November 20, 2020
Given the change of course that has happened in the world, we wanted to provide expert opinions on what aspiring graduates can do to start off their careers in an uncertain economic climate. We wanted to know what skills will be more important, where the economy is doing relatively well, and if there will be any lasting effects on the job market.
Companies are looking for candidates that can handle the new responsibilities of the job market. Recent graduates actually have an advantage because they are comfortable using newer technologies and have been communicating virtually their whole lives. They can take what they've learned and apply it immediately.
We spoke to professors and experts from several universities and companies to get their opinions on where the job market for recent graduates is heading, as well as how young graduates entering the industry can be adequately prepared. Here are their thoughts.
Saint Cloud State University
Department of Finance, Insurance and Real Estate
Joseph D. Haley Ph.D.: I don't have much to say on this question because I haven't heard anything about the job market being affected by the pandemic. Certain lines of insurance may have reduced exposures and claims activity. For example, working from home likely impacts workers' compensation claims, and reduced economic activity and labor hours reduces workers' compensation exposures. People are driving less, so there is less auto exposure, and probably claims. These lowered activity levels may affect hiring.
Joseph D. Haley Ph.D.: The first item to discuss here is 'big data,' which isn't exactly new but is definitely here to stay. By big data, I mean insurance companies are gathering a large amount of data on individuals and businesses alike and using the data to price insurance products. Insurers use multiple credit report variables, make and model of a car, length of commute, and many other data points to price their products. A consumer's first thought might be, "How is my credit report indicative of my driving?" The answer is the insurers have discovered the credit report variables help them determine the probability of someone filing a claim.
The second item to discuss here, the developing area known as 'insuretech.' Insuretech can be described as the technology being developed to make insurance methods more efficient. For example, maybe Uber and Lyft drivers can buy insurance on a per-ride basis. If developed, such transactions might take place multiple times a day. The coverage purchased more closely matches the exposure. Another example, which is already found a place in the market, is devices installed in cars to monitor insureds driving habits. I think smartphones can be used for this as well. The purpose is, again, to more closely match exposure risk to price. I suspect there are many insuretech ideas out there that I haven't even heard of.
Joseph D. Haley Ph.D.: I think the demand for risk management and insurance graduates will increase in the next five years. Economic activity is the main driver of insurance demand. The more businesses, the more goods and services being produced, the more wealth is accumulated, the greater the demand for insurance of all types. Individuals and businesses want to protect their property and income flow from direct loss, lawsuits, untimely poor health, and death.
Alicja Foksińska: In the world of auditing, I believe that auditing the "intangible" is on the horizon, which means that auditors will need to understand what data their company collects and how they can use this data for an audit. Data analytics will be key, as more audit shops will be connecting multiple data sources to uncover ever deeper insights of the business. Rather than focusing on using a specific new technology or software, increasing maturity of data analytics and advancing its application on the data that the company collects, or should collect, will be more important for IT auditors going forward.
For example, company culture is not easily quantifiable as its scope is wide and divided among many different segments comprising of employee benefits and wellbeing, diversity and inclusion, and continuous learning opportunities for the employees. With more companies allowing their employees to permanently work from home, auditors will be asked to answer questions ranging from employee productivity, burnout, to employee identity with the company.
It will be the job of auditors to look at the data landscape of the company and see what data points could help tell the story of the "intangibles," thus unveiling new knowledge for the company.
Todd Weninman: The big challenge for students graduating in 2020 is that public accounting firms (the most common path of entry in to the field) reduce their hiring classes during economic downturns, so there are just fewer opportunities to go around. That means that some students will have to get a little creative with the start of their career. I would look for any roles related to audit/accounting or in IT for those looking to pursue an IT audit career, so that you are still doing work related to the field, and then try to transition into public accounting a year or so down the road. Contract engagements or temporary work in accounting or IT-related areas can also be a way to get your feet wet in the field. This would also be a great time to study and sit for the CPA, CISA or other key certifications, or to take some grad-level coursework. The good news is that the accounting/audit professions are doing very well, and if you can get your foot in the door, a couple years down the road, companies will be fighting over you.