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Attracting Young Talents to the Insurance Sector

By Conor Donaldson,

Chief Executive Officer,

Global Asia Insurance Partnership

10 July 2022

The insurance sector is facing a talent challenge. Despite recent attention on lay-offs and retrenchments, ask any insurance CEO about their biggest strategic challenges and talent, specifically the scarcity of talent, will be in the top three. Making the talent challenge even more acute are the ways in which the sector is changing. New, emerging, and accelerating risks, technological advances, as well as new business models are changing the industry. The sector’s future success in this changing environment will depend on attracting a wider range of knowledge, skills, and experiences. 

It is imperative we attract young professionals to the insurance sector. But this is a big challenge. In their 2022 survey of approximately 185 000 business, engineering and IT graduates from 9 countries, Universum found only one insurance company cracked the global list of the top 50 most attractive employers, and this was only for business graduates.[1] While it may be easy for some to explain this finding away, a more worrying data point is from a study produced by ACORD which showed only 4% of people born between 1981 and 1997 would consider a career in insurance. As this generation will make up much of the workforce by 2025, this finding is worrisome.[2] Moreover, despite recent layoffs in parts of the tech sector, the competition to recruit graduates with advanced analytical and technical skills is stiff. We will need to find ways that we can increase interest amongst recent graduates and new professionals in the insurance sector.

Focusing on purpose and values can help. A recent study by McKinsey found 70% of individuals define their sense of purpose through work. Millennials, in particular, are looking for opportunities where their work contributes to a wider purpose.[3] The insurance sector at its core is an industry that benefits society through providing protection from adverse events. We support individuals facing health issues, we support families struggling with the loss of a loved one, and we help individuals, families, businesses, and communities prepare for and rebuild from adverse events. We are also an industry that recognises the social and economic imperative of contributing to building more resilient societies and communities. We are a shared values business. 

The insurance sector can offer a values aligned, purpose driven, and rewarding career. I interact frequently with students at the university and pre-university level. I am always impressed by the degree to which young people prioritise their values and how driven they are by having impact in their careers. But I am also struck by the general lack of knowledge about what an insurance career could be. Particularly amongst those students who do not come from more traditional insurance faculties, such as actuarial. 

To show the possibilities, we need to create opportunities for the insurance sector to show what we can offerGlobal Asia Insurance Partnership‘s Case Study Challenge, organised with Nanyang Technological University Singapore showed me that when we have the right circumstances, we can get people excited about insurance. The case study challenge provided a cash prize for winners and internships for the top teams, which helped attract nearly 600 students from across Singapore. These students came from a range of faculties and had the chance to propose solutions that could support gig-workers. While there was a lot of students from traditional faculties, the winning team consisted of students from business and life sciences. Their proposed solution targeted social media influencers and the unique risks that these workers face.

A sector-wide effort could help us attract new professionals. Every firm has a strategy for attracting and retaining talent and building capacity through hiring new staff and upskilling/ reskilling existing staff. And many insurers have articulated very compelling values statements. However, a sector-wide values-based proposition can complement existing firm level talent strategies and strengthen the sector’s position in a competitive labour market. 

values-based proposition for the sector would attract more graduates to insurance. Key is articulating why and how the sector protects the health and prosperity of individuals, families, businesses, and communities as well as the social and physical environments we inhabit. Our efforts should be focussed here on three elements:

  1. Exposing the sectors impact – Our industry has a positive impact on society, the economy, and the environment. As a sector, we can be quite conservative in profiling our impact. This needs to change. We need to be more willing to show our passion and share how the sector – be it life and health, general insurance, or reinsurance – has a positive impact. 
  2. Celebrating the shared value nature of the sector – Insurance at its core has a shared value business model – working to improve outcomes for both company and society. Again, we need to loudly celebrate this core feature of the insurance sector. Some individual insurers are very effective about demonstrating the ways in which they work towards and support shared values. By working collaboratively, we can more effectively show individuals that the sector is indeed a shared value industry that contributes to meaningful outcomes. 
  3. Creating opportunities that demonstrate individual impact – it is not enough to show how the sector has an impact. We need to show how different functions and different roles have a meaningful impact on the wider world. Individuals working within insurance companies have a meaningful role in achieving our impact and advancing our shared values. We can very easily demonstrate individual impact. 

Growing and nurturing a robust talent pipeline for the insurance sector is a strategic priority for GAIP. We are undertaking programs and activities which are designed to attract new talent, upskill existing professionals and develop the next generation of executive leaders. Yet, I am acutely aware that we will need to do more as a sector if we are going to succeed in an increasingly competitive recruitment environment, particularly amongst recent graduates and new professionals. A concerted, focussed effort is needed amongst the wide range of stakeholders who have an interest in growing the sector. Using a platform like GAIP, we can articulate the sector’s story, our values-based proposition, based around the three elements above and amplified by creating meaningful opportunities for young people to engage in the sector and become more excited about careers in insurance. 

But most important, we need to be loud. We need to celebrate our successes. Be compelling in showing how the insurance sector offers rich and rewarding opportunities, particularly for those who want to have an impact.

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