As I reflect upon my years in underwriting, I can’t help but think about the people and choices that shaped my career.
One of my most important choices came early on when I decided that underwriting was going to be a career and not just a job. That decision meant I was committed to becoming a professional underwriter, which led to becoming a Fellow of the Academy of Life Underwriters (FALU) and eventually serving on the Academy of Life Underwriting (ALU) and Association of Home Office Underwriters (AHOU) committees.
Through participation in these professional organizations, I met remarkable people, made lifelong friendships, and became part of something much bigger than myself. What we do as an industry is vital to the lives of countless individuals and families. We help people stay in their homes, send children to college, and recover financially after the loss of a loved one. By giving our time to advance this industry, we all become better: better actuaries or underwriters or claims professionals, better leaders and managers, and ultimately, better able to protect the people we serve.
Associations help us achieve this noble mission by ensuring that the insurance workforce meets professional standards, from administering exams to providing networking and educational opportunities. I know I continue to learn from every conversation, every panel discussion, every interaction with colleagues, clients, and even competitors. I represent a reinsurer with more than $1.5 trillion of mortality cover in the U.S., and it’s extremely important that the business ceded to RGA is underwritten appropriately. A well-informed, well-educated professional underwriter increases the likelihood that our risk is being managed effectively, with alignment of long-term objectives and expectations.
This is why RGA actively participates in regional and national underwriting and actuarial organizations, to say nothing of our involvement with broader industry organizations like MIB. We are a member of the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud, host our own cross-disciplinary fraud conference, and coordinate with LIMRA to share expertise on fraud detection and prevention. We recognize that we cannot take the continued existence of these organizations for granted, and the payoff is far greater than the investment.
Exposure to new ideas can help us all cope in this increasingly complex and overscheduled business lives. Every moment we take out of our busy schedules to share insights strengthens the industry as a whole; conversely, failure to do so can have serious long-term costs. According to McKinsey & Company, one-fourth of the insurance industry’s workforce will retire by this year,1 creating a deficit of potentially 400,000 positions. We must replace this retiring workforce and transfer the knowledge and experience accumulated over the course of decades within a compressed timeframe. Professional volunteers with experience and business instinct are irreplaceable in any industry, yet I would argue volunteers are needed even more urgently to bridge the insurance talent gap.
Are we building a workforce with the knowledge and the curiosity to move the industry forward? Judgment and experience will be required, and so will creativity. Professional associations provide the best platform, and volunteers often offer the best examples. After all, as Winston Churchill once wrote, “We make a living by what we do. We make a life by what we give.”