As the U.S. population continues to age, workforce perpetuation continues to be a growing concern for many industries. Insurance is no exception.
The insurance industry has a lot to offer to the next workforce generation if it can grab their attention—which it increasingly is. Insurance industry awareness among members of Generation Z in 2019 increased 56% over 2015, according to a survey by Invest and Applied Systems. When it comes to choosing their future careers, Gen Z survey respondents said real work experience like an internship has the most influence.
This year, the Selective Insurance Collegiate Competition helped provide that real work experience to seven teams of college students across the country.
“There are so many different facets of the insurance industry,” says Chuck Musilli, executive vice president, chief human resources officer, Selective Insurance. “This competition enabled the students to build their business and financial acumen by gaining valuable insights into key topics impacting the insurance marketplace, and learn how their own interests and abilities can be applied to an exciting and fulfilling career in insurance.”
The competition, first started by Invest in 2017, and later hosted with the Big “I” Diversity Council last year, allows students to practice running an insurance agency, with the complexities of managing a business and exercising entrepreneurial decisions and strategies through a virtual online simulation developed by PriSim.
“In just four weeks, students who compete in the collegiate competition learn important business concepts as insurance agency owners,” says Deborah Pickford, executive director, Invest. “This competition is a real-world interactive online experience that teaches college students how to make smart business decisions that ultimately impact their ‘agency’s’ revenue and bottom line.”
The students were evaluated on their overall performance and business results. They were supported in their efforts by university program directors and professors, local insurance agents serving as agency mentors, leaders from Selective and a dedicated staff member from PriSim, as well as Invest.
“Participating in the competition is hard work and very challenging and I am proud of the student teams, the professors and the mentors who took part in the 2020 competition,” Pickford adds. “Congratulations to all!”
For the second year in a row, the team from Indiana State University (ISU) placed first in the competition. Middle Tennessee University (MTU) took second place and Appalachian State University (ASU) took third. The winning teams will receive a chance to present their strategies to Selective’s leadership.
“This was a good opportunity to expand my knowledge outside the classroom and learn how an agency works,” says Erika Perry, leader of the ISU team. “The competition brings together all the different aspects of an agency and provides the opportunity to dig deeper into the inner workings of what an agency does.”
The ISU team’s winning strategy centered around providing a healthy and fulfilling work environment for the simulated agency’s employees. “We focused on training and keeping the employees happy,” Perry explains. “We felt that training was the key to longevity for our agency.”
The ISU team was mentored by Peter Forsee, vice president of finance at ONI Risk Partners in Indianapolis, Indiana.
“We’ve got strong partnerships with both ISU and Selective and love to be able to help and mentor students coming out of that program, as well as give back to the industry,” Forsee says. “Students learn things through books, but this is a way to apply education into real-life experience and all the variables that go into practical business decisions.”
“I saw how they bonded as a group and how they all pitched in to make decisions,” he continues. “It was a group effort. Everybody’s opinion was respected and everybody was chipping in.”
“This was a unique opportunity, and everybody had a great time,” says Brady Bruner, MTU’s team leader. “The biggest thing we learned is the importance of experience, and how greatly that can impact not only your revenues and market share but also customer service and customer attrition.”
The MTU team was mentored by Mike Stansbury, principal and sales agent of Elite Insurance Solutions, an independent insurance agency based in Franklin, Tennessee, and Jamie Noe, founder and CEO of Insurance Group of America, another Tennessee-based independent agency.
“This simulation allows the students to explore and learn, and they did that,” Stansbury says. “They touched all the bases and asked so many good questions in the process of learning. I’m very proud of the education they picked up over the six weeks we worked together.”
“Educating the next generation is a two-way street,” he says. “It’s rewarding to give information to students and for us to receive the energy and excitement of the young generation coming into the workforce. Men and women that I respected helped show me a great industry and a great opportunity to do noble work in the community. I’m so thankful for the opportunity to pay it forward.”
AnneMarie McPherson is IA news editor.