Those of us who have worked in and around the commercial Insurance industry understand that it has a great responsibility to society. Without insurance, trains wouldn’t leave the terminal, power stations wouldn’t produce electricity, sports events wouldn’t happen, banks wouldn’t open – day-to-day life would simply cease to function as people cannot afford to bear the risk of operating.
Insurers and Intermediaries have worked hard to understand the perils facing organisations of all sizes, from the ‘man-with-a-van’ to the global logistics company, working to ensure that they have recourse in the case of a major event that effects the continued operation of their business. It is a well-constructed insurance product that can provide that safety net. It is not just the policy itself, but the network of experts and specialists that the industry is linked with, that aids people in getting their homes and lives back to normal after a hurricane, that lets a hotel get back to renting rooms and employing staff after a fire, that supports a nation in turmoil recovering after a devastating earthquake and tsunami… Yet despite all this, the insurance industry is still perceived by many as being grey and uninspiring, and so struggles to attract the best and brightest talent to join its ranks.
There have been numerous periods when insurance has struggled to encourage talented young professionals to the industry, and this has left a dearth of experienced professionals to lead the business when the old guard decide to hang up their boots. In the current Market one would have to look very hard to find any organisation that boasts the larger proportion of its staff being aged between 35 and 50 years old. A meaningful point when it takes at least 7-10 years to build up a truly involved knowledge of a particular class of insurance (without industry experience at least).
However, that technical expertise is out there, and often the individuals who possess it also have a wealth of leadership skills. But this expertise, hiding out in the very industries insurance supports, are not waiting for an opportunity to switch sectors. Like most successful people, they will have dedicated themselves to the industry they are in as a result being passionate and enthusiastic. Whilst in many ways Insurance is a complex and challenging subject to comprehensively understand, individuals such as those just alluded to will invariably be quick studies, and able to rapidly turn their hand to something new. But few will have ever have considered Insurance as a viable career move.
So, is that because working in insurance is dull and unfulfilling? I think not. Everywhere you look in the industry there are Underwriters, Brokers, Loss Adjusters, Client Relationship Managers, etc. who spend 20, 30, or even more years of their life travelling around the world, forming long-lasting relationships with other professionals from every continent. They have the opportunity to visit factories, power-stations, film sets, music studios, sports arenas, concert venues, vineyards, farms, marinas, museums – the list is endless, and all to build relationships, the commodity that drives the industry.
To draw a comparison, in investment banking, an industry that has long been perceived as the ‘holy grail’ for the ambitious graduate, you get to work with a load of lifeless binary code. Although you may get to meet with a few customers, it is unlikely you will get an opportunity to build a lasting relationship with them.
So if insurance can offer someone the chance to actually make a difference to society, why does the industry find it so hard to attract the best people from other industries? Is it possible that being conservative by nature has caused the industry as a whole to hold back from showing its true colours?
It seems that the only time insurance is brought into the public eye is when there is a public outcry about dishonest sales tactics or everyone’s car insurance premiums going up to address the rise of morally-questionable claims being made! Even in those instances, the industry doesn’t roll out the talented and charismatic leaders of the industry to represent it. Instead it falls to the people who lay out the facts rather than try and mix in a bit of positive PR.
There is no question that there are some larger-than-life characters and personalities in the global insurance market – is it such a giant leap for someone to get out there, show a bit of pride, and publicise what the industry does when cataclysmic events occur?
Not least the work done before the event to minimise the risk of loss in case of an unexpected occurrence… If insurance as an industry really wants to diversify its workforce, which in the ever-developing world we live in is essential, then perhaps it needs to work on how it is perceived by the many, not the few. Or even if it is only interested in the few, work needs to be done to help those few realise that unlike many other industries, in Insurance they have such a breadth of opportunity to build an exciting and rewarding career.
Gareth is an experienced Head-hunter leading the (Re)Insurance practice at boutique search firm Flint Hyde Ltd. He provides insight across Broking, Insurance, and Reinsurance, whilst sourcing and representing mid-senior level (Re)Insurance Professionals, throughout the UK, Continental European, Asian, and American markets. Gareth’s client base includes Managing Agents, Global (Re)Insurance companies, smaller boutique (Re)Insurers and MGAs, as well as both major global and independent Brokers. He has built up an extensive network initially through his 5 ½ years in the (Re)Insurance market, and latterly through more than 10 years in recruitment, developing a thorough technical knowledge across most short- and long-tail classes of business.
Make sure you don’t miss any of our future articles by clicking “Follow” under Tony’s picture at the top of the article or by adding him as a LinkedIn connection.