Across the globe, the insurance industry’s talent crunch continues. However, despite recruitment challenges, in certain lines of business many global insurers are expanding, says Graeme Young (pictured above), ANZ director for Eliot Partnership.
“I think the overriding feature is the profitability of writing certain risk classes and being present in those spaces, this overrides the challenges in finding the talent,” said Sydney-based Young.
Eliot regards itself as the only global insurance specialist executive search firm of its kind.
“We’re a boutique, executive search firm,” said Young. “We play at that C-suite level and EGM, within the insurance and reinsurance markets only.”
He said the firm “never” deviates into the wider financial services area. After 15 years in business, starting with a London operation, Eliot now has a swathe of international offices in most insurance and reinsurance hubs. Young’s Sydney office opened early last year.
Young said this “global lens” allows his firm to bring more to the table than just sectoral knowledge.
“We can actually bring a lot more intelligence and knowledge to our clients, whether it’s in Australia or whether it’s in New York, with a global lens in terms of what’s happening in the market,” said Young.
He said the firm’s employees are not restricted either by geography or any company fiefdoms or silos.
“We don’t have boundaries,” said Young. “I can be working tomorrow with our consultants in London on an assignment or across all offices on global search assignments.”
This arguably provides Young with a unique perspective on both recruitment trends and the expansion or contraction of the industry on a global level.
“We’re seeing global insurers expanding or going back into markets that they may have pulled out of previously because the rates and the margins weren’t there,” he said. “The hard market, which we’ve been experiencing for the last few years, is fueling that expansion, whether it’s by verticals or by geography.”
He said Australia and the United States are both seeing the results.
“We’re not just seeing it with the globals, we’re seeing it with the MGAs and smaller niche specialist insurers,” said Young. “There has been a huge surge in the setting up of MGAs in many countries like the US and Australia, for example.”
He said one reason for the underwriting agency surge in Australia is the relative ease of setting up an MGA locally compared to other types of insurance firms.
“MGAs don’t have the same APRA [Australian Prudential Regulation Authority] regulations as a carrier,” said Young.
He said the shortage of talent isn’t impacting “in any way, shape, or form” the “aggressive growth” in the industry.
However, Young agrees that this expansion during a talent crunch does bring challenges.
“We often have those hard discussions with clients that have maybe gone to market themselves and tried to find the talent and can’t find it,” he said. “But it’s all down to how you uncover it.”
Young said Eliot advocates to clients that, depending on the role, they should be looking outside the box and not just at candidates “that could fit the bill perfectly and hit the ground running from day one.”
“We’re also trying to get them to open their minds to the rising stars,” said Young. “So this may be a slight compromise initially but ultimately, you are filling that talent gap with an alternative way of looking at it.”
He said support combined with extra training and nurturing are key.
“The other ways we’re dealing with the talent crunch is to encourage, for example, Australia-based clients to capitalize on that flow of talent that wants to come back to Australia,” said Young.
For example, he said, Kiwis or Australians working in insurance hubs overseas. Young said during the COVID-19 pandemic and into last year his firm received large numbers of calls from insurance professionals – not just Australians – in the US, Hong Kong, the UK and Europe investigating Aussie work possibilities.
“It doesn’t always suit everyone because there is sometimes a desire to see the same salary levels that you see in these other countries and that just doesn’t exist in Australia,” said Young.
He said there is currently an upward trend in salary levels in Australia, partly because of the depleted pool of talent.
“There is finally a recognition that if an organization wants the talent they are going to have to pay for it, a classic example of supply and demand,” said Young.
However, generally speaking, he said, “the US and London markets will always pay more.”
Young said the global industry’s battle for talent is happening across a number of industry specialisations.
“Our portfolio globally is currently split quite evenly between what we call front office; underwriters, brokers and the leaders in those organizations, as well as infrastructure, which includes actuaries, claims staff, finance staff and tech staff,” he said.
He described actuaries and experienced underwriters as “gold dust” in the current recruitment market.
“Additionally, there’s big demand for claims people,” said Young. “Obviously, after the number of catastrophe losses in the last few years the influx of claims has to be managed.”
As a result, he said, Eliot has seen a “big uptick” in demand for claims professionals of all kinds, particularly in the property space, and also claims adjusters.
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