A shallow talent pool coupled with today’s rapid speeds of innovation are the biggest impediments to insurers’ efforts in going digital, according to chief executive officers from Munich Re and State Auto Insurance Companies.

“All products were new once, but the single biggest difference now is speed. What used to take 12 to 15 years to build doesn’t take as much time anymore,” said Munich Re CEO Anthony Kuczinski, during a panel discussion Tuesday at the Property/Casualty Insurance Joint Industry Forum.

While educating regulators on new technologies—such as the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence—remains an obstacle for carriers to digitalize, a greater problem is insurers’ hesitance to take on innovation risks for infrastructure reasons, Kuczinski says. Organizations worry about disrupting current distribution flow while seeking newer opportunities. The same concept applies in moving IT to a new model while still keeping infrastructure intact.

To counter those concerns, insurance companies have turned to partnering with insurtech startups to get around fully committing, said Michael LaRocco of State Auto.

“Insurers are doing strategic partnerships to get their foot in without going too deep,” he said. “They are comfortable and need a willingness to make tough calls.”

Where’s the Talent?

An estimated 400,000 insurance professionals are expected to retire over the next couple of years, according to data released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Citing the information, Kuczinski says he is confident in Munich Re’s ability to hire and retain new personnel; mainly because universities are churning out more math majors to pick from.

“It’s a war for talent,” he said. “We’re not the only industry looking for it.”

Catering to millennials’ preferred work environments can give carriers a strategic advantage in filling the talent gap, LaRocco added. His company recently did away with dress codes, annual performance reviews and is working to create a more open work space.

“The insurtech changes are real. Startups are here trying to break through these old unfortunate definitions of the industry,” he said. “The reality of our crappy technology and legacy systems is a part of the problem. [But] this provides a turning point opportunity for us to do together.”

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