By Russ Banham
No one should be surprised that an industry as data-driven and processing-heavy as insurance is in the grip of an earthshaking workforce transformation. As wide-ranging automated technologies assume manual employee tasks across the insurance value chain, functions and related jobs are being reimagined.
Professions in underwriting, claims and actuarial organizations, as well as back-office finance and accounting and customer-facing sales, service and marketing are under the microscope. Yesterday’s careers progressed based on continuous attainments in functional expertise. By contrast, tomorrow’s insurance professionals will perform what Deloitte calls “super jobs,” moving flexibly across the enterprise to collaborate with peers in other functions.
“Whereas people stayed in a specialized swim lane like claims or underwriting in the past, in the future they will swim outside their lanes to collaborate closely with other functional experts,” said Laurie O’Shea, insurance practice leader at executive search firm Korn Ferry.
From a recruitment standpoint, insurers will no longer look to hire “veteran” claims adjusters, underwriters and actuaries, whose expertise is limited to their computational skills, simply because robots execute these tasks faster, cheaper and better. Rather, carriers will look to hire people with emotional intelligence, a broad set of so-called soft social skillsets like interpersonal communications, motivation, empathy and self-awareness.
These workforce changes will boil upward to affect the top rungs of insurance organizations, leading to the development of new roles and titles designed to inspire people in their cross-functional collaborations and generate positive teamwork-driven outcomes. These jobs and titles include chief behavioral scientist, chief customer experience officer and chief people officer, and hybrid jobs and titles like chief data and actuarial officer. “The future of work in the insurance industry is being written now,” said Day Bishop, director of insurance consulting and technology at Willis Towers Watson.
Human capital research undertaken by the risk management, brokerage and advisory company indicates that many carriers are in the process of deconstructing traditional insurance jobs like claims adjuster, underwriter and actuary into component parts. “The parts that can be automated are subtracted from the job profile, leaving the skillsets that redefine the role, traits like managing people and coming up with creative solutions to problems,” Bishop said. “Those are the people carriers want to hire.”
Not just individual jobs are being deconstructed—the entire insurance value chain also is being pulled apart and analyzed. “The notion of how work gets done and who does it is becoming more flexible,” Bishop said, “which is changing how an insurance organization looks.”
Rewriting the Rules
This metamorphosis may feel uncomfortable to middle-aged professionals with specialized jobs involving hard science skills inside different insurance functions. But carriers appear eager to provide corporate learning and reskilling opportunities to help employees broaden their skillset range. This is not to say that change will be easy.
“Right now, there is a chasm between the current skillsets of individuals within different insurance functions and the new classes of ‘super jobs’ being developed,” said Pil Chung, a Deloitte principal leading the consulting firm’s human capital practice in the financial services industry. “Some people, quite frankly, are not equipped to assume these roles. And that can be painful.”
A case in point is claims adjusting. Yesteryear’s claims officer was squarely focused on a set of claims to be investigated, processed and resolved. “Most adjusters have significant computational skills, but these tasks can now be performed by robots,” said Chung. “What is needed is for adjusters to interact with clients across many dimensions, providing customer service and financial payments resolution—softer skills that require communications capabilities.”
A similar outlook confronts underwriting professionals. Deloitte’s internal Exponential Insurance Professional research indicates that 35-40 percent of traditional underwriting tasks can be automated. “The work of underwriters has to evolve,” said Chung’s colleague Andrew Liakopoulos, a principal in Deloitte’s human capital practice with a focus on the insurance sector. “One way to do that is to become more collaborative, providing their analytical skills to distribution and sales & marketing, helping them determine the types of risks the company should insure.”
Deloitte is not alone in this opinion. “Underwriters in the future will need to have soft skills in order to interact with and advise customers, particularly in situations involving complex coverage,” said Duane Bollert, global insurance industry leader at Mercer. “They also need to become proficient in the use of data analytics to capture more data sources for analysis and modeling.”
Bishop concurred. “Tomorrow’s underwriters will go on the call to meet a broker, client or prospective customer,” she predicted. “In some cases, the underwriter might disintermediate traditional brokers and agents by dealing directly with the end customer. This takes communications and leadership skills that were not in the job profile previously.”
Back-office functions like finance and accounting also have become less manual, thanks to automated software tools from firms like BlackLine that process account reconciliations, transaction matching and other tasks to close the books at period end. That liberates accountants to do advanced analytics, data visualization, scenario planning and forecasting for other parts of the value chain, Liakopoulos said.
Recent research from Willis Towers Watson in partnership with the Casualty Actuarial Society studied the job of the actuary. Nearly all actuaries surveyed said data analytics will have a great impact on their roles, Bishop said. “They were clearly aware that a lot of what they do is computational, which is being automated.”
The good news is that actuaries can be trained to help colleagues in underwriting, claims and customer-facing activities solve problems that require deep analytical insights. “Analyzing the financial consequence of risk is the purpose of the actuarial profession,” Bishop said. “The difference is this work will leave the silo and become available across the value chain.”
Super Jobs and Hybrid Roles
As silos come down and functions blur, Chung said, “new job roles in the industry will have titles like ‘designer,’ ‘architect’ and ‘analyst,’ as opposed to more traditional titles like claims adjuster and underwriter. He added: “What’s really interesting is so-called ‘hybrid jobs’ that bring together traditional technical skills like data analysis with softer skills like communications and service. Such jobs are in the highest demand today and have the fastest acceleration in wages.”
These “super jobs” require reskilling—learning initiatives that plug strategic gaps in skillsets. Many companies are now funding these educational programs in earnest. “Our research suggests that 84 percent of companies across all industries are increasing their funding for reskilling and retraining, due to the impact of automation across the workforce,” Chung said.
Jobs and titles at the top rungs of an insurance company also are changing. “As industries digitize, boundaries are breaking down to permit more lateral communications and collaborations,” said Rick Guzzo, cofounder of Mercer’s Workforce Sciences Institute. “We’re seeing a significant reduction in the traditional layers of hierarchy to create flatter and more networked organizations.”
Several interviewees predicted that “chief customer experience officer” will become a ubiquitous title across the industry. “Their primary tasks will involve overseeing and informing underwriting, claims and distribution professionals on what they need to know to respond externally to customer concerns and needs,” said Bollert.
Internally, the “chief people officer” will be the go-to resource for reskilling employees. “They will be tasked with understanding the skillsets required to achieve strategic objectives and then canvassing current employee skillsets to discern and address any gaps,” O’Shea said.
The CEO position also will transform, albeit many chief executives have the desired blend of emotional intelligence and technical skillsets cultivated through years of experience. The difference is where they may come from in the organization. “Boards in their CEO succession planning are beginning to look at people multiple layers down to find the right amalgamation of skills to lead the business,” said O’Shea.
Perhaps best of all, the transformation of work will make the insurance industry a more highly desired career than has been the case previously. “Younger generations want purpose in their work. Well, the insurance industry is all about contributing to the betterment of others’ lives by pooling funds to take care of the one person or one business that is disrupted by calamity,” O’Shea said. “That speaks to the industry’s mission.”
Her point resonates. With mundane, time-consuming and labor-intensive tasks across the insurance value chain increasingly performed by robots, the jobs are shifting to better serve customers, emphasizing the “human” in human capital.
Russ Banham is a Pulitzer-nominated financial journalist and best-selling author.