Talking Talent with Marguerite Tortorello, Managing Director, Insurance Careers Movement

Insurance Industry News & Views - April 21 2021

Marguerite Tortorello is Managing Director of the Insurance Careers Movement, a grassroots industrywide initiative supported by more than 1,000 global industry organizations that seeks to inspire young people to choose insurance as a career, share what makes the industry a great one to work in, and collaborate to retain emerging leaders in insurance. Among its many events and programs, the Insurance Careers Movement runs February Insurance Careers Month, now in its fifth year of highlighting insurance as stable, rewarding, and limitless career. The Insurance Careers Movement is driven by Insurity, the American Property Casualty Insurance Association, the Jacobson Group, AM Best, and Hamilton. We caught up with Marguerite to ask a few questions about the challenges that insurance companies face in recruiting new talent, the impact of the pandemic on the early talent pipeline, and how to make insurance more attractive to a younger generation of employees.

Marguerite, it’s often said that nobody chooses a career in insurance; they fall into the industry. You have an interesting background, including serving in the White House during the George W. Bush Administration. Tell us about your path to insurance. What attracted you to the profession?

I worked for the Texas Rangers Baseball Club and President George W. Bush was part of our ownership group. David Sampson was President of the Arlington Texas Chamber of Commerce and I worked with David’s team on special events. I had the opportunity to work for Assistant Secretary David Sampson at the Department of Commerce and then served as Special Assistant to President Bush at the White House. I worked for the Bush Administration during September 11th, the war on terror, and Hurricane Katrina. I’m drawn to helping people and communities in times of need and know first hand the power of strong collaboration at the local, state and federal levels. When I returned home to Chicago, I had the opportunity to work at Allstate and then went to work for David Sampson again as Senior Vice President of Communications for the Property Casualty Insurance Association. I now lead the Insurance Careers Movement and love how the industry is collaborating to inspire more people to choose insurance as a career and to expand diversity and inclusion in the industry.

The 2021 February Insurance Careers Month was 100% virtual due to the coronavirus pandemic? How did this year’s February Insurance Careers Month compare with past years, and what were some of the highlights?

We are thrilled with the nearly 4,000 conversations on social media throughout February Insurance Careers Month. More than 18 countries participated in #ICM2021 and insurance professionals shared their authentic stories about career paths and opportunities in the industry. Social media posts also highlighted diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, how the industry is innovating, wellness initiatives and how the industry gives back through philanthropic work. While we missed having in person events on school campuses and in office settings, we encouraged people to “go live” on social media, host virtual networking events, and share videos.

Despite the pandemic, insurers nominated outstanding rising stars for the Emerging Leaders Conference (ELC), which is a component of Insurance Careers Month. The conference was created to help identify, inspire, and retain top talent in the industry and 123 insurance emerging leaders were selected from across the nation and London for exceptional work during COVID-19, for accelerating work on diversity, equity, and inclusion, and for outstanding business impact. The Emerging Leaders Conference is hosted by the Insurance Careers Movement, the American Property Casualty Insurance Association, and AM Best. The virtual ELC featured executive speakers such as Tricia Griffith, President and CEO, Progressive, Marc Schmittlein, President and CEO, CopperPoint Insurance Companies, and Sha’Ron James, Partner, Berger Singerman and President NAAIA, Florida, provided virtual networking opportunities, and included wellness.

COVID-19 has disrupted the entire insurance value chain. What impact has the pandemic had on the industry’s early talent pipeline, and is insurance still recruiting and hiring?

While COVID-19 has caused disruption, it has also driven innovation in the talent space and fast-tracked remote work opportunities, flexible schedules, and industry collaboration on diversity, equity, and inclusion, wellness, and philanthropy.

Many industries shed jobs during the coronavirus pandemic but the insurance industry added 19,700 new jobs since March 2020 according to the Jacobson Group & Ward, part of Aon, Insurance Market Labor Survey. This continued hiring is good news for the early talent pipeline. During the first few months of the pandemic there was uncertainty on what companies would do with intern programs and other recruitment initiatives. We were impressed with the creativity of companies as this quickly flipped to virtual intern programs and virtual career fairs. Gamma Iota Sigma created virtual internship resources and a program to help students find a new virtual opportunity if an in person internship was cancelled. From entry level positions to senior executives, the insurance industry successfully shifted to virtual hiring and on-boarding.

According to a 2018 survey, only 4% of millennials were interested in a career in insurance. Do you see a connection between the need to reel in the next generation of digitally savvy workers, and ongoing initiatives to digitally transform and modernize how insurers do business today?

The coronavirus pandemic has been harsh to many industries yet the insurance sector is resilient, innovating, and growing. These traits are attractive to job seekers of all ages in this current, tumultuous time. Through the Emerging Leaders Conference nominations, we had insights into how people were utilizing technology to adapt to a sudden, virtual world and how tech was providing solutions and creating new opportunities for so many aspects of business operations. The nominations were great examples of how digitally savvy workers can find enticing career paths in the industry and can have an immediate impact on helping digitally transform and modernize how the industry operates. Many companies are discussing a hybrid approach on returning to the office, distributed workforces, and shifting some jobs permanently to remote. The expansion of remote and hybrid positions is expanding global talent pools and could help accelerate diversity in insurance. Tech job seekers will have strong opportunities in insurance as technology, analytics, and claims roles are expected to grow the greatest during the next 12 months, per the Jacobson Group.

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

Yes, the rise of Insurtech, the adoption of cutting-edge technology, and the innovative ways industry leaders are thinking about a very old, traditional industry is exciting. The insurance sector is highlighting the tech innovation in recruitment while pairing it with the strong stability and resiliency of the industry. This combination is appealing across demographics as so many industries lost jobs during the pandemic or are unstable.

Companies are also illustrating how technology in insurance is helping prevent negative events from happening and is helping people, businesses, and communities lead safer lives. From smart homes and smart businesses, to natural disaster mitigation efforts, to cybersecurity, and auto tech innovations, job candidates can see the vibrant role of technology in our purpose driven sector. Industry events such as InsureTech Connect and HR Transform are showcasing the exciting tech innovation and abundant opportunities in the industry and are demonstrating the powerful collaboration happening across the industry.

Chisel AI is a powerful example of how technology can be leveraged to chisel away at the millions of documents sitting in data stores and data lakes to gain access to trapped business insights. The way in which Chisel AI is helping people work smart and enrich their lives is enticing to job seekers and highlights the vibrancy of our industry and abundant career paths.

What creative approaches and strategies are you seeing out there in the market that insurance companies are using to attract new talent into the industry?

The insurance industry is recognizing and embracing that there are many different types of career seekers and are creating diverse career paths. Zurich North America, The Hartford, Aon, and the American Property Casualty Insurance Association are leading the way in attracting non-traditional job seekers through the Insurance Apprenticeship USA program. In November of 2020, Aon announced that they will invest $30,000,000 in apprenticeship initiatives over the next five years to create 10,000 apprenticeships nationwide by 2030. Companies are encouraged to join the apprenticeship initiative and insurers are working together to scale hands-on opportunities quickly across the nation.

Some insurers are forming strong partnerships with universities to help advance technology and innovation, create specific workforce development opportunities, internships, and talent pipelines, and support local communities. Last July, Erie Insurance pledged $1 million for Gannon University’s I-Hack program. The gift will help create the Erie Insurance IDEA Lab and The Hatchery, a collaborative innovation space that will combine industry and professional development with academic creativity and learning. American Family Insurance announced a $20 million commitment to the University of Wisconsin-Madison in April 2019 for the creation of the Data Science Institute to develop and advance cutting edge data science methods and research.

Competitions are another tool the insurance industry is embracing to attract top talent to the industry and to highlight our dynamic, tech driven sector. Zurich hosts the Zurich Innovation Championship for startups around the world. The purpose of the tournament is to help identify new business ideas that have the potential to transform the insurance industry, with the hope to protect the next generation for a more sustainable tomorrow. Congratulations to Chisel AI for winning gold in the 2019 Zurich Innovation World Championship! AM Best recently conducted the nationwide 2021 Student Challenge which charges risk management and insurance students with creating innovative solutions for catastrophe risks.

Dust off your crystal ball: What do you think the insurance industry will look like in 10 years?

As we look to the future, the insurance industry will continue to be an exciting place to work filled with purpose driven, innovative, and empathic people. The industry will make significant strides in increasing diversity and inclusion and in digital transformation. The speed of change will continue to accelerate and innovation will create many new products and transform operations. Relationships will continue to be at the core of the industry and together, we will continue to make a difference for individuals, businesses, employees, and communities around the world.


MTortorelloheadshotMarguerite Tortorello is the Managing Director of the Insurance Careers Movement and leads 1,000+ insurance organizations to inspire professionals to choose insurance as a career. Marguerite was honored to serve as Special Assistant to President George W. Bush at the White House. Previously, she worked for Allstate and the Property Casualty Insurers Association. Marguerite serves on the Board of Trustees for the University of St. Francis and is a social media influencer with her blog, Messy Mommies in the City. Marguerite was a marathon runner and now she and her husband run after their twins.

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