Boris Johnson’s working from home initiative to mitigate the spread of coronavirus may have given the insurance industry’s recruitment drive a much-needed injection, as the siren call of home and flexible working has the potential to attract new, diverse talent

Talent attraction within the insurance sector has long been a key concern for business chief executives, with many insurance professionals admitting that they ‘fell’ into their current careers rather than actively chose to pursue roles in the industry.

Brendan McManus, chief executive of PIB Group, agreed with this stance. He told Insurance Times: “The vast majority of people will always describe themselves as falling into insurance by accident.

”It has been a war for talent [over the] last few years. We constantly have 50, 60 vacancies across our company. The talent battle is always forefront of our mind.”

This narrative is supported by a 2015 survey conducted by professional services firm Deloitte, called Making insurance careers more attractive. This found that insurance ranked 18 out of 30 sectors in terms of popularity as a career destination among business students.

“Historically, insurance employers have found it challenging to recruit younger talent.

”Insurance is often overlooked by new entrants in the workforce who generally haven’t had much exposure of the industry and therefore aren’t very familiar with it,” added Dominic Morton, director at recruiter Hays Insurance.

“Employers in the sector also haven’t always recognised that Generation Z has different expectations of the world of work and a different set of values than their predecessors. Across industries, Hays’ research suggests that this generation most value career development (26%) when looking for a new role – something that is only important to 3% of Baby Boomers, born [between] 1940 and 1960. This needs to be taken into account if employers are to successfully draw in young talent.”

Pandemic effect

Bearing in mind these generational work preferences, has prime minister Boris Johnson’s working from home regime – designed to mitigate the spread of Covid-19 – also had an unexpected impact in terms of broadening the talent pool for the insurance sector, as job roles needn’t be so clearly classified between ‘London’ or ‘regional’, in turn potentially attracting new candidates seeking a role in insurance when they may otherwise have been put off by commuter culture or the traditional nine-to-five hours?

Shirley Woolham, chief executive of Minster Law, said: “Covid has been an additional catalyst in our sector.

”Because we’ve embraced agile working, it is allowing us to access talent pools that have thus far been closed to us and also has really shifted our understanding of how we can operate as [a] business cost effectively without a fixed base cost and a property and all that kind of stuff. We see the post-Covid landscape as rich [with] opportunity.”

Meanwhile Daniel Faulkner, chief executive of recruitment firm Arthur, added that although his company’s insurance clients haven’t yet asked for their job adverts to actively promote remote working, he believes this is very much the direction the sector is going in.

He predicted, however, that insurance organisations won’t reveal their long-term plans around remote and agile working until at least next year, when a vaccine has potentially been created and a balance between home and office working can be more easily established.

“All policies will change from that point,” he said. “I think at least 20% to 30% of the market is going to be working remotely in the future, if not more, and I think 100% of the market will be working to different agile, flexible patterns and perhaps won’t be doing five days a week in London.”

He added that this is more likely to be true for back office roles rather than front line brokers and underwriters, as they “probably need to work in core hours and work when everyone else is working, but if you’re supporting the business and working risk management or actuarial or some of the back office stuff, then it would be less important that you’re based in London [or] you’re working the hours nine to five.”

Hays’ Morton agreed: “Home and remote working can widen the pool of candidates that employers consider.

”Findings from our recent Careers Insight survey do indicate that insurance employers are now looking further afield - 50% say it’s now less important that candidates are based close to the workplace than it was before lockdown.

”Considering a wider talent pool is likely to provide more recruitment opportunities for the industry and looks set to continue as remote working becomes a key part of our future world of work.

“We have seen a surge of small to medium-sized insurance organisations offer either indefinite [working from home] arrangements, with all using WFH as a benefit and not a reward.

”None of the larger brokers or insurers have committed to a long-term WFH arrangement yet, but it’s likely that this will come in the near future.

“[We] suspect that organisations which fall behind with regards to WFH will become a less popular employer of choice.”

‘Bigger bunfight’?

Insurance and Mobility Solutions (IMS), part of Trak Global Group (TGG), is one business that has already taken the plunge by advertising new roles in Manchester and Crewe as remote or home working opportunities, if the candidate wishes to work that way.

The discretionary arrangement will be based on the “practicality of the individual’s role and their personal preference [and] effectiveness”, explained Andrew Brown-Allan, chief marketing officer of IMS.

He continued: “We’ve fully embraced flexible [and] home-working based on a really positive experience of both maintaining and improving productivity over the past few months and we’re extending this flexibility to all of our employees globally, both present and future.”

On the flip side, Brown-Allan added that although home working has opened the doors for greater diversity of talent – which could include carers, parents, or those returning from sabbaticals, for example – the same will now be true across many industries, potentially broadening the war for talent across sectors.

“The fact that you can work for a global business that is headquartered in a capital city from the comfort of your home office will simultaneously open up opportunities and remove a lot of talent acquisition barriers.

”But the same is arguably true for every industry, so it might actually become an even bigger bunfight both in terms of finding the best talent and keeping hold of the people that you’ve already got,” he said.

Morton added: “Making it clear as early as possible that remote working is an option might attract a more diverse pool of candidates – be it those from different regions, parents or those who have caring responsibilities.

”However, while remote working may appeal to a wider pool of candidates, what’s key is offering the right support to make remote working as successful as possible.

“Employers who are able to offer things like flexible hours, well-being support and resources to help with home schooling should make this clear in job adverts to appeal to a diverse range of candidates with differing circumstances.”

Covid recruitment statistics

Recruitment across the insurance sector took a nosedive around May and June, said Daniel Faulkner, chief executive of recruitment firm Arthur, which works with insurers such as Brit, Beazley and Allianz.

The company reported that between 3 March and 1 September, its job flow halved to 49%, while client meetings decreased to 48% of its typical target level – usually client meetings would hit or exceed the target level. First interviews were also down 40% compared to pre-pandemic times.


Reinventing the workplace

Payal Vasudeva, financial services human capital partner at Deloitte, told Insurance Times: “In our Future of the City survey, the majority of respondents from London cited the experience of remote working as positive, with self-reported productivity being the same or improved.

“Overall, the research revealed an increased desire for greater choice and flexibility, with a majority wanting to work remotely [at least two to three] days a week.

“The findings do not imply the demise of the workplace but suggest reinventing its purpose – a place not just for taking calls and writing emails, but one that fosters collaboration, innovation, client and customer interaction and builds a sense of community and culture.

“It will be important to create a meaningful employee experience around the key moments that matter to attract and retain talent. For example, making sure the flexible working being offered is seamless, whether in the physical office or a virtual environment.

“Going forward, one hopes there is a greater acceptance of flexible and remote working across the insurance industry such that supporting policies and practices are inclusive and reinforced by supportive leadership and culture. This will enable insurers to offer more choice and flexibility and reap the benefits of more diverse and dispersed talent pools.”