Graduate schemes cannot be the only talent attraction tool in insurance firms’ arsenal if they wish to change the age profile of the industry

The insurance industry remains locked in a battle to recruit the next generation of talent. In a bid to win this war, it is now looking at ways to engage potential hires earlier in their careers.

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Encouraging younger people into the insurance industry is vital to ensure the sector’s longevity. An article by insurer RSA, published in September 2023, explained that “about half of [the] people working in the London market are aged over 40, while 26% of workers in the UK insurance market are aged over 50. These people are experienced and talented – but they won’t be working forever”.

The article continued: “About 10% of London market property risk engineers are due to retire in the next couple of years. It’s clear that we need to find ways to attract, retain and incentivise young, diverse talent in the 25 to 40-year-old age bracket.”

London Market Group (LMG) chief executive Caroline Wagstaff told Insurance Times that the insurance sector still has plenty of work to do in terms of attracting younger talent – but there have been signs of progress.

She explained: “The London Market has been discussing the war for talent since I first joined it more than 20 years ago. The latest edition of the LMG’s London Matters data, published in May 2024, [showed] that there are as many people aged over 50 as there are under 30 [working in insurance].

“Although these figures have improved slightly since the last time we did the survey [in 2022], this statistic shows that we still have a long way to go.

“However, the market support we have got for the various initiatives that the LMG has started in the last two years illustrates the positive engagement we have had and the recognition of the need to up our game.”

These initiatives include two early talent programmes, launched in 2023, which target sixth form students – the Futures Academy, which started in June, and the Apprenticeship Discovery programme, which launched in October.

The Futures Academy 2023 scheme involved around 50 market firms and 100 volunteers that offered work experience placements to 115 sixth form students last summer.

Meanwhile, the Apprenticeship Discovery initiative saw a collection of around 30 London market firms seek to secure apprenticeships in a bid to shift the age profile of the London market.

Wagstaff said both programmes have reaped results so far and will be going ahead again this year.

She said: “Eight of our alumni from last year have now secured apprenticeships in the market and will start this autumn.

“We are looking forward to running the second iteration of our Futures Academy, this time with 50% more students. For the first two weeks of July, we will be welcoming 150 year 12 students into EC3.”

Searching for talent

For Wagstaff, a key aspect of sourcing younger talent is to communicate and advertise the sector on channels that this demographic use frequently. This includes, for example, websites and social media.

She explained: “The LMG has been working hard to make specialty insurance a destination career for young people, telling a better story about why this is a great place to work through channels where young people hang out.

“We have created a single front door to the market through our website London Insurance Life. The most important bit of the site is a single jobs board stocked with entry level roles across the market, so young people can see all the entry level roles available in one place.

“We then drive traffic to [the website] through social media. We have worked with influencers to create content that engages young people’s attention, promotes the roles and [talks] about why this is such a fascinating industry.”

This approach strives to tackle the industry’s ongoing challenge around getting recruitment messaging right, Wagstaff noted.

“We need to get the message out that specialty insurance is a rewarding industry to work in. It is well paid, the work is interesting and rewarding and there is great work-life balance,” she said.

“The secret sauce of the London market is all around collaboration. Every day we work together to pool capital and take bigger risks.

“If we can apply that same spirit to the war for talent, then we can start to bring young people into the market on the scale that we need in order to materially change the age profile of our industry.”

Graduates are not the only talent pool

Both brokers and insurers have been working hard to spark the interest of young people earlier on in their career journeys.

The days when the market simply looked to attract university graduates are disappearing as the benefits of a more diverse workforce are becoming more evident.

Amanda Browne, regional director of people services for the UK at Marsh McLennan, said the broker has been working with organisations across the country to better engage with young people.

“As a company we are doing a great deal to engage with young people – from work placements, apprenticeships, paid work experience and graduate schemes,” she explained.

Marsh is also working with a leading autism organisation to encourage autistic young people to look at a career in insurance. In May 2024, the broker was the first UK organisation to achieve ‘Autism Confidence’ status by charity Ambitious about Autism.

This followed a three-year programme to implement more inclusive practices across recruitment, HR, employee engagement and education, alongside working to improve the physical working environment for neurodiverse colleagues.

“We have sought to highlight the range of careers that are available in insurance broking and our focus has been in the early career area,” Browne explained.

“We have reached out to a wide range of ages and demographics and looked at those who may not have seen insurance as a career choice.”

Browne added that while Marsh still looks at graduate potential for new staff, times have changed and graduates are not the sole talent pipeline it once was.

“The costs around university are now an increasing issue for many and we have schemes at Marsh where our young staff can complete their degree while working with us and getting paid,” Browne explained.

“University is a decision for a lot of young people and we recognise the need to ensure that we have a diverse workforce as it brings skills to the business.”

Apprenticeship opportunities

Another talent attraction route that many insurance firms are pursuing is apprenticeships.

Clare Connor, professional development consultant at RSA Group, said the insurer now had over 50 types of apprenticeships on offer for young people.

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“We have been working hard in terms of early careers and we have been successful – it has also supported our efforts around [diversity, equity and inclusion,” she said.

“We now offer 53 apprenticeship programmes. It might sound far too much, but we want to make the opportunities as wide as possible and we need to ensure we are able to offer something to everyone.”

Alongside offering access to more structured programmes like apprenticeships, Connor noted that facilitating work experience and shadowing can really influence younger talent and help to change outdated perceptions of what the insurance industry is like. RSA introduced this in June 2023.

She said: “We have worked to put in a system where young people can come in and shadow staff so they can get a real insight in the roles we can offer.

“[Back in 2021], we held a session with a group of young people who clearly had been brought along under some reluctance. They wanted to follow a career in accountancy.

“Three impressed us so much that we offered them role with RSA and they turned us down. It was a real blow for me. However, we invited them to spend a day in the business and at the end of it, all three said they were keen to accept our offer.

“We need to give young people an opportunity to experience what it is like to work in insurance and what we can deliver for them and the difference they can make.”

Connor agreed that the insurance industry is much better at attracting talent compared to when she first joined the sector.

“It has a very different look and feel from when I joined,” she explained. “At the time, everyone had a similar look and feel.

“Since then, we have really started to discuss how the business looked, to understand talent, understand what young people can do and why we need them.

“We are already looking at what gen alpha will look like and what will appeal to them when it comes to careers. It is already looking very likely that gen alpha will be very different to gen Z.”

Succeeding gen Z, generation alpha includes individuals who were born in the early 2010s through to the mid-2020s.