The CII’s Talent Initiative was announced in a blaze of publicity a year ago. Anita Anandarajah reviews its progess

One year on from its high profile launch, the CII’s Talent Initiative has achieved its target of raising the £200,000 funding it sought from corporate sponsors.

The initiative, the only industry-wide attempt to promote insurance, was set to be showcased at Know Risk: The Big Event, a massive careers fair scheduled to be held in Manchester. It seems it has finally begun to attract the support of insurers and brokers themselves – so now what does the future hold?

To date, eight sponsors have signed up: Allianz, AXA, Marsh, Munich Re, Norwich Union, Talent & Pro, Towergate and Willis.

According to Talent Initiative director Elliot Lane, the funds raised were sufficient to fully fund the Big Event, which is planned to be an annual event, and the committee will be going back to the industry to raise the equivalent sum for next year.

Next month, the talent steering committee, headed by Chris Hanks, chairman of the CII task force, will discuss the results of the Big Event. as well as hammer out future plans.

Among these plans is the roll-out of the initiative to schools and colleges nationwide (see box).

The committee, which will sit on 26 November, has been increased from the original four-man team a year ago to representatives of12 major employers and will include Brendan McManus, chief executive of Willis UK & Ireland, as well as regional brokers.

Lee Gladwell, CII sales and marketing director says the initiative is now becoming a “real industry initiative”.

He says: “We’ve seen more activity in universities, with about 20,000 students registered on our website who have gone on to contact supporting companies to ask about careers in insurance.

“The next move is to extend into schools in the first quarter of next year. Once we do this, the relevance of the initiative will extend further.”

Mike Williams, managing director of broker network UKGI and former chief executive of Biba, points out that the initiative’s focus on graduates may have alienated some of its core target audience.

“One of the things is that [smaller brokers] are not necessarily looking to recruit graduates, who are expensive,” he says.

“They are looking for people with practical skills and a base level of good education. The initiative does not necessarily demonstrate relevance.”

He adds: “The CII has to work with trade organisations like Biba because in the end the CII is a professional body. This size and type of broker would feel greater affinity with Biba. The CII needs to understand the needs and challenges faced by brokers rather than use a take-it or leave-it approach.

“Right now there is more focus of attention on the London market and bigger brokers. What we need is a more bespoke programme for smaller brokers.”

But an even bigger hurdle for smaller brokers is cost: they would have to fork out a cool £5,000 to be an official sponsor of the initiative.

Fiona Andrews, head of people development and reward at Towergate, and formerly head of insurance at the CII, defends the cost.

“The amount of money an individual organisation would have to spend to advertise and recruit talent into its own business would far outweigh the cost of accessing the initiative.

“These wouldn’t have the advertising and brand connected with the initiative though.”

However, the talent initiative also faces hurdles with the larger brokers – the natural home of graduates. They have their own established training programmes and highly recognisable brands.

Towergate, though, is one that has decided to support the initiative. “It attracts people into the industry by default when specific high profile companies are involved,” says Andrews.

“For the first time, the industry is coming together to admit that there is difficulty to get people to join.”

Programmes plannned

The Talent Initiative has a series of programmes planned:

A schools proposition to promote insurance across schools, colleges and financial skills centres in each major town in the UK. The CII will be working with B-Live, a schools-oriented site

Working with City & Law, a recruitment and employee marketing agency which produced the Talent Initiative marketing campaign, to produce a Talent Initiative Facebook site. The site will hook up graduates who have visited the CII at career fairs.

Second Life
In the pipeline is the plan to create a virtual island for visitors to seek advice about careers in insurance and engage with sponsors.