Young people entering the jobs market tend not to make a beeline for the industry – but that has to change fast as the Asian insurance market is poised to mushroom in size
Few people grow up dreaming of a career in risk management or insurance. Whether they deem it dull, tedious or unfulfilling, people are generally more attracted to the perceived excitement of a career in banking or finance.
However, according to Swiss Re Corporate Solutions, low insurance penetration and a growing middle-income sector will combine to make Asia the biggest insurance market in 2017 – and this gigantic industry will need talent to make it tick.
Thankfully, steps are being taken to draw attention to the types of jobs on offer. Last year in Australia, the ANZIIF (Australian and New Zealand Institute of Insurance and Finance), with support from NIBA (National Insurance Brokers Association), created Careers in Insurance to boost the industry’s profile.
“Our research showed that 94% of insurance businesses struggled to find talent,” says Meg Brideson, ANZIIF’s general manager of marketing and insights. “Attracting and retaining quality talent is the key to our industry’s success and it is crucial to ensuring that we have the workforce we need in the years to come.”
Giles Crowley, chief executive at Zurich Australia, agrees that the recruitment problem centres on generating interest and excitement about the industry. “In times past, many people have fallen into insurance, myself included,” he says. “I want to change this so that it is more of a proactive decision, because I look back now and realise how lucky I was.”
Most people still misunderstand the sector’s vast opportunities and the potential to build a career, he says. “At a BBQ, when my role in insurance is raised, the standard statements and questions around motor and household claims are usually what comes up.
“Our industry is so much more than this and touches and protects so many different and unusual parts of society. As an industry, we need to message this better and more effectively to a much wider audience.”
How, in that case, can such a problem be solved?
Implementing initiatives to attract the best and brightest talent is a start, says Crowley, but much more needs to be done.
“We need to proactively raise awareness in schools, tertiary institutions and jobseeker forums at all levels about the diverse opportunities, what can and has been achieved by individuals and how rewarding the insurance industry is,” he adds.
Boosting uptake of insurance will have a natural flow-on to the broking and risk management talent pool. “There is a general lack of knowledge that these jobs in risk exist, and that they can be challenging and interesting and also well paid,” says Carolyn Williams, director of corporate relations at the UK’s Institute of Risk Managers (IRM).
One reason for this is that risk management as a profession is a relatively recent development.
Matt Brown, divisional director, risk, at corporate governance recruitment firm Barclay Simpson, says the lack of a recognised industry standard for risk management is a problem.
“If you look at law or accountancy, they have recognised qualifications, and if you talk to an American public accountant, they will know what a British chartered accountant is. It’s much more established,” he says.
“There is not that commonality in risk management at this point in time. But then, it is very much a fledgling profession – operational risk is not very old compared with law or accounting.”
The industry has to find a way to cope with the meagre supply of candidates, Brown suggests. “In the past, it has borrowed people with relevant skill sets and moved them into risk functions – certainly that’s how operational risk as a discipline grew.”
As Williams points out, “Depending on their sector, different professionals will pick up the risk role. Lots of people come into risk from insurance, health and safety or project management.”
The reputation of risk management as a profession, and particularly for roles within banking and financial services, may also be discouraging young applicants.
Brown says: “My experience is that really bright people who graduated 10 years ago wanted to work in the banks, at the cutting edge of financial services.
“Now it’s tech – they’re interested in digital, they want to work for Google. That’s more appealing, more exciting, and the banks have a tarnished reputation.”
The real game-changer for the risk profession may be the move towards defining a clearer career path via certification. Last year, the IRM published new professional standards, setting out the behaviour, knowledge and skills that risk managers should demonstrate across four key areas of risk – and at four levels of seniority, from entry level to chief risk officer.
In Asia-Pacific, the Pan-Asia Risk and Insurance Management Association (Parima) and the Risk Management Institute of Australia (RMIA) launched separate certification schemes last year.
RMIA certification committee chair Ken Doughty says the intention was to recognise chief risk officers.
He adds: “Organisations are placing greater reliance on having competent senior risk professionals to influence, facilitate, evolve and guide the design, implementation, maintenance and evolution of the organisation’s risk management framework.”
And as the world becomes more complex, the value placed on risk and risk transfer can only grow.
Noel Kelly, account manager at insurance brokers Austbrokers, and winner of the 2016 NIBA Warren Tickle Memorial Award for Young Professional Broker of the Year, explains why the insurance industry appeals.
SR: What attracted you to the insurance industry?
NK: “Initially, I was attracted based on the diversity of roles that were available. I entered the workforce as an insurance broker and throughout my career to date, I have been fortunate to be given an array of different opportunities in different parts of our business at Austbrokers AEI. Most importantly, when I did enter the industry I had a rm belief that I would be challenged and have a ful lling career.”
SR: Do you think the insurance industry is becoming a more attractive career option?
NK: “The industry is attracting a lot more younger talent. Both NIBA and ANZIIF are working hard in conjunction with the branding of ‘Careers in Insurance’ and this initiative has driven a lot of insight into what the next generation thinks about insurance. Students and graduates are more open to understanding potential roles of how their skills can be applied to a particular sector or job role.”
SR: What are the best things about working in the insurance industry?
NK: “The industry as a whole is become a lot more automated in the processing and transactional side of the business. The client facing interaction and relationship building is fantastic. Both the personal ful lment and nancial security within the insurance industry also make it one of the best nancial sectors to be involved in. There are also opportunities to travel and obtain global experience, which not all industries can provide.”