Insurers back on the hunt for talent

by Elinor Zuke, May 2014

After years of subdued recruitment, this year saw insurance companies return to the job market with a bang.

On the first working Monday of January, recruitment consultant IDEX received calls to list 36 jobs. And that was in London alone. 

IDEX managing partner David Carr says: “We hadn’t seen that for a long time.” 

And Reed insurance senior divisional manager Ian Bull reports a surge in recruitment across the UK since last September. The result is a skills gap, particularly for senior roles, and a rise in counter-offers from employers.

This year, brokers and insurers feel more optimistic about growth, which makes staff at rivals attractive.

“It’s still a soft market, but senior leaders think that the recession is over and they need to start taking revenue off their competitors to grow their business,” Carr says. “And the only way to do that is to get talent from their competitors – that’s had a knock-on effect on demand for experienced individuals.”

The more senior the role, the harder it is to fill. Some positions are particularly difficult to recruit for, such as development underwriter, which requires someone who is good with both numbers and broker relationships. 

“Insurers want traders who can sit in front of a broker, get the deal done and underwrite the risk,” Carr says. “Most underwriters are technically driven, 
so it is difficult to move somebody from an underwriting role to a development underwriting position.”

Demand-heavy market

Compliance experts are also in demand and more operations and change management roles have been created as businesses look to cut expenses and drive efficiencies.

Recruiters are divided on the state of the job market in the regions. Carr says that some regions struggle to fill the most senior roles because pay in London is higher, which, in turn, means more jobs are created where the people are.

But Bull says the market is functioning across the UK.

According to Reed’s 2014 salary guide, the demand-heavy job market means that 40% of workers in the insurance sector have had a pay rise in the past 12 months. And 35% were paid a bonus in the past year – up from 28% two years ago.

“It could be that business is picking up, so people are hitting their targets. Or it could be that companies are investing in ways to retain staff,” Bull says.

Beware counter-offers

It also means that companies will put more counter-offers on the table.

“Companies will be aware this year and in 2015 that attrition will damage their business,” Bull says.

But he and Carr caution against accepting counter-offers. Carr warns that 87% of candidates who accept a counter-offer are back on the market within six months as the factors that made them want to move rarely go away.

“You might as well leave when you get the offer from a business that wants you,” he says.

Only 10% of IDEX’s candidates accept a counter-offer, Carr adds.“We had somebody on £43,000, we got her an offer at £50,000 and her employer offered her £58,000 to stay. But she turned them down. She wanted to move on.If it’s about cash, we tend to tell candidates to talk to their boss first,” he advises.

And his top tip for people with itchy feet? “Put together a detailed plan of what you want to do. “If you have discussed it with your boss and you can’t do it at your current business, then come and talk to us.”

Click here to see the full Careers In Insurance Report 

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