Barbara Bufkin talks to the RMI Advisory Council at CU Denver Business School

With current managers approaching retirement and a shortage of young people entering the field, the risk management and insurance industry faces a significant “talent gap” in the coming years.

That was the message delivered by Barbara C. Bufkin, chief operating officer of the Global Strategic Advisory of Guy Carpenter & Co., at an RMI Program Update on Feb. 4. Bufkin talked about “Insurance, Innovation, Inclusion. The New Culture. Metrics to Success” as guest speaker of the RMI Advisory Council in the CU Denver Business School.

The Business School launched its RMI Program in Spring 2011 and has already experienced 28 percent compounded growth in enrollment over three years, including a 22 percent spike between Fall 2013 and Spring 2014. So CU Denver is providing an infusion of educated workers for an industry that is actively seeking new talent.

By 2018, Bufkin said, the number of RMI workers over age 55 is expected to rise to one in four. At the same time, she said, the annual yield from RMI schools in the United States are forecast to be 85 to 90 percent shy of meeting industry recruitment targets.

Solving the talent gap will require “a trapeze-like letting go of the attitudes and conventions that have shaped our traditions to date,” Bufkin said. She noted that the insurance industry is one of the oldest and most important industries, but one that suffers from a perception of “being uncool” and speaking in “insurion … a dense and curious idiom.”

Continuing with the trapeze metaphor, Bufkin said the industry needs to learn from falling and respond with renewed determination. “In point of fact, insurance does present intellectually challenging, professionally interesting and significant social value, plus a good work-life balance,” she said. “Certainly, this would be an attractive proposition to young people of both genders.”

Forward-thinking approaches to inclusion and diversity, as well as power sharing, are necessary to attract both Generation Xers — 33- to 46-year-olds — and the Millennials. “Young women and men entering the workforce in the 21st century are the first generation entering a corporate world that can no longer abide by old management paradigms like command and control, or winner take all,” Bufkin said. “There is a need for a proactive strategy to include visibility, sponsorship and respect. … It needs to start with each one of us.”

Sue Wyman, director of the Business School’s Graduate Career Connections, said she found the discussion interesting. She said the RMI industry would be well served to sharpen its branding to give people a broader perspective of its appeal, to provide more scholarships for students (the Business School’s RMI Program offers many), to stress the availability of jobs, and to impress upon Millennials the long-term career opportunities within RMI.

Ajeyo Banerjee, associate professor of finance and director of the CU Denver Business School’s RMI Program, stressed that academic institutions play a critical role in closing the talent gap. “Universities that have academic programs in risk management and insurance can really play a big role in being that intermediary which facilitates the process.”

Bufkin said she was impressed by the RMI Program’s Advisory Council, which filled the room for her presentation. “This is great,” she said. “With the Advisory Council, this is going to be amazing in terms of your ability to brand, communicate and promote the talent coming into the industry. It’s all about you really being here.”

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