A Pivot to People: Overcoming the Talent Crisis in Commercial P&C Underwriting

How Groundspeed's Quality Assurance Model Ensures Trustworthy Underwriting Data

Across the insurance landscape, commercial P&C firms are facing a host of challenges when it comes to underwriting talent. Rapid shifts in the makeup of the workforce, combined with technological innovation, global trends and industry-specific realities, have added considerable complexity to the process of attracting and retaining high-impact employees.

These difficulties manifest across the talent lifecycle, from recruiting and onboarding to advancement and retention – and the industry is feeling the pressure. According to a whitepaper from training firm Attensi, 55% of insurance executives surveyed said that talent acquisition and retention difficulties could prevent growth in the year ahead. And with a report from PwC finding that 71% of P&C insurers expect to increase staff in the next 12 months, the problem will only intensify.

One way to overcome the talent crisis is by leveraging technology to support talent. Technology provides a real opportunity for employers to differentiate themselves in the market and foster a happy, engaged and productive workforce. While many view it as having disrupted the status quo, when pointed in the right direction it can serve as a unifying force, enabling diverse underwriting teams to achieve transformative results while collaborating more closely than ever. Let’s explore how.

The Challenge: Demographic and Professional Evolution

Perhaps the biggest driver of the talent crisis in underwriting is that the hiring pool is changing rapidly. PwC found that the average age in the U.S. workforce is now 43-45, down from 55 just a few years ago – and that’s created pressure at both ends of the spectrum.

At the younger end, millennial and Gen Z prospective employees are digital natives – they have used modern technology throughout their lives, including in their educational and internship experiences, and expect their companies to arm them with the right tools and support. But many insurers have taken the opposite approach, making limited to no investment in modern digital workflow tools and cutting valuable training programs. To would-be underwriters, this lack of support is often striking, leading them to seek employment in other industries and further shrinking the pool of candidates.

At the other end, baby boomers and Gen X underwriters are finding that their roles are changing rapidly, with more quantitative workflows and fewer manual tasks that were once core to the profession. The risks they must account for are more numerous and ambiguous than ever before, such as climate and cyber. This has led to some senior underwriters feeling pushed out of their roles at the precise moment they are most needed.

Amid these rapid shifts in the workforce, it is imperative that different generations are brought together, not driven apart. Through close collaboration, senior underwriters can pass on a wealth of industry knowledge to those just starting out, while new hires can help their mentors learn the latest technologies. Together, they can combine their varied perspectives to shape and interpret quantitative findings far more effectively than any one person.

The pandemic has exacerbated the disconnect between employees and breakdown in communication. Remote and hybrid work has made it even harder to onboard underwriters and give them the support they need, so they often feel a lack of engagement and empowerment in their roles. The pandemic has also led to a decrease in communication and organic training opportunities that happen when underwriting management and the underwriters collaborate in person and discuss risks. All of this can have an isolating effect, making employees less likely to feel a sense of meaning and community in their jobs – and less likely to stick around.

The Solution: Technology That Unites and Empowers People

While there are many elements that go into talent acquisition and retention, we believe that the right technology can facilitate real-time sharing of information, bringing together employees of all stripes and driving greater collaboration in the workplace. This kind of teamwork is something that many people are missing in the modern workplace, especially as we emerge from the pandemic. By driving greater collaboration, firms have an opportunity to differentiate themselves and more effectively fill underwriting roles – and keep them filled – even as the talent crisis ramps up.

Let’s examine some of the potential impacts across the talent lifecycle:

  • Recruiting – Just like benefits and culture, insurance firms should view modern technology as a recruiting tool. The most talented candidates tend to gravitate toward roles that give them a chance to work with the latest systems – they make the role more engaging while providing an opportunity to practice related skills that could apply far into the future.
  • Onboarding – Technology that drives communication and teamwork makes for a better employee onboarding process, especially in a post-pandemic world. When new and more junior employees can more easily navigate platforms, view how others interact with them, ask questions and get answers from veteran underwriters, they are more prepared to make an immediate impact, boosting their confidence. These cross-generation interactions can also help more senior employees learn the latest technologies, driving impact across the business.
  • Development – Underwriting is a dynamic business function, with new risks and better processes always coming to the fore. With the right technology, underwriters can seamlessly adapt to these shifts and ensure they remain high performers even with this inherent uncertainty. It also enables them to maintain their edge over underwriters who do not have access to these capabilities, setting them up for career-long success.
  • Retention – The right technology can drive retention at all levels. Junior underwriters feel more engaged and empowered, while veteran underwriters can evolve their workflows, remain in the industry for longer and apply their expertise to solving new challenges and training future generations.

There isn’t a single ideal approach to this evolution of underwriting technology – it can vary widely based on the nature of your employees, clients, region, target audience and more – but the bottom line is that it can have a major impact on your talent pipeline. Stay tuned for specific examples of how the concepts outlined above can and have been applied to advance insurance businesses in ways never thought possible.