The insurance industry must change its public image or it will continue to face a talent shortage, says Prateek Vijayvergia, Business Leader – Key Accounts in Australia with Xceedance.
He says the acute lack of qualified personnel to work in insurance is fuelled by poor public perceptions of the industry.
“Insurance isn’t seen as a ‘hero’ job, a role that attracts respect. We need to alert people to insurance’s critical function in making the world a better place and helping people.
“Insurers are heroes for consistently paying claims, but that’s not the public perception,” he says.
The Hays Salary Guide FY23/24, a survey of more than 14,000 respondents, found 90% of Australian insurance employer respondents experienced a shortage of skilled employees. The survey suggests the shortage will last well into the 2030s.
The top in-demand roles were commercial brokers, SME and property and casualty underwriters, liability claims consultants, and workers’ compensation specialists.
Globally, Xceedance has been presenting to university and college students about the industry in a bid to showcase its attractions.
“We need to sell insurance as a profession, and one with a great variety of available roles,” Mr Vijayvergia says.
While using artificial intelligence (AI) for mundane, repetitive tasks can reduce headcounts, it also means people entering the insurance industry have opportunities to work in more challenging, innovative roles.
Simone Dossetor, CEO of Insurtech Australia, says people are attracted to the tech sector because the work is more relevant and exciting, which makes insurtechs popular employers.
She says insurance lacks “fresh blood” because those who understand the industry are retained but move into different roles. Because AI has seen many entry-level roles disappear, there is no longer the same funnel to attract people into insurance at the lower rungs.
“The next generation is more purpose-led, and that’s an advantage, but there’s no magic wand to solve the shortage.”
Ms Dossetor says large industry players are being forced to change how they operate, which is driven by “start-ups doing things differently”.
As big insurers’ market share is eroded by challenger brands, they must seek ways to emulate the insurtechs’ successes.
Dan Marsh, Managing Director of insurance-focused recruitment agency Blake Oliver, who has global insurance industry experience, says insurance is held in high esteem in the United Kingdom and the industry there has strong relationships with universities and elite schools. “In Australia, insurance is seen as a secondary choice.”
He highlights a disconnect, saying HR teams want to fill jobs quickly and cheaply but organisations must be more strategic about raising the industry’s profile with those who are not yet job ready.
His firm launched Blake Oliver Connect, now in its second year, as an initiative that brings together industry representatives and high school and tertiary sector students to raise awareness of the career depth insurance offers to enable students to make better-informed decisions.
He wants the industry to be more proactive by talking directly to potential employees to demonstrate the diversity of well-paid roles across varied industry sectors and the travel opportunities. “There should be events like Blake Oliver Connect every month,” Mr Marsh says.
Mark Silveira, General Manager Industry Engagement with the Australian and New Zealand Institute of Insurance and Finance, says the talent shortage is caused by a combination of factors, including the industry failing to devote sufficient energy to attracting people. The transportability of insurance employees’ skills makes them attractive to other industries, particularly the finance sector.
Mr Silveira says the industry needs to have a greater focus on education and training if it wants to be taken seriously as a profession. “Insurance is not seen as ‘sexy’ – we talk about people falling into it and that’s not a great tag line to entice people into the industry.”
He says greater industry support can help to demonstrate that insurance provides well-paid, long-term careers. “When people jump into insurance, they rarely leave – they’re not stuck, they want to stay.”
Mr Vijayvergia says the insurance industry has a gold mine of positive stories within claims files that could help to promote the sector.
Insurance Council of Australia data shows the general insurance industry pays an average of $150.6 million in claims each working day, amounting to $38.8 billion a year.
“I’m sure many happy claimants would love to share their stories,” Mr Vijayvergia says.
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