The life insurance industry needs to focus on talent management as it deals with an aging advisor force and a critical need for new skill sets, according to industry executives who spoke at the LIMRA and LOMA Canada Annual Conference in Toronto on Thursday.

Evolving technology and changing customer expectations are putting heavy pressure on the industry to innovate, which is driving the need for new types of talent, the speakers said.

“We clearly are seeing an evolution,” said Todd Silverhart, corporate vice president and director of insurance research at LIMRA. Specifically, he said, customers are increasingly demanding an experience that incorporates modern technology and convenience with superior service.

In addition, insurers are realizing the importance of collecting and analyzing data in order to better understand — and serve — their customers. However, many companies are struggling to determine how to manage the data they have and how to use them to their advantage, said Richard Boire, senior vice president, Boire Filler Division, at Environics Analytics.

“They’re saying, ‘We have all this data, but what do we do with it?’,” Boire said.

As a result, demand for data scientists among insurance companies is set to surge in the years ahead, the speakers said.

Demand is also growing for younger workers, and especially younger advisors, said Rino D’Onofrio, president and CEO of Mississauga, Ont.-based RBC Life Insurance Co. and senior vice president of Canadian insurance business with Royal Bank of Canada. He pointed to data showing that the average advisor in Canada is 62, which is also the average age at which Canadians retire.

“It’s a mature industry,” said D’Onofrio, who is also chairman of the board of directors at Windsor, Conn.-based LL Global Inc., the parent organization of LIMRA and LOMA. “It seems like every time I see this metric — the average age of the advisor — it’s older than the last time I saw it.”

The industry faces challenges attracting new talent. D’Onofrio pointed to LIMRA research showing that nine out of 10 millennials said no when asked whether they were interested in a career in insurance.

“They want to work for organizations that are investing in forward technology, and changing the world. Making a real difference in the world,” D’Onofrio said. “When I hear that, it gives me pause … because that’s actually what we do.”

Thus, the insurance industry needs to work at improving its reputation and communicating the positive impact that insurance has on individuals and their families, he noted.

“When we’re recruiting and hiring people,” D’Onofrio said, “we don’t talk enough about … [how] we change lives every day.”

As technology advances, some jobs in the insurance industry are likely to be replaced, D’Onofrio said. Specifically, he said artificial intelligence (AI) and bots could eventually replace certain back office roles.

“AI and bots will become more prevalent,” D’Onofrio said. “The question is, are they going to replace workers or are they going to complement workers?”

Although he suspects technology will displace some types of workers, others will find they can benefit from working alongside technology.

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