The Top 11 Schools for Insurance Technology Talent

The Top 11 Schools for Insurance Technology Talent

To fill the tech talent pipeline, insurers are developing collaborative relationships with educational institutions and touting the opportunities for IT professionals in the insurance industry. Here are some of the schools that industry experts consider the best sources for building the next-gen insurance IT workforce.

Insurance carriers provide outstanding career opportunities for IT professionals with a variety of talents and training, but the industry remains something of a "best kept secret." Students from the most prestigious schools are likely to aim at other, "more exciting" industries or at vanguard technology companies such as Google and Facebook.

But some of the most talented people come out of schools that deserve greater recognition for the quality of their graduates, and insurers have found value in developing relationships with these institutions. While insurers tend to engage with local and regional universities, Insurance & Technology has identified 11 institutions of higher learning that multiple carriers rate as outstanding institutions to tap for highly qualified IT talent.

"When most people contemplate the idea of working for an insurance company, they think of the stereotypical insurance salesman, or a large, bloated, bureaucratic, stodgy, paper-intensive organization," laments Mark Clark, CIO at Jackson National Life ($120 billion in assets.) "In fact, this industry is very focused on automation and as a result is building an impressive array of technology."

Clark notes that the technology within the insurance enterprise ranges from modern Java-based systems using artificial intelligence to large mainframe systems consisting of millions of lines of code. "Working here, you can program in a variety of languages and use any of the major database technologies on a variety of hardware platforms. We have two state-of-the-art data centers with thousands of servers," he relates. "Both established professionals and people contemplating entering the field would find Jackson a fascinating place to work."

Clark reports that Jackson works closely with several local universities, including Michigan State University, to attract high-quality IT talent to the Lansing, Mich.-based insurer. Still, he remarks, "Clearly we need to do a better job of getting the word out to universities and IT recruiters about the opportunities available in our industry."

The secret to successful recruiting isn't picking the right schools, says Michael Kim, chief administrative officer, Torus Insurance (London); rather, it's picking the right five in your region. "Kids out of MIT are going to work at Google or McKinsey," he says. "Students from schools such as Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute are more likely to be happy to work with a large insurance company, and many of the people hired out of RPI are very comparable to talent from the most prestigious schools."

Kim reckons that at an Ivy League school, about 85 percent of the students will be highly talented. "There's a smaller pool of those at an institution such as RPI, but there's much less competition for the talent," he says. "The top 10 percent of students at such schools are comparable to top talent anywhere."

Barbara Koster, CIO of Newark, N.J.-based Prudential Financial, reports partnering with five local institutions in the New York/New Jersey area, including Stevens Tech in Hoboken, N.J. "We have good relationships with the universities, and in some cases we're able to influence the curriculum," she says. "Our success in recruiting quality students is built around relationships that give us a view to students' qualifications and that connect to an on-boarding process that starts, in some cases, with internships and mentoring."

The Hanover's associations with universities have grown with the company's expanding geographic footprint. "Our business needs have grown enormously with expansion into the west and an evolving specialty capability," says Mike Clifton, the Worcester, Mass.-based carrier's CIO. Clifton mentions both cross-town Worcester Polytechnic Institute and the University of Georgia (Athens) among the super-regional P&C company's educational partners. He cites the latter as a source of both IT-trained candidates and graduates of a risk management program with specific concentrations in risk analysis, risk management, underwriting, employee benefits analysis, claims adjusting and loss control, among other insurance-specific tracks.

"Partnerships with educational institutions enable insurers to build their IT talent pipelines," affirms Margaret Resce Milkint, managing partner with search firm Jacobson Group in Chicago. Insurance talent recruitment for both IT and business, she says, is moving away from generalists toward the cultivation of talent with strong, insurance-specific training. "The early movers will gain a competitive advantage over those slower to pick up on the trend."

What follows are some of the top schools identified by our experts as the best places to find tomorrow's highly skilled insurance IT workforce.