Hands up if you think you are underpaid. We all do of course, even if we are not in the same boat as Benito Carbone, who has just left Aston Villa as he didn't feel that £20,000 per week was enough to get by on.
However, those working in the insurance industry do seem to have more cause than some to feel aggrieved. Last month, over 1,000 visitors to the Just Insurance Jobs website – http://www.justinsurancejobs.co.uk – voted on whether they believed that pay in the insurance profession was worse than in others, such as accountancy, law or banking.
A staggering 93% believed that they were underpaid.
So why do these insurance professionals feel like this, what has caused it and how can the industry change this perception?
Talk to graduates and other young high-flyers about the insurance profession and the answers are depressingly similar. In comparison to young, sexy, dynamic industries such as the dotcoms, insurance is seen as grey, old-fashioned and dull. At the same time, banking and law are changing their image by responding to technological innovations such as the internet, and this re-invention is once again attracting the brightest talent.
In contrast, insurance has been slow to embrace ecommerce. Direct Line is one of the few players to have gained a foothold, while the jury is still out on other newcomers such as inspop.com. The forthcoming Peter Wood/Halifax joint venture, esure.com, looks set to blaze a fresh trail, but is it too late for the rest to catch up?
Even in a booming insurance market such as Manchester, salaries are being outstripped by the legal market. Steve McNamee, director of the General Insurance recruitment division at Anakin Seal, comments: “Starting salaries within insurance are still poor. Graduates are lucky to get £18,000 and even a newly-qualified ACII professional will not necessarily see any increase in his salary as a result.”
In contrast, Steve's colleague Ian Graves, who specialises within the legal market, believes that it will not be long before newly qualified solicitors are earning £30,000. He adds: “After three years in the legal industry it is now the norm to expect a salary of up to £40,000, in both smaller local practices and large legal firms.”
Of course, this is nothing new. Insurance has never been seen to be a natural homing-ground for high-flyers, and the likes of Michael Bright and Peter Wood are the exception rather than the rule. It has often been said that insurance does little to attract new people to it, and a favourite topic of conversation at any get-together in the industry is to find out whether anyone present left school with the aim of getting a career in insurance. Rarely will you find anyone who has, so is it a surprise that the industry does not pay well?
Many within the industry now recognise that insurance must re-brand itself and put forward a new, dynamic image if it is to attract the finest young talent in the future.
One company that has done more than any other towards this is Independent Insurance. It recently announced plans for its own training academy within its flagship office in Cheadle.
The academy will train new entrants to the industry from scratch in all aspects of insurance, while encouraging them to complete professional qualifications.
However, Independent is not just concerned with improving its staff, it wants to do all it can to keep them as well. As a result, Independent aims to ensure that all of its staff are within the top 25% of earners within that person's sector of the market. Other quality-led insurers such as Chubb and St Paul also ensure that they attract the finest staff with highly competitive salaries, and it is surely no coincidence that these companies are at the forefront of innovation within the profession.
Unfortunately, these attitudes are few and far between. Many employers merely pay the bare minimum to long-suffering staff while offering little in the way of training or assistance with professional exams. These staff can hardly be blamed for jumping ship when they see some of the many alternatives on offer, and the increasing number of young people leaving the industry altogether should be a warning to the whole industry.
The moral of the story has to be that good salaries are available to those who look around and who have the talent and ambition to succeed, but insurance still has a lot of catching up to do.