Blake Oliver Consulting founder and managing director Daniel Marsh is launching a concept that will bring students together with senior industry players.
Dubbed Blake Oliver Connect, the initiative is an invitation-only, all-expenses paid, two-course lunch.
‘It’s kind of like a networking event,’ says Marsh, ‘but way better because students will be paired with an organisation looking for their specific skillsets.
‘It’s an opportunity for students to meet future employers and give them a perspective of the insurance industry they wouldn't have considered prior to attending the event.
‘There’s nothing like this anywhere in the world, and it has the potential to highlight the insurance industry on an ongoing basis.’
Insurance industry brand
For Marsh, it’s no secret that the insurance industry has an image problem.
‘I don't think there are many young people at university or high school right now planning a career in insurance,’ he says.
‘Kids aspire to work for companies like Deloitte, EY, Macquarie or CBA while unfortunately, they don’t think of Allianz, QBE or Chubb, three fantastic, huge businesses where a person’s career can be very diverse.’
By way of example, Marsh argues insurers in Australia are ‘crying out for engineers’ to work with huge mining industry clients. Similarly, he says the growth of renewables will see growing demand for engineers in the power industry.
‘Most engineering students we speak to want to work with Downer or BHP,’ he says.
‘They don't realise that if you work for a global insurer or broker, BHP and Dower become your clients and you can be on site with them.
‘We need students to realise that you don't need to work for big engineering firms to have a good engineering career. Same for banking. The insurance industry requires more diverse skillsets.’
The process of reinvention
Marsh started his insurance career as a broker, but in his mid-twenties, he decided it was time for something new.
Having specialised in marine hub with the likes of Willis Re and Lloyds, Marsh reinvented himself asan executive head-hunter, which brought him to Australia in 2011.
He consulted in that capacity for a variety of companies including some insurtech start-ups, before returning to technical insurance in 2015. As a development underwriter with Chubb, he worked across D&O, cyber, management liability and PI.
It was in this space, that Marsh first recognised the serious nature of the Australian insurance industry’s talent shortage.
‘In my opinion, there weren’t any recruitment firms servicing the industry really well,’ he says.
To that end, Marsh established Blake Oliver Consulting in May 2017, and with offices in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, the business has been growing ever since.
A consultative approach
Marsh says his vision is to offer a consultative approach to recruitment rather than ‘just trying to fill jobs’.
‘We're not looking to make quick placements, get paid and move on,’ he clarifies, ‘we’d rather take a bit longer to fill the role and do it properly.’
He adds that he and his people understand the industry.
‘I've been a broker and an underwriter, and our other staff collectively have solid networks and knowledge of what's going on in the industry built up over many years.
‘We understand the difference between hard and soft markets and we’re familiar with all the different product lines. I think that's what sets us apart.’
Putting money where your mouth is
As someone who spends his time speaking with CEOs, Marsh sees 60 to 70 per cent of them unable to pursue opportunities due to a lack skills in their business.
‘Experienced people are retiring or leaving the industry, taking their knowledge with them and not being replaced, plus the loss of junior roles is impeding the entrance of new blood,’ he says.
Specifically, Marsh points to entry level positions in administration and claims, which have been offshored by many larger firms.
‘If you look at senior executives with 20 or 30 years of insurance industry experience, they probably got their start in junior broking or underwriting roles.
‘If those positions disappear, it becomes much more difficult to bring the next level of candidates through.’
At the same time, Marsh observes that the industry lacks collective, integrated campaigns or strategies to bring in graduates.
‘We continue to see hiring managers face issues bringing staff into their businesses, so something had to be done,’ he asserts.
Educating potential industry entrants
Marsh turned the idea of Blake Oliver Connect around in his head over a period of about seven years. His plan was to change the situation by educating potential entrants about insurance in a fun environment.
And with the world starting to open up again after COVID, he saw the perfect opportunity to give the industry something new and pioneering.
‘With Blake Oliver Connect, we’re looking to create a microcosm of the insurance industry, with 13 tables, each sponsored by different businesses.
‘We’re anticipating four underwriting companies, four brokers, two legal firms, one claims management company, one reinsurer and one insurtech.’
Rigorous selection process
Of the 300 to 500 students expected to apply for the chance to attend, 78 will be invited to the function and get the opportunity to sit down with each of the businesses.
Coming from eight universities across Melbourne, students will be selected across disciplines including mathematics, actuarial studies, engineering, business development and law.
Each will be graduating from their degree over the next three months or few years.
Co-hosts ANZIIF and InsurTech Australia will also be on hand to provide the students with a perspective on professional development and industry-specific technology.
‘The kind of exposure this event will provide students is far more powerful than what they could achieve with an application for a job at Deloitte or BHP.
‘We're giving them an opportunity to sit next to some very senior people within the industry, learn about what it’s like and who knows, even pick up a business card and get invited to stay in touch.
‘That could be a completely new career path for that person to follow.’
Onwards and upwards
To be held 6 October 2022 at the RACV Club in Melbourne, the event will also be rolled in Sydney and Brisbane, with Perth on the agenda in the future.
Marsh adds that feedback on the idea overseas suggests it will generate demand globally.
‘There’s no reason why we couldn't take this to New Zealand and then Singapore once the first set of lunches have been held in Australia,’ he says.
‘The London insurance market also suffers from a skills gap with the industry competing with banks. We're seeing people leaving the insurance industry and moving to banking it all the time, but not many people move from banking to insurance.
‘We see this as a massive gateway opportunity for businesses to really heighten their ability to bring young talent to their company. And it's a fantastic way for students to discover how great a career path in insurance could be for them.’