Guy Carpenter chair on talent attraction and retention in the re/insurance sector

Why it's time for the industry to get better at promoting itself

Guy Carpenter chair on talent attraction and retention in the re/insurance sector


By Mia Wallace

During a keynote address at the 2024 Zywave ‘Cyber Risk Insights Conference’, Vicky Carter (pictured left), chair of global capital solutions international at the reinsurance broking giant Guy Carpenter, joined Rachel Turk (pictured right), chief underwriting office for Lloyd’s of London to discuss the key challenges facing the re/insurance market – including around talent attraction and retention.

What is clear, Carter said, is that the industry is not good enough at promoting its fantastic diversity and the role it plays in creating the world as we know it. It’s only when you join the sector that you begin to understand that and it’s the responsibility of those within the industry to share that message with the next generation of talent.

How the re/insurance sector has evolved

“Coming into the industry, it was very, very different to how it is now,” she said. “[…] And having seen how it has evolved, I wanted to create a platform that could bring young people together to give them a vision of the diversity of this industry. So, I created a two-day forum bringing in world-class speakers on all the critical topics facing the industry. And suddenly it has just morphed into a pretty big event, now with 1,000 people attending.”

With the next iteration of the event taking place in June, it’s an insurance event like no other, she said, and it’s exciting to see the re/insurance market come together in this way. From politicians to astronauts to leading voices on crucial topics including GenAI, cyber and geopolitical risk, the event looks to expose the younger generation to the opportunities present by a career in the industry and to the reality that it really offers something for everyone.

“Despite all the technology that coming into the industry and the huge amounts of data we’re seeing as we move to more digitalized systems, we can’t forget how important that face-to-face [aspect] is when building relationships,” she said. “It’s great to see Lloyd’s starting to buzz again… It’s such a far cry from where it was a year ago… It’s coming back and you can see that our young talent want to get back and they want to be out there building those face-to-face relationships.”

Finding the right work/life balance

For Turk, finding the right balance between remote and in-person working remains critical to ensuring that the re/insurance market doesn’t lose the benefits hybrid working brought the sector and its people. Assessing what’s happening at Lloyd’s, she noted that she’s seeing more people than ever come back to the trading floor.

“When I was an underwriter, I massively benefited from face-to-face trading and having relationships with brokers,” she said. “I was [recently] out with some brokers who I’ve worked with over the last 10 years, and I hadn’t seen some of them for four or five years, since I stopped underwriting. And it was lovely to reconnect and reminisce about old times sitting at the box, where you learned so much about each other’s lives. That's a fantastic thing that the London market has that we don't necessarily want to give away.

“The flip side, of course, is that when we talk about attracting and retaining talent, there are huge benefits of being able to work more flexibly. So, it’s quite a difficult course to chart at the moment – how do you encourage people back? How do you make an environment such that people want to come in? I think that's the key, you need people to want to come into London. And I’m not a huge proponent of forcing the issue.”

The reality of most people’s lives is that they do require some flexibility, she said, and the re/insurance market must bear that in mind if it’s going to attract – and crucially, retain – the best talent.

“Lifestyle balance is certainly a really important thing for the younger generation,” Carter agreed. “When we interview people, it's one of the things they interview us about – what is your policy about working from home? I'm a great believer in work hard, play harder. I think it's really important that we do allow young people [flexibility].”

Rethinking how re/insurance thinks about work

The re/insurance market needs to rethink the way it thinks about work, she said. Traditionally, it has been caught up in the mindset that it’s important for people to come into the office five days a week. But COVID really did prove that it was possible to work very effectively from home.

“If you’d said to this industry a month before the first lockdown that virtually the whole world was going to go into lockdown, it would have seemed ridiculous and people would have said it was never going to work,” she said. “But guess what? Overnight, we transitioned to a virtual world. And it worked really well, we did M&A, we did capital raises, put catastrophe programmes in place etc. Everybody did their job and it all worked.”

It's when put under extreme pressure that people prove they can change and adapt and it’s the same for the sector. From Carter’s perspective, the need is there for the industry to get a lot better at listening to the younger generation and hearing out their ideas. They have so much information at their fingertips today, she said, and they’re using that to develop great ideas.

“I’m a great supporter of bringing young people in and through [the industry] and letting them say their piece,” she said. “Because that opens up new ideas and it brings new tools and new skill sets – which is what innovation is all about… D&I for me is not about male and female, it’s about bringing in really good ideas and different skill sets. And that’s so important to ensuring the industry continues to evolve and innovate, which will help us create greater resilience in our societies.”

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