Ron Rock is a Senior Director at JobsOhio, a private nonprofit corporation designed to drive job creation and new capital investment in Ohio through business attraction, retention and expansion efforts.Ron was interviewed by Michael Fiedel, a Managing Director at InsurTech Ohio and Co-Founder at PolicyFly, Inc.
Ron, how rapidly is the insurance industry’s need for software and programming talent growing?
“If you take a look at the job mix over just the last year, call center, sales and accounting jobs are decreasing while roles in programming, agile methodology, data analysis and underwriting are ticking up. I don’t see this as a negative, I see this as an upskilling opportunity.
Retaining this talent is a separate challenge. We’ve all heard that it’s less expensive to retain an employee than it is to onboard a new one. You can’t avoid the challenges around training or attrition, instead I think it’s vital that you have a strategy in place to attack both. Attrition is inevitable, so attracting new talent familiar with these emerging fields is crucial. It’s equally important that you look at your current workforce and properly promote training your employees in order to compete as times are changing.”
What do you want to stress to individuals who have had a career in technology, but have no experience with insurance?
“I’m a strong proponent of pursuing opportunities to make an impact. Transforming an industry that has a history of resisting change is just that type of opportunity. Insurtech is gaining a ton of traction with over $15 billion being invested in 2021 alone. Although deals are being made, in order to execute on those solutions, talented individuals need to be recruited. In fact, a lot of these companies will ultimately succeed or fail based on whether their talent acquisition and retention strategies prove themselves.
As I mentioned, the mix of jobs in insurance is shifting, and companies are focused on roles that require less and less existing experience within the insurance industry. For instance, rather than an insurance company hiring out IT jobs, there’s a growing shift toward expertise where the IT company chooses to operate in the insurance space. Some key trends right now are in the AI (artificial intelligence) space as well as RPA (robotic processing automation). These two forms of technology could each have a profound impact on insurance strategies and profitability. Both of these areas, however, are not unique to the insurance space and can be transferable across multiple industries. This means that you’re going to see a lot of powerful talent coming into the insurance industry for shorter periods of time, versus spending their entire career, to solve problems, deliver impact and then exit the industry fluidly.
Another sign of this is when looking at the incoming job creation stats, you’ll see that software engineers, developers and data scientists are nationally among the top jobs in insurance. Whereas, in the recent past, an actuary was at the top of the list.”
Are you seeing technical talent from outside insurance come into the industry and successfully participate at a strategic level?
“I think the example most people know about is Root Insurance. They are a tech company operating in the insurance industry. Root Insurance has heavily recruited talent outside the industry and has been very successful with their AI driven solution.
The more I chat with my teams at Progressive, Nationwide, Cincinnati Insurance and others, the more I learn how they are constantly looking for transformative solutions. In order to discover and plan for transformation, it’s important to get an outsider’s point of view. You have to build an expectation with existing and new associates that they’re encouraged to question why something hasn’t been changed. The worst answer a person can give is ‘because we’ve always done it this way’. From there, we should all start figuring out the path forward.”
Do you foresee the long term growth of software and programming talent in insurance changing the future of the industry in any particular ways?
“It’s not specifically the growth in software and programming talent but a comprehensive look at what is changing within the insurance business model. In simplest terms, an insurance company takes in premiums and pays out to both operate the business and process claims. While each of those items can be looked at individually, a change in one can impact the other two. For instance, if an insurance company offers a risk mitigation technology to its policyholders that ultimately reduces the number and/or size of claims, it’s reasonable that premiums can decrease. Operating expenses decrease as well because administrating the claims process takes time, money and resources.
Because insurtech is hitting all angles of the insurance industry, you can imagine how impactful technology can be. The uninsured or underinsured can now be properly covered with more affordable premiums. In times of loss, the policyholders can be indemnified almost immediately, and the upstream effect of early warning mechanisms can positively impact performance before a claim occurs.”
What makes Ohio uniquely positioned to support insurance technology companies in their effort to find and retain top software and programming talent?
“Ohio has a high concentration of insurance and financial service companies, while also having an abundance of tech talent in all industries. Being able to test and create successful products requires a strong ecosystem. Not only do we have a growing number of VCs, but we are also seeing incumbents establish venture arms. This means a large number of Ohioans are combing the landscape for innovative solutions in an industry that is ripe for change.
Additionally, the Ohio Department of Insurance is willing to have the conversation about potential changes that would clear the runway for new product launches. And finally, JobsOhio is here to support growth and innovation via new programs for early stage companies. Many founders have already explored this route, and we are already seeing great success.”