Author: Louise Richardson
Susan Wilson, talent manager at Crombie Lockwood, is well aware that people don’t generally grow up dreaming of a career as an insurance broker, so she devised an intensive training programme designed to show young Gen Z adults just how diverse and interesting this particular field can actually be.
Wilson says that as a company Crombie Lockwood is committed to diversity. “Sixty percent of our employees are women, so we were doing okay on that front, but we knew that we needed more young people.”
“We wanted them to come from different backgrounds and to be at various stages, in terms of education – not necessarily graduates,” she says.
“It was also important to us to represent urban and rural living and different ethnicities.”
Wilson recruited through a number of different channels including Netstep, Niesh, which is an app designed for students, notices at tertiary institutions and internal referrals.
People who were interested in the programme sent in applications and were invited to do a video interview and psychometric testing to assess their suitability in terms of verbal and numeric skills.
Once Wilson had a short-list, applicants worked in with twenty existing Crombie Lockwood professionals and undertook group exercises in problem solving.
The group that eventually came together consisted of four young men and one young woman, coincidentally all aged 22.
Three were business graduates, one a maths graduate and the other a current student.
They first convened in February and Wilson says that it was a very intense time as they underwent an accelerated learning programme, getting to know about the business in general, the products they would eventually be selling, and the skills that are required for success.
“Others in the company were excited by what was happening, and wanted to be involved, so the group had a very rich experience, with lots of wisdom imparted to them,” says Wilson.
As various jobs and projects came up, people in the group would be assigned to them – with supervision, according to their abilities at the time.
“They really enjoyed having that responsibility and being able to apply what they’d learned and see results!” says Wilson.
By now it was clear that all group members were resilient under stress, motivated and naturally curious and all had excellent communication skills.
“That’s essential, in this business,” she says.
At the six-month mark as group members are certified as insurance brokers, they’ve been placed in appropriate roles around the country.
“For example, we’ve got one doing corporate work, another couple covering for employees on maternity leave and then we’ll rotate them so everybody has a broad experience,” says Wilson.
“We’re all still learning from each other and sometimes in unexpected ways. One group member was given a fairly laborious task to do in underwriting and before long he worked out how to speed that particular process up considerably, within our system, so everybody will benefit.”
Knowing that retention can be a problem in the insurance industry, Wilson says that Crombie Lockwood has invested a great deal in this first group in what they hope will be an ongoing annual intake.
“We will continue to support them as their careers progress, and there’s plenty of room for advancement and upskilling.
“Eventually each one will find the aspect of insurance that they really enjoy,” she says.
“It might be in commercial insurance or in specialist work; there are always lots of opportunities.”
The group of five who were strangers to each other in February are now close friends and the only woman feels as if she’s gained four brothers.
“They’ve all proved that there is strength in diversity,” says Wilson.