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Revitalising insurance: talent for a transforming sector

11 Jan 2024

By Shaun Geils, Global Head of Insurance, IQ-EQ

The increasing frequency and intensity of global risks – resurgent inflation, climate change, supply chain woes, global conflict and peaking longevity – are heightening scrutiny on the insurance industry as its capacity as society’s essential safety net is tested.

It sounds exciting, doesn’t it? If only younger people agreed. Despite being on the financial coalface of many of the most urgent issues facing humanity, insurance ranks as one of the least favoured sectors for business graduates. A Deloitte paper showed that only 1.4% of business students put an insurer in their top five ideal employers, with words like “dull” and “old fashioned” cropping up throughout the survey.

This contributes to the fact that despite the industry’s growth, the talent pool hasn’t kept pace, failing to shed its unglamorous image. This is a challenge that cannot be ignored and finding skilled professionals becomes daunting. Insurance firms can feel as though the operational challenges they face are as diverse as the risks they underwrite.

For those of us who have worked in the sector longer-term, it does feel as though recent years have brought numerous macroeconomic and operational changes, demanding adaptation and innovation. This is leading to a profound shift in both front- and back-office skill requirements. Traditional roles are being redefined by strategic partnerships with specialists and service providers. This departure from convention is not without its sceptics, but it offers a flexibility crucial in navigating the macro challenges described above.

Given the diversity of what we are talking about when we say ‘insurance firm’ – a term that encapsulates everything from a small captive vehicle to a large quasi-asset manager running billions in investments and underwriting – it becomes hard to generalise. But a truth that holds firm across the sector is that the adoption of new technology promises not only to transform the industry’s image from antiquated to cutting-edge but also provide employees with increased opportunities to engage in higher-value work. Many technologies not only complement human workers but also have the potential to enhance the overall work experience, making tasks more efficient and individuals more adept in their professional capacities.

Simultaneously, the aftermath of over 300,000 layoffs in technology companies during the first half of 2023 has created a talent pool potentially seeking a more stable working environment. This pool includes insurtech employees. Insurers may find it necessary to consider candidates with less industry experience, broadening the potential talent pool and infusing new levels of diverse thinking into the workforce.

While merger and acquisition (M&A) activity in the insurance sector has declined overall since early 2022, the easing of increases in interest rates and inflation could unleash pent-up activity, potentially driving something of a resurgence in deals in 2024. M&A inevitably leads to strategic rethinks, meaning more firms may consider separating out crucial yet non-core functions, such as accounting, KYC and due diligence activities, or corporate transaction services. In such cases, the firm may opt to delegate these responsibilities to a specialised business with dedicated expertise. Regulatory changes in the sector can also serve as a catalyst for reevaluating existing structures and considering external partnerships. From a talent perspective, this does not necessarily mean losing existing teams. Partner providers are now often lifting out and absorbing teams, meaning firms retain access to their talent. Meanwhile, the individuals who are ‘lifted out’ benefit from better career opportunities and progression within a specialist environment. In situations where retaining a function involves both costs and risks, while also presenting control, cultural and continuity imperatives, a lift-out could emerge as the optimal choice for insurers.

In summary, the insurance industry faces a critical juncture marked by a disconnect between its essential role in safeguarding against global risks and the lack of appeal to younger talent. Embracing technological transformation and strategic partnerships is crucial for reshaping the sector’s outdated image and attracting skilled professionals.

This article was originally published by Insurance Post.

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