Now, in many ways, is the perfect time for young people to come into the insurtech industry. A sector which not long ago had a real start-up mentality now has sufficient capital backing and momentum to drive meaningful change in the re/insurance industry. Those joining the sector now will be the future leaders of the insurance industry – one which is on the cusp of technology-driven transformation.
Like the market in general, however, representation of Black people is nowhere near the level it needs to be. I’ll be touching on some of the reasons behind this as a panellist on the subject of ‘Black futures in insurtech’ this Friday at the New York and Greater Hartford chapters of the National African American Insurance Association (NAAIA) annual Northeast Insurance Conference 2021. While we are seeing some progress being made when it comes to hiring graduates, there hasn’t been any significant change in the leadership of the insurtech industry, particularly when it comes to front office functions such as broking.
This is due mainly to the insurance industry‘s ongoing continuing practice of recruiting from the same places and the same programs. These programs in themselves are not diverse, which means that Black and ethnic minority students will feel some reluctance to join them. Another problem the industry is facing is that most young engineers and programmers just won’t think about the insurance industry as a career – they will most likely be drawn to the cooler tech companies like Apple, Facebook and Amazon that are changing the world.
My advice to young Black people looking to get into the insurtech space is to gain some knowledge of both the insurance industry and of technology. Most traditional insurance businesses are not heavy users of technology, and the industry is still some way behind other financial services sectors such as banking. That’s why insurtech companies rightly identify a massive opportunity to come in and improve the efficiency of the industry. All too often, though, the problem with insurtechs is that they don’t understand the industry. Insurance is such a quirky, complicated and regulated sector that unless you have some basic knowledge of the essentials, you may be providing a tech solution to a problem that really doesn’t exist.
If I was speaking to a young software engineer who was looking to forge a career in the sector, I’d advise them to learn a bit about the industry first. Likewise, if the graduate comes with an insurance qualification, they will be a far more formidable candidate further down the line if they spend time in a tech company, and then blend the two worlds together.
I would also be very honest with them and let them know about the ways of the world. I would encourage new employees to be skeptical about any promises made by their employers. At the beginning, they will have no option but to believe any commitments that are made. If, however, after a few years, the promised promotion or new career opportunity doesn’t occur, the chances are that they can’t take their employer at their word. In that case, they need to realise that they can’t change the organization. That’s the stage where they have to recognize that this is not the company for them and to move on to another that is a better fit. As Black insurance professionals we can help to improve the diversity of the insurtech sector by mentoring and encouraging young Black people to consider a career in the industry. Technology is transforming the way the industry operates and is challenging old ways of doing things. Now is a great time for young Black professionals to play an important role in this change.