Since taking the helm, nurturing a pipeline of diverse talent has been one of the main priorities for Zurich’s chief executive

Young people don’t always think of insurance when considering their career options, but the sector can change that by talking about the “fundamental role” insurance plays in society and offering “fantastic opportunities”.

So says Zurich chief executive Tim Bailey who tells Insurance Times that “different opportunities” within the insurance sector are not “well understood” within schools.

For example, the Chartered Insurance Institute revealed that 60% of young talent found the insurance industry “boring” and only 30% would consider it as a career.

The findings were based on a survey of 50 participants between the ages of 14-22 in April 2023.

Because of this reputation with young people, Bailey believes that the industry can “do a better job of [explaining the opportunities available] within the sector to attract a wide range of people into the industry”.

He explains: “Attracting and retaining talent is something we focus on quite heavily at Zurich and we’ve had good success in attracting a wide range of young people into the business over recent years.

“It is something we are committed to continue doing.”

Taking the helm

Bailey himself began his insurance career in 1998 with Zurich’s graduate scheme and has since risen through the ranks to become chief executive in January 2021.

Commenting on his journey, he says that the graduate scheme provided “fantastic opportunities” and a “great grounding in the insurance sector”.

He adds: “Since then, I’ve been lucky enough to have fantastic opportunities working here in the UK and across various parts of the world – including Switzerland and Australia.”

As chief executive, attracting and retaining talent has been one of Bailey’s main priorities for the business.

In 2023, Zurich UK expanded its graduate programme to expand the amount of opportunities for graduates.

The insurer said the graduates on its expanded scheme would develop their expertise across several areas, from understanding, assessing and reducing risk to claims, pricing and insurance frameworks – all with a focus on sustainable energy.

Diverse backgrounds

While bringing in younger talent is a strategic goal for Zurich, Bailey also notes a commitment to assembling teams characterised by diversity in both background and skill sets.

He explains that this approach is “important” for the firm’s success and says he recognises the immense value that diverse perspectives and abilities bring to the table.

Bailey says: ”As a business, we need diverse perspectives to be able to really understand topics from different angles to make the best decisions.

“I can experience first-hand the benefits that we see from the strength of debates and different views, which enables us to make the best decisions that we possibly can.

“There’s huge value to us in that. It’s something we focus on really strongly at Zurich.”

To support a drive for more diversity in skills and backgrounds, and ensure a “level playing field,” Bailey explains that competency-based interviews have been replaced with strengths-based assessments to ensure candidates are not at a disadvantage.

He explains that despite lacking prior insurance expertise, individuals from diverse backgrounds – including from the retail sector and customer-facing roles – have joined the business and brought valuable skills that Zurich can utilise.

While traditional competency-based interviewing may prioritise insurance knowledge, individuals that were identified via strengths-based assessments contribute greatly to the organisation while developing insurance expertise over time, says Bailey.

“So, [building a team with diverse skills and backgrounds] is an aspect of what we are looking to do both in terms of recruitment and then also development of people within the organisation,” he adds.

Do more

When it comes the insurance industry, Bailey believes the companies and people that make it up should ”always be looking to see where [they] can do more to support young coming into the sector”.

Despite efforts to enhance the image of the industry to young people, it continues to grapple with shedding a reputation that puts off those from less advantaged backgrounds.

And this is where the sector’s drive for social mobility comes in.

Insurance firms, Zurich included, often visit secondary schools to present talks to students who are on the verge of embarking on their careers or furthering their education.

These sessions aim to showcase the insurance industry as an attractive career path and foster a diverse pool of talent with varied backgrounds and skill sets as they enter the workforce.

However, what about children from disadvantaged backgrounds who are excluded from these talks because they are not attending school?

According to the Looked After Children Who Are Not in School report published last year (25 May 2023), 2.7% of looked after children out of the 50,846 included in the research sample – those under the care of their local authority for a minimum of four weeks and of school age – are currently not attending school.

And this is where Zurich’s Magic Breakfast initiative comes in.

Zurich UK’s charitable arm – Zurich Community Trust – partnered with Magic Breakfast in 2022.

Magic Breakfast is a UK charity that aims to alleviate child hunger by providing healthy breakfasts to children in schools where there is a need.

The charity focuses particularly on schools in disadvantaged areas where children may not have access to breakfast at home.

Bailey explains: “Through our community trust, we’ve forged partnerships with organisations like Magic Breakfast.

“Their impact extends beyond just supporting school children – they also reach those who aren’t in formal education.

“By ensuring these children have access to nutritious breakfasts, they enhance learning outcomes.

“Additionally, they facilitate attendance for pupils who might otherwise struggle to make it to school regularly.”