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Sep 2020

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OK Boomer

Source: Asia Insurance Review | Jan 2020

There would be something seriously wrong if every generation saw things the same way. It has become standard practice to think that the generation that came before – or comes after – lacks perspective. And so, with the proliferation of social media, it’s not surprising that a meme like ‘OK Boomer’ should spread like wildfire as millennials and Gen Z bemoan how out-of-touch baby boomers are.
 
But what if there’s a serious message for insurers in the viral proliferation of ‘OK Boomer’ and the difficulties of attracting millennials and Gen Z into the insurance workforce? It’s uncanny how often this theme has been repeated recently.
 
Mike Morrissey – the doyen of the International Insurance Society – touched on it during a brilliant keynote address at the China Rendezvous last November in Shanghai when he pointed to the burning issue of “the emerging issue of talent development.”
 
“For many young men and women, a career in insurance may not appear to be very exciting,” Mr Morrissey said. “But we can’t make an industry out of what’s left. Talent has to be our number one priority.”
 
After Mr Morrissey had shone a spotlight on the problem, I started hearing it all over the place.
 
A couple of weeks later at 29th Pacific Insurance Conference in Hong Kong Taikang Life Insurance senior executive Candy Yuen made a very similar point when she said while there were plenty of women in the industry, few of them make it to the C-suite. Perhaps partly because of this, she added, the industry may find it even harder to attract the best talent in future. “Our industry is suffering a severe shortage of talent – and research shows that only 4% of millennials want to join insurance,” Ms Yuen said.
 
If only 4% of millennials – then I am guessing the figure for Gen Z will be correspondingly low.
Unsurprisingly the same theme emerged during the Dive-In festival in Singapore in November when AIG Singapore president and CEO Christian Sandric pointed to data that indicated that nearly 70% of people looking for new jobs considered diversity a major factor in choosing new jobs. “You got to ask yourself in your respective organisations, how do you retain talent? How do you attract talent? Is it purely based on pay?” he said. Clearly not any more.
 
Aviva Asia executive chairman Chris Wei echoed the refrain at the same event – and then went a little further: “Organisations flourish because of people, especially knowledge-based industries like ours. Leaders need to recognise that diverse businesses reflecting diverse customer bases simply perform better. If you have a leadership that only welcomes and supports a homogeneous workforce, then you will probably have a homogeneous customer base and not have a great deal of success,” he said.
 
Elsewhere in this issue readers will find AIA group chief strategy and corporate development officer Mark Saunders making the point that the roots of life insurance stretch back at least as far as ancient Egypt. That’s quite a legacy to inherit. For it to continue into the future will require a level of inclusivity and social awareness that Gen Z presently seems to think the insurance sector lacks.
 
There needs to be a collective effort to promote insurance as being a force for good – and not a loose collection of profit-driven corporates more concerned about return on equity than helping people. Otherwise the sector risks missing out on the vital contribution that brightest millennials and Gen Z can bring because they will be looking for work in sectors that are more in line with their own world view. A 
 
Paul McNamara
Editor
Asia Insurance Review
 
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