And, according to Carl Piesse, regional director, banking and insurance, at Hays Australia, these forces are creating significant opportunities for those working in insurance, including new recruits, to build strong and lasting careers.
Already, the growing need for new skills is driving competition.
‘Climate change, for example, has become a talking point within the insurance industry,’ says Piesse. ‘The number of high-risk regions across Australia are increasing and there’s a chance that some will become uninsurable in future. As a result, there’s a growing demand for experts who can paint a clearer picture for boards on what the future of insurance will look like.’
Meanwhile, the Hayne royal commission in Australia has sharpened the focus on risk and compliance.
‘The majority of insurers have added headcount to their risk and compliance teams, and this growth will continue in 2020,’ says Paul Murphy, who leads Ensure Recruitment’s executive search practice in Australia, New Zealand and the Asia Pacific.
Murphy also anticipates high demand for commercial and corporate brokers.
‘In life insurance claims positions, the number of roles now exceeds the available candidates,’ he says. ‘We feel this will put pressure on salaries.’
Ongoing regulatory change across South-East Asia also means insurers must enhance their governance, enterprise risk, internal audit and controls functions.
‘In Hong Kong and Singapore, for example, we expect a continuous increase in hiring across compliance, audit and risk,’ says Grant Torrens, regional director for Hays Singapore.
Insurers are also facing competition for talent from outside the industry in a war that exists between the insurance and banking industries across New Zealand and Australia.
‘The rivalry is particularly fierce in terms of experienced risk and compliance professionals,’ says Joe Whitfield, manager, risk and compliance, at Robert Walters New Zealand.
NEW ROLES IN INSURANCEWhitfield is confident that, in New Zealand’s technology space, data will continue to reign as king.
‘Analyst skill sets will be heavily sought after as financial institutions move from batch processing to real time,’ he says. ‘Salaries for senior business analysts and project managers are also likely to increase.’
Sharna Barrett, Robert Walters Australia’s senior manager for project services, strategic projects, programs and transformation, expects to see similar salary spikes in Australia, particularly for key leadership and specialist contract roles.
‘Leadership roles will be created and project teams ramped up to execute new programs and initiatives,’ she says. ‘I also expect to see emerging technologies being introduced to create a competitive advantage.
As we shift away from operational roles in the insurance and finance sectors, technology, strategic transformation and change skills will be critical in providing companies with ways to improve the customer experience, customer retention, market share and brand awareness.’
MANAGING THE INSURANCE SKILLS SHORTAGEIn the face of strong competition for talent, insurance companies are looking beyond traditional recruitment processes.
‘We’ve seen a strong focus on internal mobility and secondments to teach existing employees new skills,’ says Neil Munro, general manager of Ensure Recruitment New Zealand. ‘Coupled with a high level of external hiring, this can ensure there is a good balance of experience in teams.’
Hiring managers are also drawing up more flexible wish lists. ‘They’re having to accept that the ideal candidate may not be out there, and that someone with 60 or 70 per cent of the perfect skill set can be a great hire,’ says Munro.
‘In areas of extreme shortages, particularly for executive level and highly niche skills, we’re increasingly being asked to seek talent from overseas — mainly from Australia, followed by Asia and the United Kingdom.’
INSURANCE AND TECHNOLOGYAs digital technologies provide new opportunities for insurers to engage with their customers, many companies are looking for ways to streamline their customers’ experiences.
‘Product management has become a key focus as insurers attempt to make their products less complex and easier to understand,’ says Munro.
‘This requires people with information technology and digital skills who also have technical awareness of how digital interacts with the wider business. At the moment, this combination is in short supply.’
In Malaysia, both life and general insurers are in the process of improving their sales strategies through the development and enhancement of their digital platforms.
‘The insurance industry is also mirroring the banking industry in its pursuit of automation,’ says Torrens. ‘While this may have a negative impact on traditional insurance operations, it will have positive implications for those specialising in IT or big data.’
Technology is also one of the key factors driving recruitment in Hong Kong’s insurance industry, while in Singapore, more insurance technology (insurtech) start ups are entering the market and attempting to disrupt the status quo.
‘Tech-savvy candidates with deep insurance industry exposure will be able to secure sought-after jobs in highly disruptive companies,’ says Torrens. Underwriting is unusual in that jobs, rather than people, are in short supply.
‘Life insurance underwriting has dropped off this year,’ says Murphy. ‘As life insurers have launched and improved on their rules engines, we have seen a decline in the number of opportunities for underwriters specifically in this space.’
MORE FLEXIBLE WORK OPTIONSBoth Murphy and Munro have seen a decline in the number of clients actively searching for part-time employees. However, employers are doing their best to accommodate requests for shorter hours from those who are already employed.
‘We certainly support part-time roles and flexible working conditions,’ says Debbie Lowe, general manager, people and operations, at ClearView Wealth. ‘In order to facilitate this and be an employer of choice, companies need to ensure they have the right processes and technology to enable people to work efficiently from home.’
Recruiters also predict an increase in the number of contractors entering the industry.
‘This is already the case in risk and compliance roles, and it suits both employers and employees,’ says Munro. ‘Employers have projects that need to be completed, and contractors can enjoy both flexibility and higher rates of pay. They’re also continuously building their skills by working on different projects.’
Another response to the challenge is to hire juniors and train them to fill emerging vacancies.
‘This is particularly common in DevOps — the space where software development and IT operations combine,’ says Barrett. ‘Regardless of the strategy being used, it is pivotal for employers to consider what skills are must-haves and what skills can be learned to open up pools of available talent over the long term and build a sustainable workforce.’