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Editorial: Insurance – the land of misfit toys

Editorial: Insurance – the land of misfit toys | Insurance Business UK

Editorial: Insurance – the land of misfit toys

There are a few conversational beats that discussions around the talent crunch facing the insurance profession tend to hit. Among these are updated figures from the frontline of the ongoing ‘war’ for great staff, the welcoming of new initiatives aimed at broadening the talent pipeline, and the admittance that, “people don’t really put up their hands and say they’ve always wanted to work in insurance.”

The latest Vacancysoft and Harrison Holgate report into the performance of the insurance sector in England and Wales reveals that the familiarity of these discussions does not diminish their timeliness or relevance. 2022 was a record-breaking year for insurance vacancies, topping 30,500 job postings – a year-on-year growth of 37.9% compared to 2021.

There can be little doubt that the sustainability of the insurance proposition rides on the development and maintenance of a robust talent pipeline. But I do sometimes wonder if the scope of the ongoing conversations about insurance talent and its future needs to evolve – and to take into account that the limitations of engagement with the insurance offering are perhaps key ingredients in the unique recipe of the market.

If you were to go around a room filled with insurance professionals and ask how they came to the sector, the chances are high that you’ll hear some commutation of the verb ‘fell’. But it would be a mistake to think this means that all the routes into the sector are the same. What’s interesting – and all too often unasked – is how people fell into the industry and what decision was made or made for them that led to them knocking at the door of the profession.

As all roads lead to Rome, insurance has the distinction of being the crossroads where so many talented individuals find themselves. But during a recent meeting, I was reminded that while many within the market didn’t actively select an insurance career, that’s where the similarity ends. Different degrees, qualifications, hobbies, interests and ambitions bring people to the profession and once there, they distinguish themselves, irrespective of how they found their start.

Looking around the market and hearing about the different starting pistols that sounded the beginning of the careers of some of the most talented people in the market, it occurred to me that insurance is akin to the land of misfit toys. Everybody in the sector has something that marks them as unique, and thus uniquely equipped to carry out their respective roles.

Rather than identifying the disparate routes into the market as a weakness, perhaps this inconsistency of access should be seen as a strength. Insurance attracts would-be astronauts, actors, rally drivers, healthcare professionals and economists – and unites them under the banner of a common purpose. For it brings together people you couldn’t imagine rubbing shoulders in any other avenue of life to work together to protect individuals, economies and societies.

The variety of opportunities – missed and taken alike – that it requires to bring people into the insurance market should be celebrated. The resulting chemical mix-up of personalities and behaviours should be accepted for the strength that it is. At the launch of BIBA’s 2023 Manifesto, MP Andrew Griffiths remarked on the “magic” of the insurance industry. To me, that magic is inextricably and irrevocably tied to the people that make up this sector.

So, perhaps, the initiatives focused on bringing new talent into the market should look less to creating a generation of people with the stated early ambitions of becoming brokers or underwriters. Rather they should look more to creating the conditions necessary for a more diverse array of people to unknowingly stumble into this profession which remains the best-kept secret in financial services.

What are your thoughts on this column? Please feel free to share your comments below.