Attracting New Talent to the Insurance Industry: Alyssa Bouchard, Gamma Iota Sigma

Insurance Industry News & Views - September 2 2020

Alyssa Bouchard, CPCU, ASLI, ARM is Director, Education & Programming at Gamma Iota Sigma. With a growing network of chapters throughout North America, Gamma Iota Sigma leads the sustainable growth and diversification of the insurance industry’s student talent pipeline. GIS members benefit from world-class programs, innovative partnerships, critical industry support, expansive campus engagement, and an unrivaled lifelong professional network. We caught up with Alyssa to ask a few questions about the challenges that insurance companies face in recruiting new talent, the impact of COVID-19 on the early talent pipeline, and how to make insurance more attractive to a younger generation of workers.

Alyssa, before COVID-19, the insurance industry faced a different crisis: How to attract younger millennial and Gen Z talent to the industry. What impact has COVID-19 had on the industry’s early talent pipeline, and have insurance companies’ priorities shifted when it comes to recruiting and hiring as they cope with the ongoing impacts of the pandemic?

The talent gap still exists, even in a pandemic, so it’s critical that we as an industry continue to invest in the future of talent. Our future workforce and continued sustainability depend on it. Fortunately, the insurance industry is resilient, and through this crisis we’ve further proven our ability to pivot.

GIS was already a thriving single access point to thousands of students at nearly 100 schools, and with looming uncertainty and limited campus engagement for the current academic year, industry partners are increasingly doubling down on that centralized access to maximize their exposure and engagement. We consistently heard this through a series of Recruiters Roundtable calls we convened since April in an effort for industry colleagues to field questions, share best practices, and benefit from resilience resources GIS has compiled for both industry and student audiences. The need and intent to continue recruiting and continue showing up for students is clear.

From students, we’ve seen an increased demand for career and professional development resources as they work to differentiate themselves and develop their skillsets. Many still have questions and concerns regarding the current and future state of the workforce, but even in these unprecedented times, our industry remains strong and committed to the next generation of talent, which gives our students a little more confidence in their futures. The current climate’s need for resilience and continuity has resulted in a host of creative solutions, and students are paying close attention.

Normally every year, thousands of students and new graduates pursue a career in insurance with many entering internship programs. How has COVID-19 disrupted internships and what contingencies have insurers put in place to transition from onsite to virtual internships?

When COVID-19 threw a wrench in many summer internship plans earlier this year, Gamma Iota Sigma asked employers to honor the internship offers they made to GIS students and provided solutions to help them do so. We provided virtual internship resources and hosted interactive forums to help them rework and rethink internship programs in the spirit of resilience. Fortunately, most of our recruiting partners maintained their commitment to host interns. Many organizations – like GIS Sustaining Partners Swiss Re, Munich Re, Travelers, and Ryan Specialty Group just to name a few – successfully transitioned their internships to a virtual format.

Most of our employer partners reported a later start date and as a result, a compressed timeline, but recruiters also reported ample intern workloads and shared success stories of modifying some of the usual aspects of an internship program to a virtual format; virtual job shadowing, recorded business unit introductions, virtual networking with executives were a few of those opportunities provided to students in the new environment. Other companies like Verisk, AF Group, Casualty Actuarial Society, Lloyds and more invested in students through Gamma Iota Sigma’s Project-Based Internship Program, developed to help students whose internships had been cancelled due to COVID-19 gain insurance industry experience. While many students were affected by COVID-19’s impact on internships, our industry stepped up to the plate in a big way.

With 50 per cent of insurance professionals set to retire over the next few years, what creative approaches or strategies have you seen companies using to attract new talent?

We need our entire industry – all segments, specialties, functional areas – to show up for students, think through how we are showing up, and speak to audiences of all backgrounds if we want to ensure the sustainability of our talent pipeline. Initiatives like Gamma Iota Sigma’s Boots on the Ground Month and the Insurance Careers Movement provide important opportunities and resources for insurance professionals to help spread the word.

Internships are also crucial to attracting new talent. In Gamma Iota Sigma’s Annual Recruiting Survey, 58% of seniors and recent grads report having had 1 or 0 internships, underscoring the need for more internship availability. An internship is a great opportunity to immerse students into the company culture – a key consideration for students when considering job opportunities – and conduct an extended interview for future employment. Companies with thoughtfully crafted and well-executed internship programs that allow students opportunities to do meaningful work, be mentored, and have the potential for future full-time work have the advantage when it comes to attracting new talent.

In today’s talent war, exposure and authentic, meaningful engagement are everything. Companies who show up to campus once a year for the career fair will struggle to compete. While many companies may have an “off season” for recruiting, there cannot be an off season for your company’s brand if you want to recruit successfully, and there are so many opportunities to get creative with this. Companies we see recruiting well have ongoing communication and key partnerships with Gamma Iota Sigma and educational institutions to keep their organization’s brand in front of potential candidates year-round. They send ambassadors to campus to participate in mock interviews, host information sessions, and build strong relationships with faculty – engagement opportunities which have proven to impact students’ employment decisions.

Insurance is often perceived as a boring industry. It’s been said that people fall into the industry, rather than choosing it, and millennials tend to choose other professions they deem to be more progressive, challenging and fun. How can the industry overcome this stigma?

While people have historically “fallen into” insurance, we’re seeing that drastically change. Gamma Iota Sigma students are not falling into our industry – they’ve chosen it. They realize our industry is challenging and fun, and they’re actively pursuing insurance careers. New generations are looking for career opportunities that are innovative, rewarding, and allow them to make a positive impact. Insurance offers all those things! It’s on us to spread the word. Our industry is utilizing data, technology, and forums like InsureTech Connect to fuel innovation and make our business better. We’re giving time and money to organizations through the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation to make an impact on our communities. Our industry exists to pay claims and help people get back on their feet. These points should be a key part of our messaging to students.

Do you see innovation, the rise of Insurtech, and the adoption of cutting-edge technologies like artificial intelligence playing a role in enticing top talent?

Yes! New generations thrive on technology and innovation and many expect a cutting-edge focus and/or capability when evaluating industries for future employment. The insurance industry is seeing new and revitalized roles and career paths as technologies like drones, blockchain, artificial intelligence and telematics impact the work we do across risk management, underwriting, claims, and more. Innovation is a huge selling point for – and fundamental to! – our industry, and exposure driven by new technologies, new segments, new products, and new ways of thinking engages an entirely new type of student.

Carly Burnham, Co-Founder and CEO of has said that the insurance industry has “earned the reputation of the being pale, male, and stale through the image that we portray and the leaders that we promote.” What are insurance companies doing to address issues of equity and diversity?

I’d say it’s important to start with what students are doing to address equity and diversity, how they perceive DEI playing out within the industry and how that shapes their decisions, and how all of this informs industry action. Our student-focused and student- and young alumni-led GammaSAID Council – Solutions for Authenticity, Inclusion, and Diversity – equips GIS members with resources and forums for discussion and understanding to be inclusive and intentional in their outreach, both to industry representatives and to students of all backgrounds and majors in an effort to promote industry awareness.

Exposure, access, and representation are vital. The fastest growing segment among Gamma’s 5,000+ members is the 27% who report their major as something other than Risk Management & Insurance or Actuarial Science. This is driven in large part by Gamma’s industry-wide collaborations like the InsureTech Connect partnership driving a particular segment, but also to GammaSAID’s efforts to creatively engage other majors and industry representatives from a variety of functional areas to showcase all the industry has to offer.

60% of respondents from Gamma Iota Sigma’s Annual Recruiting Survey indicate that a commitment to and demonstration of diversity at all levels of the company is important to them. The message of wanting to recruit diverse talent falls flat unless the industry is intentional in its efforts to help students see themselves within it. At industry conferences or university career fairs, students want to see people who look like them and connect with people who may share a similar background. Employers who are intentional about how they show up to campus – and have they considered a diverse group of employees representing a variety of experiences, backgrounds, and career paths, etc. – have greater success.

We’re seeing employers flock to HBCUs to recruit diverse talent, but we urge that this not be done in a vacuum – an excellent approach but one of what should be many pieces of a comprehensive strategy.

Generally speaking, what do Millennials and Gen Z look for in an employer? What matters most to them when choosing a career path?

Some people think a Gen Z or Millennial’s ideal workplace includes foosball tables, free snacks, and remote work. Gamma Iota Sigma’s Annual Recruiting Survey results show otherwise. For the newer generations, workplace perks and work-from-home capabilities (pre-COVID) take a back seat to factors like future growth, compensation, culture, training, and development when it comes to influencers in student’s employment decisions. Our studies show that a strong benefits package, salary, health care, 401(k), and paid time off are also key considerations for students when considering prospective employers. Millennial and Gen Z generations want similar things as older generations: a fulfilling, growth-oriented, and stable career.

In your view, what talents and skills do younger workers possess that the insurance industry desperately needs?

New generations are tech-savvy – that’s not just a stereotype. Gamma Iota Sigma students also have fresh perspectives that have already been honed through their classes, GIS, and industry engagement. They’re developing professionally and building their networks through insurance conferences, networking events, and involvement in insurance industry professional associations. Perhaps most importantly, Gamma Iota Sigma students have committed their careers to insurance and are graduating college with an unparalleled passion and enthusiasm for industry. That is not something for which you can train.

Alyssa Bouchard Gamma Iota SigmaAlyssa Bouchard, CPCU, ASLI, ARM, is an insurance industry association leader with expertise in insurance talent strategy, engagement, and development. As Director of Education & Programming for Gamma Iota Sigma (GIS), the premier collegiate talent pipeline for the insurance industry, Alyssa equips the next generation of insurance leaders and develops key relationships with industry partners.

Alyssa holds a Bachelor of Science, Business Administration in Risk Management & Insurance from Appalachian State University and is currently pursuing her MBA in Insurance from Olivet College.

She’s been recognized as an “Emerging Leader” by Insurance Careers Movement, a “Young Gun” by Insurance Business America, and a “Best Insurance Pro Under 40” by National Underwriter Magazine.

Alyssa lives in Richmond, VA and outside of work enjoys hiking, traveling, and patio dining.

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