SI Review: February 2012

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Center Stage

Laser Focus

The Jacobson Group specializes in the insurance industry and recently introduced a standalone RPO

The Jacobson Group is featured in this month’s Center Stage. The Chicago-based firm was founded in 1971 and focuses on serving the insurance industry, providing everything from executive search to temporary staffing. Recently, the firm rolled out a standalone recruitment process outsourcing (RPO) service line for the insurance industry. We interviewed Co-CEO Richard L. Jacobson and Senior Vice President David E. Coons.

Q: Please describe The Jacobson Group.

Richard L. Jacobson: We provide solutions to help the insurance industry with its talent acquisition requirements. And when I say the insurance industry, really, I’m talking about three different industries: There’s the property and casualty industry, the life and disability industry, and the health insurance industry. I say it that way because they each operate independently, but our focus is on all three.

What helps set The Jacobson Group apart?

Jacobson: What staffing firms do is pick whether they are a temporary staffing firm, contingent recruiting service or a retained executive search practice, or maybe two of the three. It’s rare for a staffing firm to focus on one industry and then provide all those services. In fact, there’s not really any firm that I’m aware of doing it the way we do. What we do is take a laser focus on the insurance industry, try to understand all of their talent acquisition needs and then provide solutions to all of those needs.

How did The Jacobson Group get involved in insurance staffing?

Jacobson: My father was an underwriter for CNA [an insurance provider] back in the ’60s. He was recruited to join a firm that specialized in contingent recruiting, or direct placement as we now call it. He did that for about five years and then started his own firm, which was focused basically on the same thing, direct placement for the insurance industry. Over the years, we have added service offerings, all the while keeping the focus on the insurance industry.

What does your firm do in terms of innovation?

Jacobson: We really try to view our services through the lens of what our clients are trying to accomplish and then tailor what we do to that perspective. For instance, the ’08 crash hit our industry very hard. Our clients still needed help, but they were facing significant budgetary pressures. Many of our solutions are temporary services involving rare talent, that talent is often not available in a local market, so we travel it in. That model became very difficult in the ’08-’09 environment; so we developed a packaged work-at-home product to serve our clients’ needs in a cost-conscious manner. We can actually provide all of the necessary off -site technology, set everything up and deliver someone who’s ready to go without the travel expense. This talent can be senior-level, it can be a very technical individual; like an actuary who’s needed for development or for the review of asset liability models; or it can be someone at the lower level. We can even help support customer service centers remotely through this work-at-home model.

In our industry, compliance is very important. In developing our work-at-home program, we had to establish and maintain a very detailed and bulletproof compliance program.

Why did you decide to go into RPO?

David E. Coons: It’s not new to us in terms of a service offering, but rather part of the natural evolutionary process of the services that we provide to our clients.

In some shape or form, clients have been outsourcing part of their recruiting process to us for the past 40 years. As those needs have become more sophisticated and as they have grown larger — such as high volume staffing at call centers or claim centers or other areas of operations where a large quantity of direct hires are needed on a regular, recurring basis or even a project basis — it became a natural evolution for us to take the services that we offer to the next level and to provide a more structured standalone model in the form of RPO.

It will allow us to tailor or even customize a solution to meet a client’s needs. For instance, a client may need simple name list generation or they may require something a little broader in terms of sourcing, screening and scheduling candidates, and that’s where their needs end. On the other hand, some clients require a full end-to-end solution and we can provide that as well.

Clients often will want to scale a solution much like they would scale their own operations, but they want to do it in a sense that it’s on when they need it and off when they don’t. RPO allows them to do that and not only in one particular environment — it’s very mobile as well. We can transition our RPO solutions very easily from one client location to another, because we provide that service through a centralized environment.

What are The Jacobson Group’s future plans?

Jacobson: We’ve been on Staffing Industry Analysts’ fastest-growing staffing firm list in the past and last year we actually rolled out an internal goal to be back on that list. Growth has always been a really important part of how we define ourselves. We are getting back to that high-growth mode. We’re coming off a really strong year and we are definitely on pace to do what we think we need to do to get back on that list. Our number one focus is continuing that high growth rate for the next several years. The way we do that is to maintain our laser-like focus on our industry. We feel like the best way we can add value is by continuing to understand the changing needs of the industry that we serve and then reacting to those needs. The second thing we need to do to continue to be successful is innovation, like we talked about earlier — staying on top of the changes in our industry, making sure we are aware of how those changes are impacting the talent needs of our industry, and then staying ahead of those trends.

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