Q: What emerging digital trends are impacting the insurance industry, and how can insurers utilise talent to address these trends?
MD: "One of the hottest topics right now is certainly artificial intelligence and its impact, not solely on the insurance industry, but on the world at large. Within the insurance industry, the challenge will be discovering practical and effective use cases for a business. Identifying areas where AI can be beneficial, whether in data and analytics or automation and efficiency, is crucial. However, as we’re all learning, AI also comes with risks. Emerging legislation may bring potential risk exposure to companies utilizing AI, which would not only impact insurers leveraging AI but also potentially drive greater risk exposure across products, particularly D&O coverage.
Similarly, cybersecurity is an ongoing area of concern. Increasing incidents related to global warfare will continue to impact the resilience of organizations. Insurance companies are also being targeted due to the extensive information they possess about individuals and businesses. Enhancing cyber skills is becoming an imperative for all types of businesses and will directly affect the evolving landscape of cyber insurance, a notable product for the industry's future.
Furthermore, we have seen consistent trends within the industry over the past few years related to deploying technologies, particularly around utilizing telematics to provide usage-based coverage for insureds, and parametrics to optimise the claims experience. These factors aim to reinstate the true purpose of insurance: aiding individuals or businesses when they need it the most.
Concerning talent, building trust emerges as a pivotal issue, particularly as a business considers adopting new technologies. Bringing in experts in these technologies—individuals with direct experience integrating innovative technologies and driving a forward-thinking technology strategy while also bringing a wealth of knowledge related to emerging trends and technology—is crucial, whether that is an in-house role, enlisting consultants, or building partnerships. This strategic approach enables businesses to stay ahead of the curve and ensure technologies are deployed efficiently and effectively, thereby increasing ROI and offering valuable insights into how technology impacts the risks insurers underwrite."
Q: How do you assess candidates' proficiency in relevant digital and tech skills for insurance roles?
MD: "When evaluating any candidate through any process, our aim is to align all assessments with the client's expectations and requirements. We've adopted an evidence-based interview approach where candidates are asked to provide examples and evidence of their track record of success, focusing on the various skills and competencies crucial for each client. For instance, examining a specific situation and assessing their impact on a business as a result of a particular project or initiative they led within a business is a key indicator of future success.
However, we're not solely considering the prior experiences an individual brings to the table, but also their potential for growth and ability to take on additional responsibilities, expanding into new areas. All of this will be further validated through indirect referencing conducted in the market with former colleagues, peers, and recommendations from others in the market.
While we have our own method for assessing a candidate's skill set, we also validate our assessment with others familiar with the individual to confirm that we are on the right track regarding what they can bring to this specific role. This is particularly important when it comes to technology and data roles, as many people understand the buzzwords and trends, but knowing how to leverage these to create meaningful business impacts is where meaningful differentiation will drive a business forward."
Q: What methodology does Eliot Partnership currently employ to assess candidates?
MD: "We have spent the past year and a half developing our own proprietary candidate assessment framework specifically designed for the insurance industry.
Leveraging data from over 1800 searches conducted in this space, we aimed to identify core capabilities, technical skills, personal attributes, and various cultural dynamics that contribute to a candidate's success in the role.
Subsequently, we have undergone intensive interview training aligned to an evidence-based approach. This training involves guiding candidates through specific areas of questions directly related to the core components our client seeks to garner direct proof of a candidate’s skillset and therefore their suitability for a given role.”
Q: What can insurers do to attract top tech talent to the insurance industry?
MD: "Bringing in outside talent into the insurance industry, specifically within technology, data, and analytics roles, is certainly an interesting proposition to enable a company to ramp up what they are already doing and take their capabilities to the next level.
There are also considerations to take into account about how to do that. Obviously, the insurance industry is a relatively niche industry with its own systems and tools. If you're bringing someone in from outside the industry, it's important to partner that person with someone who has more industry expertise.
Certain roles lend themselves better to bringing in outside talent. Technology, data, and analytics are areas more likely to attract outside talent and bring applicable skills, as many of the principles remain the same across industries. For example, a role like a Chief Information Security Officer can come from outside of the industry more easily. That said, a role like a Chief Information Officer might need more specific insurance expertise, depending on the needs of the company.
There is also an opportunity to bring in skills from various leaders in the market. Particularly, as the insurance industry continues to focus on customer and broker experience from a technology perspective, bringing in someone with specific customer or user experience within a digitally transacted business could bring a different point of view to optimizing that experience and removing frustration points for customers within the industry.
When bringing someone from outside the insurance business, compensation is a consideration. The insurance industry is competitive in compensation, but senior leaders from the most innovative companies tend to be above the typical banding in the insurance industry. Taking a realistic approach to what is possible is critical in attracting talent from outside the industry.
Attracting talent requires commitment from business and executive leaders to embrace a modern infrastructure or approach in technology, data, and analytics. There's legacy technology within the industry, but insurers have successfully recruited talent by tangible evidence of commitment from executives to future digital transformation initiatives.
There's a certain candidate archetype that's more entrepreneurial, and therefore will be attracted to such positions. Another consideration is location and flexible working styles. During the COVID pandemic, many companies adapted to remote or hybrid work. Insurance companies embracing this trend in the past few years have been able to widen their talent pools and attract the best talent. However, the shift back to office work may pose a challenge in attracting competitive talent.
For those hired remotely during the pandemic, integrating them into the team and business operations is crucial. This ongoing shift will be interesting to track in the coming years."
Q: Which industries could insurance companies concentrate on to broaden their tech talent pool?
MD: "We tend to see banking and other highly regulated financial services companies as the most likely playground for candidates. They understand how a structured, financially oriented, highly regulated business works, often needing to meet at least similar compliance and regulatory requirements.
We have seen the banking industry often appearing to be more advanced in their use of technology, from cybersecurity to customer experience and digital banking. Candidates coming from these types of companies often have relevant and transferable skills that can better inform these strategies within the insurance industry. That's typically where we're looking. When we start to look too far outside of that, it starts to get a little fuzzier, with less directly relevant skill sets for the industry."
Q: Have you worked on executive searches for insurance companies looking to modernize their technology infrastructure?
MD: "This is top of mind for many insurance companies. Finding the right leaders to help with this transformation and modernization is critical for success.
For any technology, data, analytics, or digital initiative to succeed, clients seek someone with expertise in these technical domains. More importantly, someone capable of partnering across the business, working with key stakeholders, understanding their needs, addressing business pain points, and creating effective solutions to drive impacts on business operations and results.
Similarly, a successful transformation or new initiative requires adoption by end users. Having someone adept at leading change management initiatives, gaining buy-in and support, not just from executive leaders and decision-makers but also from individual contributors, is crucial.
These efforts succeed when viewed as a critical priority by executive leadership. Buy-in from senior levels influences individuals at the contributor level, ensuring the success of such transformations in the long run."
Q: What are the key challenges you've encountered when recruiting tech talent for traditional insurance companies?
MD: "There are a lot of challenges in recruiting tech talent in insurance companies. First and foremost is the pure competition for talent out there. It's something most insurance companies are considering and trying to recruit for. Attracting the right candidates with the right skill sets can sometimes be a challenge. This also relates to compensation levels.
Bringing someone from outside the industry might require more flexibility in the total compensation package. Another aspect we've occasionally seen, especially with newer initiatives within a business, is the need to be specific and clear on position requirements. Avoiding overly onerous requirements can widen the range of candidates to consider and attract stronger talent.
Also, ensuring individuals don't serve multiple functions but have separate roles is crucial, not only for talent attraction but also for their long-term success and retention. Recruitment is just one part of the candidate experience. In technology-related functions, there tends to be higher turnover rates, with some spending 2 to 3 years or even less in a role before seeking newer challenges.
It's about seeking newer and greater challenges and building skill sets, embracing, and supporting these individuals from a cultural perspective, responding to their talent development needs, and providing growth opportunities. This will be critical in retaining and nurturing talent."
Q: When it comes to advancing with Al, should insurance companies prioritise developing in-house talent or forming partnerships?
MD: "It's a tricky question. Talent can tend to be more expensive, especially within a specialized vertical. It really depends on the use case and what the company is aiming to do. If they want to automate claims functionality, interactions with customers, or the underwriting process, having dedicated talent in-house would certainly be critical.
But it goes back to the “build vs. buy” question. For most insurance companies, partnership opportunities might serve the need more effectively. Leveraging experts in a specific field, such as the leaders in AI at Google, offers a chance to partner with them and use their technology rather than building something from scratch.
This tends to be a lower investment from a cost perspective but can yield similar results. Finding someone with the ability to bring a strategic view to developing these programs is more critical than having dedicated expertise in-house."