Answering the Workforce Crisis

by RaeAnne Marsh


An inadequate talent pool is an issue for local businesses as their industry grows or its workforce diminishes. The construction industry, for example, ramping up in the aftermath of the recession, struggled to make up for the earlier exodus of workforce to other cities. But what if the workforce simply doesn’t exist? Two arms of the financial services industry have initiated programs to address their looming employment crisis.

“The insurance industry is growing in so many ways,” says Nicole Farr, communications manager for the Arizona Insurance Council, noting the business community in general is continuing to grow and “insurance is important to business, especially to a growing small-business community, to make sure they’re getting the right insurance and are covered when they need it.” A lot of insurance companies have regular hubs here — such as USAA in North Phoenix and State Farm in Tempe — but at the same time as new employment opportunities are being created much of the existing workforce is hitting retirement age.

“There’s not a lot of insurance education, especially in the West,” Farr says. Companies may address this gap through their own training programs. But to bring the insurance industry together and with the goal of “growing our own workforce,” the Arizona Insurance Council created the Arizona Insurance Institute to create insurance education in areas from business degrees to marketing/communication to actuarial degrees. It has garnered interest from the Maricopa Community Colleges and Arizona State University, according to Farr; ASU has instituted an analytical program for an actuarial degree.

Demographics is the key aspect AXA Advisors Southwest addresses in its response to the shortage of qualified employees. “The financial services industry is facing the fastest-growing demand for help,” says Dillan Micus, executive VP, noting nearly $60 trillion in U.S. wealth will change hands over the next 55 years, as 10,000 people turn 65 every day — and a significant percentage of financial advisors are in this baby boomer exodus.

“A lot of folks in the industry recruit other qualified advisors from each other. This does not solve the problem of an advisory pool,” Micus observes. Acknowledging that training is expensive and retention rates low, AXA Advisors Southwest decided to buck the trend and specifically target millennials and younger Gen X-ers. “We show them it’s a long-term career opportunity, not just a job.” The company is recruiting on multiple fronts, from new college graduates to people looking for a career change. To sustain the momentum, it is focusing on providing a company culture that fulfills the interests of this younger workforce — and, Micus notes, “No one in management is over 40.


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