What if I told you I work in a business that helps farmers in Kenya and Rwanda maintain their standard of living when drought destroys their crops? Or that my company replaces the income of small business owners in Guatemala when their business is shut down after an earthquake?

Executive Summary

Monica Ningen, Swiss Re’s head of property underwriting for the U.S. & Canada and chief property underwriter, offers some ideas about how the insurance industry can fix its talent crisis and attract more young people to the industry. One idea she reinforces: make sure prospective hires know what insurers and their employees do to make society a better place.

If I told you those things you might not realize I work in reinsurance, because I’m emphasizing the social good rather than talking about collecting a premium and paying claims. Doing good for society is something insurers shouldn’t be ashamed of; we need to reframe the conversation about insurance because we are so much more than risk models and balance sheets. And what better time to reframe this conversation than right now, during the second annual Insurance Careers Month? We have a compelling story to tell and it needs to be told now more than ever as we face up to the challenge of how to attract our next generation of colleagues.

According to a Lumesse report, “social responsibility is the new religion” for millennials. Employers are embracing this new religion, using their influence and money to facilitate positive outcomes in society. Examples are all around us:

  • Microsoft deploys its Internet of Things technology to bring solar power to clinics and schools in Nigeria.
  • Disney partners with the nonprofit LGBTQ community to sponsor a national campaign that helps kids stand up to bullying.
  • BMW awards grants and assistance to nonprofits around the world that work to bridge cultural and religious gaps in multicultural societies.

It’s no coincidence that organizations are investing in the underserved at a time when millennials are saturating the workforce. They want to work for a company with a social conscience, and that’s not lost on business leaders. PwC finds 59 percent of CEOs believe “top talent wants to work with organizations that share their social values and 67 percent feel it will be important in five years.” Moreover, nearly two-thirds of those leaders say corporate social responsibility is “core to their business and not a standalone program.”

At Swiss Re, our vision is that of a more resilient world, and our mission is to help make it that way. But the societal good we do in the insurance industry is a well-kept secret. As an industry, we’re not great self-promoters, so we risk losing out on the best young talent to other industries.

When I was growing up, my grandmother advised me to “go do good work, work that’s good for the world.” Armed with a degree in Economics and Business Management I embarked on a career in insurance. Along the way, I’ve come to see an industry that’s less about underwriting models and more about helping people move forward and face the future after a catastrophe.

In 2011, I had the opportunity to travel to Joplin, Missouri with a client insurance company to deliver a check to a policyholder who’d lost their home in that city’s historic tornado. As we passed block after block of flattened foundations and twisted trees, the scenes of devastation washing over me, something else began to emerge: the resolve of the people. Witnessing the spirit of the residents and seeing the smiles on their faces as we arrived, I recognized that we as an industry brought a small measure of hope as well as financial stability to that community, to help them put their lives back together.

A few weeks later, I spent the day in Joplin on a service project, gathering and hauling storm debris with about 60 coworkers. We witnessed firsthand the impact of volunteerism and the power of a promise—to be there when people need us. That promise is the heart of insurance, it’s not just a slogan or an abstract notion. Who wouldn’t want to work for an employer that contributes to the rebuilding of lives and communities?

Besides helping people in tough times, insurance is aligned with the millennial ethos in other ways. The “sharing economy” helps participants gain more benefit from owned assets. Similarly, insurance is about sharing risk and reward.

Lemonade and other startups are borne of innovation. Many of these concepts are inspired by the millennial generation and it’s imperative that we open our doors wide to the best and brightest of this generation and their ideas. Why? One, because they are tomorrow’s consumer and two, to remain viable in a rapidly changing world.

Two years ago Deloitte discovered that a “sense of purpose” inspired six in 10 millennials to work with their current employers. Today the overarching theme is “sense of empowerment,” the latest survey finding “many millennials feel unable to exert any meaningful influence on some of society’s biggest challenges; but, in the workforce, they can feel a greater sense of control.”

Let’s champion their passion by providing them with a long career runway and the tools to develop solutions for a better society.