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09:04 PM
Kathy Burger
Kathy Burger
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Where the Jobs Are

Concerns about job losses in the insurance industry have been heightened with the renewed focus on outsourcing.

Concerns about job losses in the insurance industry have been heightened with the renewed focus on outsourcing. While technology is often identified as a key cause of insurance job cuts, the retrenchment has had as much to do with M&As and corporate financial problems as with outsourcing or process automation. But maybe the picture isn't as bleak as has been assumed. According to a report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, the most dramatic employment gains in the past 10 years have been in areas that require "people skills and emotional intelligence," leading with financial services sales, which added more than 248,000 jobs between 1994 and 2004 - a 78 percent increase. Not all these jobs are in insurance - a chunk would have to be in telemarketing and in banking. What is clear is the comittment being made to selling more to prospective and existing customers.

It's been a long time since there has been talk of agent disintermediation, as the multichannel distribution model has become the dominant strategy. Technology also has made it easier to prospect, screen, underwrite and service clients; pay accurate commissions; and develop targeted and more profitable products.

Meanwhile, reports the Dallas Fed, the number of tech-related jobs has shrunk: computer operators by 55 percent, telephone operators by 45 percent. As a liberal arts graduate, I find it encouraging that abilities aligned with emotional intelligence, imagination and creativity are rewarded; but pity the folks who excel in "analytic reasoning" and "formulaic intelligence." It also raises questions about the skills we are developing in students - the financial services workforce of tomorrow.

Katherine Burger is Editorial Director of Bank Systems & Technology and Insurance & Technology, members of UBM TechWeb's InformationWeek Financial Services. She assumed leadership of Bank Systems & Technology in 2003 and of Insurance & Technology in 1991. In addition to ... View Full Bio

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