Insurance: ‘fun and fast paced’ or ‘old fashioned and boring’?
The March issue of Finance Dublin had an article on the findings of the Deloitte Talent in Banking Survey. The same firm has also produced a Talent in Insurance Survey, again based on the 2014 Universum survey about business students’ career intentions in 31 markets around the world, including Ireland. If, as reported last month, the Irish banks think they have a job to compete with Software and Computer Services (SCS) and Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCGs) for the services of our best new talent, it is nothing like the mountain facing the insurance sector. While it is perhaps not surprising that SCS is the preferred career of 23.5% of business students in Ireland, ahead of FMCG with 19.9% and Banks with 14.0%, it is really quite shocking and a bit depressing that insurance only attracts 0.6%. Furthermore the insurance score for Ireland is one of the worst in the survey, although the UK is even worse at 0.2%. The UK result is particularly astonishing given that insurance accounts for 12.5% of UK GDP.

The reason for the low preference given to insurance seems to be its boring and old-fashioned image. It is associated with men in grey suits and scores even worse with women. The SCS sector on the other hand is seen as “fresh and fun and fast paced” and the FMCG sector benefits from the glamour of companies like L’Oreal and Red Bull. Banks benefit from the association with good pay - all the publicity about banking bonuses probably has a recruitment benefit.

The survey points out, however, that the insurance sector has some advantages that it could make more of. For example, the survey found that work/life balance is the most important career goal for all business students internationally and that ‘control over my working hours’ is more associated with insurance than with a job in other sectors. Job security is another important career goal for students and the sector should make more of its size and financial stability.

Some encouragement can be got from the findings that Irish insurance-inclined students have a high aspiration to work in a creative and dynamic environment compared with their international peers - 58.8% of the Irish list it as a top three career aspiration compared to 36.5% of the international students. They also appear to be more hard-headed than their Irish peers: almost half of them aspire to ‘challenging work’ compared to only 28.5% of all Irish business students.

Despite these crumbs of comfort it is clear that the insurance sector has a huge job of work to do if it is to attract its share of the best talent with the innovative mindset needed to safeguard its future. Perhaps it is time to set up pool tables and music room in new funky insurance offices.

The Deloitte Talent in Banking Survey identified the top career goals identified by business students in Ireland as: ‘to have a work-life balance; to be secure or stable in my job’ and ‘to be a leader or manager of people’. Among those interested in a career in banking, ‘to be competitively or intellectually challenged’ was the second most important career goal after work-life balance.
John Lyons
This article appeared in the April 2015 edition.