This interview was originally published in Insurance Business magazine, and is shared here with permission and thanks. Read the original here
Amid supermarket shortages and rising inflation, 2023 was informally dubbed the year of ‘grow your own’, with fruit and vegetable grow kit vendors reporting increased consumer interest and spiking sales. Pro MGA Solutions has adopted the moniker too, according to CEO Danny Maleary (pictured), as he offered insights into the challenges facing the managing general agents (MGA) market as it looks to plug the talent gap impacting the wider insurance ecosystem.
As CEO of the MGA incubator platform, he has a direct line into the concerns voiced by the sector but also of the solutions essential to creating a healthy talent pipeline. For Pro MGA Solutions – and also its parent company Pro Global – these solutions include a range of different initiatives, he said, with some aimed at attracting new faces to the market while others focus on retaining and supporting existing talent.
“What you need to have is a blend,” he said. “Of course, you need experienced individuals but you also need a plan of action about how to fill the gap they’ll leave when they eventually retire. For me, when we came out of lockdown and we saw the business growing rapidly, it was a real case of understanding how important it is that we overcome the challenge of finding the right people to allow that growth trajectory to continue.”
Top tips for retaining great MGA talent
On retaining talent, Maleary highlighted that the business is implementing a range of initiatives aimed at bringing people back into the market, some of whom left to take maternity or caring leave, and some who recently retired. The hybrid working environment of the post-lockdown world has created more flexibility, he said, and is encouraging some individuals to come back on a part-time basis and share their experiences, expertise and skills in order to nurture, coach and mentor younger professionals.
“We’re doing a lot of work around shadowing,” he said. “We’ve got some really good, young, ambitious individuals who don’t know too much about insurance who are shadowing some of our more experienced colleagues. And that could be around business development, or regulatory and compliance work, or account management.
“What that’s doing is creating a continuous work stream of people who will be well-placed to take the business forward to the next level at some point in the future. Home growing is for me the important thing and it’s the mission we’ve been on for a good period of time now. And it does take time but what you get back is the immense satisfaction of seeing people grow and fulfil their own vision and aspirations.”
Why some insurance professionals need to loosen the reins on young talent
In the past, one of Maleary’s pet peeves with the insurance industry has been the reluctance of some more seasoned individuals to open opportunities up to new talent and to give them a chance to shine. That’s definitely changing over time, he said, but it’s not changing fast enough, and the sector generally needs to take a healthier attitude towards encouraging the development of young talent.
“For instance, we’ve got an individual who will be leaving us in the coming months, and we’ll actually be doing a bit of an article about it to say how fantastic it is that they’re enhancing their career,” he said. “For me, you’ve got to be grown up about it, it’s not a point of embarrassment that they want to do something different and take on a new challenge. I feel proud that we’ve helped them get from where they were to where they are, and where they’re going to get to. And we’ll always be here for them as a mentor and as a sounding board.”
Diversification – the key to creating a healthier ecosystem
Discussing how MGAs can bolster the talent pipeline, Maleary emphasised the importance of diversification. Talent drives have got to expand beyond London, he said, which is why his team is investing in creating or expanding its talent pools in areas including Gloucester, Liverpool and Glasgow – and is looking to diversify this further beyond the UK and into Europe and the US. In addition to creating a seamless work stream, this will also allow the firm to align itself accordingly with the types of clients it’s seeing.
“If I look at our client base, we’ve got 30-plus clients and we’re managing 43 MGAs, and they are so diverse in terms of language, culture and their approach,” he said. “Some are the traditional underwriters that you’d expect to see in the city, and some are very techy people to whom the insurance aspect is new.
“So, what you need is a really good spread of skills and understanding, not just around the technical aspects but also the cultural differences that exist. Within the talent pool you have available to you, you have to be able to draw down on their capabilities to support a client. You have to align culture and values, align understanding, align language, and align youth with experience – and then just blend it all together.”
What does it take to open up talent pathways?
It takes time and careful consideration to really build up a strong pipeline, he said, and it’s only possible with the right like-minded individuals around you who are willing to go out of their way to find that time. Maleary noted that he himself continues to lean on the subject matter expertise of mentors, some of whom are older and some of whom are younger than him. As a business leader, he strongly believes that you can’t be afraid of continuously learning and continuously developing your skillsets, your capabilities and your outlook.
“The challenge is that the talent of the future isn’t sitting out there on a shelf waiting for you to pick them,” he said. “You’ve got to home-grow them, which is challenging but it’s also the fun part. And it brings in so many fresh ideas about different approaches to embracing new solutions and new technologies and understanding how these can be utilised. It’s proof that an old dog like me can learn new tricks. Because it’s about not being afraid to change and not being afraid to learn.”
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