General Insurance (AINS) certifications and Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter (CPCU) designations. This allows our interns to walk away with tangible achievements upon program completion.
Interns also are encouraged to study for and obtain a broker’s license during the early phase of the internship. Our interns participate in industry events and conferences alongside our fulltime staff, and are given leadership roles in marketing the events. This builds a sense of responsibility and camaraderie among senior staff and our interns, and gives them the opportunity to be client-facing right away, which is of equal benefit to all Golden Bear employees.
Now here’s the real cherry on top: Our program also offers interns the opportunity to participate in an externship with another insurance company. Last year, one of our interns spent a month in New York cross-training with Swiss Reinsurance. How do we top that? Next year, our interns are slated to spend a month in London at Lloyd’s.
As a result of our comprehensive and rewarding internship program, Golden Bear has attracted employees with backgrounds in math, statistics and marketing who hadn’t previously considered a career path in insurance. Golden Bear’s new depth of talent improves its capabilities in enterprise risk management and predictive analytics.
Our tips for our industry peers looking to funnel the best and brightest into your company include:
- Establish a network of potential candidates. Consider partnering with a university near you to promote internship opportunities. Attend college fairs, volunteer to speak to certain departments and get the word out there about openings in your internship program.
- Leverage accredited organizations. Offer interns classes, tickets to events and opportunities to network with organizations and executives that can enhance their understanding of the industry. They may find that the more they know, the more interested they become.
- Let interns make a difference. We can’t stress this point enough. Don’t hire interns to make copies and get coffee. Instead, challenge them to be part of the company’s growth and empower them to rise to the occasion. Employees are happiest when they are challenged, appreciated and rewarded for their efforts.
While students with a degree in risk management are well sought after, there are few risk management programs around the country. Until the demand catches up with the need, we expect many companies and associations such as the National Association of Professional Surplus Lines Offices Ltd. and the Pacific Association of Domestic Insurance Companies will develop vigorous internship programs to attract and develop talent. After all, if we don’t prepare for the future of our industry, who will?