Insurance as a lifetime career

It may not be at the top of school and university leavers’ lists – but a career in insurance has a lot more to offer than you might have considered. – Simon Lightbody, CEO Steadfast Underwriting Agencies

It is a universal truth that every business is only as good as its employees.

When I reflect upon the three and a half years since Steadfast Underwriting Agency was founded, it is clear to me that without the right people, we wouldn’t have been able to execute our strategy and achieve the success we’ve enjoyed so far.

However, while we are lucky to have some great people in our business, it seems that many of them have ended up here as if by accident. Furthermore, this appears to be an industry-wide phenomenon: it seems that almost no one sets out wanting to work in insurance.

Falling into insurance

For many in the industry, an insurance career is something they simply ‘fall into’. This aligns my own experience: I came to the industry via an auditing role, after completing a degree in Business – and German. My language skills landed me a job working closely with the insurance industry, sparking an interest that launched me into a lifelong career.

Whenever I was ready to grow, the industry provided the opportunity.

When I started in the insurance industry proper, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. The auditing role exposed me to the broking side of the London Insurance market so it gave me a look at the window of opportunities, hence whenever I needed a change, I didn’t feel the need to look outside the industry. I felt like I was continually growing and getting more experience – changing tack, without having to start again. Whenever I was ready to grow, the industry provided the opportunity.

Variety and opportunity

Insurance is Australia’s second biggest industry, employing close to 100,000 people. As such, it can offer a high degree of variety and potential mobility.

Within the industry, there are a number of paths you can choose: from running your own business as an underwriter or broker, to working for a big insurance company – in anything from customer service and claims to marketing, actuarial and IT.

Insurance is linked into all areas of business, and there are a lot of global players. This provides one of the biggest upsides to working in the Insurance business. It means you can start a career in Australia and end up in Hong Kong, Singapore or in the UK. Most global Insurance companies have well developed programs that allows employees to pursue opportunities overseas should they wish to. Alternatively, the feasibility of setting up your own business is real and achievable giving you control over your commute and your lifestyle.

A long term career

Insurance offers career longevity and potential for advancement that can be hard to find in other industries.

Insurance offers career longevity and potential for advancement that can be hard to find in other industries. In our industry, success is based on richness of experience, knowledge and influence – and that isn’t something that develops overnight.

The more you learn about insurance, and the more experience you have, the more valuable you are to your clients or employer. This contrasts with other industries that value youth (and the ability to work long hours) over experience – and which can often burn out their brightest employees.

It’s also rewarding – insurance is all about helping people achieve what’s important to them, by protecting them from financial risks. And while insurance may not have the street appeal to young employees of say, media or IT, more than 86% of under-35s who work in the industry would recommend it as a career.

Attracting new talent

Despite these benefits, insurance is often overlooked by school and university leavers when choosing a career. And we may only have ourselves to blame.

As an industry, we have been slow to catch on to the idea of promoting insurance to attract new and talented employees. That’s not to say that individual companies don’t do this well – it’s just that there hasn’t been a coordinated strategy industry-wide.

In this way, we’ve been selling ourselves short, and potentially depriving ourselves of the best and brightest employees – relying on catching them when they ‘fall in’.

Luckily, that’s something that is starting to change, with ANZIIF recently launching a new campaign to promote careers in insurance. It’s a great start, and is one way to show potential employees what we as an industry have to offer.

By supporting and advancing industry initiatives like these, insurance companies can help to further their own strategies – by attracting the highest calibre of future talent. But – just as importantly – we can help more people find their way to a stimulating and rewarding lifelong career.