In our second focus on professional qualifications, Liz Zukowski, head of personnel & training at Property & Casualty Services Ltd (PCS) looks at what qualifications to go for....

In an increasingly competitive environment and at a time of consolidation in the world of insurance, every aspiring insurance professional will need to use all the ammunition there is available to ensure a smooth career progression.

Importantly, not only employers, but particularly clients, stress the need to work with qualified professionals. Of course, this does not mean that the day of the seasoned, vastly experienced practitioner is over. He or she will have all or most of the traditional strengths that employers and clients may look for – unparalleled knowledge of the industry and of day-to-day practice; this person will have built up contacts over the years and the contribution made to the job is unquestioned.

However, for the younger insurance professional, (and nowadays the majority of younger fee-earners are professional) personality and the will to make contacts and attain market knowledge is not enough. The aspiring candidate will need to show not only competence in doing the job, but also the necessary professional qualifications that prove a sufficient level of knowledge to the boss and provide the level of service the client requires.

This is true whether one is looking for career progression or is facing redundancy through no fault of his or her own, following yet another merger in the industry.

So, what attributes would a prospective employer be looking for? These are usually under the broad headings of skills, knowledge and attitude. The attainment of or progression towards professional qualifications will create a complimentary positive impression within all three of these criteria:

  • Skills will be shown particularly through the choice of subjects. The ability to organise, research and produce written answers is an important skill.
  • Knowledge of course gained through technical study.
  • Attitude. Because no-one would pretend that studying is easy, particularly whilst working full time. It displays a level of commitment and personal determination which speaks volumes for that person's will to succeed.

    So to succeed, qualifications are a real must; the question is which qualification to go for? The answer is probably twofold – one generic to the industry and one that relates to your own specific discipline.

    At PCS, for example, our professional staff have on average 1.5 qualifications. What we look for when recruiting, particularly at the more advanced positions that the more ambitious candidates apply for is an insurance or loss adjusting qualification. We will then encourage them to study for the qualification that will best help them progress in their chosen discipline and give them an incentive to succeed in these studies.

    Naturally, as employers we appreciate the dedication that the employee has shown and, like most companies in the industry should, will ultimately favour qualified staff when new positions and promotions are decided. At the same time, our clients are happy in the knowledge that the practitioners doing the job are very suitably qualified.

    There are other instances where the candidate for a specialist post may wish to concentrate fully on his or her chosen discipline. So, for example in our Health & Safety team, we employ dedicated practitioners who hold an IOSH qualification. Other staff may be pursuing relevant subjects such as Risk Management, Technology and Marketing.

    The case for further studies and qualifications is compelling and any enlightened employer will back your efforts to personally develop and will reward success. It is good for you, your clients, your employers and it is good for the industry.