Addressing the talent gap: guidance for InsurTech startups and investors

The past several years have been filled with apocalyptic predictions of a looming talent shortage in the insurance industry.  McKinsey predicted a 25% falloff by 2018. Well, here we are, nearly in 2019, and somehow the industry is still not only standing but thriving.

The 25% attrition? Primarily advisors. You can still sleep tonight. This is positive evolution. The fact remains, however, that carriers are in stiff competition for proven industry talent, a product of many factors: low unemployment rates (insurance industry unemployment rates being well below the national average), a focus on emerging, innovative talent, a push for greater diversity hiring, particularly at senior levels, and specialized skill sets that simply can’t be found in parallel industries.

So what will be your biggest hiring challenges in 2019?  Here are my predictions:

  1. Regulatory and Compliance professionals: there is an extremely limited community of qualified, seasoned insurance attorneys that can anticipate challenges and setbacks as you deal with individual state mandates
  2. Digital Marketing: you will face tremendous competition from numerous players across all industries, many of whom have much richer consumer data and sexier widgets
  3. Finance & Accounting: locating a risk-tolerant CPA with statutory reporting experience will make you question your own sanity
  4. Product Development: see digital marketing. Prepare to get into a bidding war with some big name firms
  5. Insurance operations: the individual who understands the vision and knows how to make everything move forward, from applicant experience to claims

True, there is a certain appeal to working for a startup as opposed to a carrier.  Newer technology based on more refined data, near-zero bureaucracy, young, hip founders who are generally brilliant technologists, savvy enough to recognize an entry point to a massive industry that has for years been asleep at the wheel in terms of innovation.

All well and good, until it comes time to identify not only the right skill set and cultural fit, but stage of life in a candidate that lends itself to a higher risk appetite.  Whether right or wrong, big insurance brands are like security blankets.  As an emerging player, you have a great idea, a groundbreaking model and business plan, but without years of positive results, you are lumped into a category that is normally reserved for ambitious young professionals that can live on Ramen noodles, or end-of-career professionals that want to leave their mark with an eye on the big payday.  Don’t get me wrong, there are many exceptional people that fall into these categories, but to truly build a company, you’ll need to fill the gaps in between.

While there is no secret sauce to attracting the right people at the right stage of career and at the right price point, there are a handful of steps that you may want to take:

  1. Continue to build your social media presence across LinkedIn and Twitter. If you are a Founder, upload a clip where you describe your company and your mission. This immediately creates a connection and lets you broadcast your passion, for free
  2. Consider sponsoring a cocktail hour at an industry-specific event
  3. Align yourself with a highly-networked consultant who can be your brand evangelist
  4. Consider other inexpensive or free publications and media. There are a couple of MarCom firms that work with FinTech / InsurTech startups and understand how the relationship needs to work

That said, it’s a decision that you have to make whether or not to engage an external resource when it comes to hiring the best. Remember that firms like mine are exclusively focused on identifying, recruiting, assessing, and onboarding talent, and there are many layers to this process that most do not anticipate.  Know when to outsource, and when you make this decision, stick with someone that you know and trust, who knows your company and culture, and who has a network that can efficiently attract critical influencers to your business.

Come to think of it, I may know a guy…