Looking into the future is an imprecise undertaking at best. But when Joe Deems, Executive Director of the National Risk Retention Association (NRRA), prognosticates what’s coming for the risk retention group (RRG) segment of the captive insurance industry, he’s sure about this: “The future lies in today’s young people.” Also, “Once you get young people coming in, a great deal of technological innovation is likely to follow.”

Unfortunately, Deems admits, most young people these days have little or no interest in building a career in insurance. Why? “They live in a world permeated with fast-paced technology, innovation, entrepreneurship, and YouTube achievements. It’s a world that doesn’t perceive the insurance industry as embracing any of those.”

Numerous colleges and universities across the country do have solid academic curricula dedicated to insurance careers — actuarial, risk management, underwriting, and so forth. These courses do not suffer from a lack of students interested in the field. So where, then, can things go wrong?

“The traditional insurance industry — which is the segment most of the public is exposed to — is not known for over-paying its entry-level personnel,” Deems says. “Career advancement is slow and methodical. There is no suggestion of room for entrepreneurship, an important draw for today’s young people. Indeed, the industry is portrayed — incorrectly in my opinion — as being unwilling or unable to change with the times.”

To further complicate matters, Deems points out, career development events, company outreach programs, and internships tend to expose prospective employees to environments where job duties are repetitive, mundane, and highly structured. They’re environments where creativity is not necessarily encouraged. Says Deems: “It’s not surprising the young people come out saying, ‘I may not want to do this for a living.’”

Experiencing a Different Side

Here is where CRISP — NRRA’ Collegiate Research Initiative Shadow Program — comes in. CRISP seeks to show college students a side of RRG and captive insurance that is interesting, engaging, and challenging.

CRISP’s genesis harkens back to NRRA’s National Conference two years ago, when a student in attendance spoke about the lack of enthusiasm among young people for pursuing careers in insurance. His comments sparked an idea that he then molded into a concept. Other students in attendance jumped on it. During the year that followed — with nurturing and counsel from NRRA — CRISP was born.

How does the program work? A group of students from participating educational institutions coalesce into a “shadowing” team. They shadow — hang out in a structured and purposeful way — with a number of key risk retention group or other captive insurance leaders, as well as vendors, in their geographical area, each for a half or full day.

The participants then collaborate and create a report with two main purposes. The first is to educate colleges and universities about possible changes to their curricula to better reflect the real-world benefits and positive features of the RRG and captive insurance industries. The second is to enlighten insurance leaders themselves as to how to more effectively engage with students so they will become future employees.

The Unique CRISP Outreach

Although a number of captive insurance associations have initiated outreach programs for students and universities, Deems says CRISP is unique: “For one thing, it is student-owned and operated. I insist that the students design it themselves and make it work. When they ask me how to do something, I tell them, ‘Go figure it out. This is how the real world works. I’m here for you as an adviser, but the rest is up to you.’”

The program requires the commitment of a faculty advisor from each school. NRRA secures the industry executives and vendors to be shadowed; the association also provides a key team leader in the geographical vicinity where the program takes place.

Finally, CRIPS’s potential networking opportunities are as critical as the shadowing component of the program. “We get captive industry leaders networking with one another; at the same time, young people are learning to network with each other and with the industry leaders. All of it is with a common goal and purpose.” Deems says that for many students, “this is the first, and sometimes only, chance college students have to network with actual leaders in the industry — and that is extremely valuable in itself.”

Bottom line: Through its College Research Initiative and Shadow Program, NRRA is helping create a robust future for the RRG and captive insurance industries.