Thousands of jobs opening at Ohio insurance companies
Insurance is being promoted as a career field with growing job opportunities, as Ohio insurance companies face a looming talent gap threatening the industry’s further growth.
Financial services, including insurance, is identified as a key Ohio industry sector. Ohio is the seventh-largest state for insurance-related employment of more than 100,000 workers at 256 companies, according to industry officials.
Between 2013 and 2018, it’s estimated more than 17,000 jobs will open up at Ohio-headquartered insurance companies. That’s the expected number of jobs that will need filled the next five years mainly due to baby boomer-generation retirements, a commissioned study shows.
To put that in perspective, about that many people, 17,000, work now at four of the largest insurance companies based in Columbus — Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co., Grange Insurance, State Automobile Insurance Group and The Motorists Insurance Group, said John Bishop, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Motorists.
Bishop and his colleagues at 13 Ohio insurance companies including Fairfield’s Cincinnati Financial Corp. and Liberty Mutual Group are collaborating to address the talent gap, and formed the Insurance Industry Resource Council to tackle the issue. Bishop co-chairs the group, a public-private partnership in collaboration with Ohio Dept. of Insurance and trade associations.
The insurance council recently launched efforts to raise job awareness.
“People don’t wake up thinking I really want to go into insurance,” said Brian Wood, vice president of human resources for The Cincinnati Insurance Co., the main subsidiary of Cincinnati Financial. The insurer is Butler County’s second largest employer of approximately 2,800 people locally.
One of the problems with recruiting is getting over perceptions that insurance is boring.
“I think it’s people who say, ‘oh, insurance is boring;’ they know nothing about it,” said Courtney Haven, a commercial underwriter trainee hired at the end of last year at Cincinnati Insurance.
Haven, 26, of West Chester Twp., received a bachelor’s degree in business with a supply chain emphasis. She has worked in the grocery industry and has sold life insurance.
She applied to Cincinnati Insurance because “I needed a more secure job,” she said.
As an underwriter, Haven does research, manages clients, evaluates loss history and makes hard decisions about policy renewals and new business daily, she said.
Job needs are changing at insurers. The jobs require higher skills and pay more. For example, insurers need fewer paper file clerks than they used to and need more information technology specialists and data analysts.
A common misperception about insurance careers is the majority of positions are in sales, said the Insurance Resource Council. There’s always a need for new sales agents, but many job opportunities include positions such as claims adjuster and investigator, underwriter, actuary, customer service, information technology specialist and others.
“One of the challenges we have in Ohio is a lot of the people that are in the job market might go to another state or leave Ohio and that’s not going to help us on our unemployment rate. If we can redirect those resources and redirect those unemployed resources to an industry like insurance, then you can substantially impact these unemployment rates,” said Bishop of Motorists.
Cincinnati Insurance Co. is already starting to feel the impact of retirements, Wood said.
Replacing a retiree’s 30 to 40 years of institutional knowledge is an issue. “We sell a contract and what we have is expertise,” Wood said.
One step the company took is to create a new position of underwriter’s assistant. The assistant helps underwriters with the day-to-day basics, freeing up more of the underwriter’s time to do risk evaluation and policy pricing.
Cincinnati Insurance has recently hired some of its first assistants, and plans to do more hiring in future rounds, Wood said. The hope is the assistant job will give people a better feel of what it takes to be an underwriter, and they view it as a move-up opportunity, he said.
Ohio is emerging as a national insurance capital, competing with other centers in Hartford, Conn., and Des Moines, Iowa. Six insurance carriers headquartered in Ohio are on Fortune’s list of the 1,000 largest U.S. companies based on 2010 revenues, according to JobsOhio, the private state economic development agency.
Financial services is one of the industries JobsOhio targets for business attraction and retention, underlining the industry’s importance to the state.
The insurance industry council is promoting jobs by focusing on three groups of people — students, people changing careers and veterans.
“The talent gap can’t be filled just by recent graduates,” Bishop said.
The insurance council has launched a program and related website called Insuring Ohio Futures.
Also, new certificate and degree programs in insurance risk management are being introduced this fall at Columbus State Community College and Kent State University. University of Cincinnati is also considering a program.