’We’ve sort of woken up as an industry and realised how fantastic we are’, says broker’s lead client advisor and chair of the East Midlands Biba committee

Ask most people working in the insurance industry how they came to enter the sector and they’ll most likely tell you that they “fell into it”. 

So common is this response, that there is “ongoing joke in the profession at the minute” about exactly this, says Florence Dennis, lead client advisor at broker Partners& and chairwoman of the East Midlands Biba committee.

Recruitment challenges in the insurance sector have been well publicised of late, with many commentators diagnosing the industry’s “boring and old-fashioned” reputation as the chief cause of a failure to attract enough new talent to the industry. 

Having recognised this challenge, Dennis says she is looking to “attract new talent” to the industry and hopes to make an impact by putting the “insurance industry on the radar” for the next generation.

Dennis fell into the industry herself in July 2013, but has “never looked back” since.

She explains that her journey into the insurance industry started with “a complete panic” as she decided to begin working having had a “sudden realisation” that university was not for her. 

She says: “I sat up to about three in the morning at night applying for those jobs online. One of the [those roles was] a business administration apprenticeship with Oval Insurance Broking, which is now known as Gallagher Insurance.

“I got the interview with a recruitment agency the following day after applying and they offered me a job on the same day as the interview.”

Dennis recalls that she started her first role with Oval sporting “[dyed] red hair and a lip piercing”, as “that is how fresh out of school” she was.

The next generation

Now established within the industry herself, Dennis is looking to get the next generation interested in a career in insurance. 

When she recently attended a conference that covered topics such as terrorism and cyber insurance she was surprised at the size and diversity of the industry and questioned why the insurance industry wasn’t bringing these fascinating topics into schools. 

She emphasises that, through the industry highlighting its interesting aspects to school-aged children, this “could create so many different options [and] so many different avenues.”

This inspired Dennis to take “the hands of the young broker” and then her position as “the Next Generation chair”.

Dennis now participates in community fairs and school assemblies to promote insurance, even though students are not always initially interested in the prospect of a career in insurance.

She says that positive feedback is received all the time, with different formats of presentations used to get through to kids, including casual chats and career talks.

“It gives [the children] an idea of salaries, progression routes [and] the opportunities [within the insurance industry]”.

Dennis highlights the opportunities and experiences she has gained through her career that could also tempt talent into the sector, such as traveling to different places like Belfast, Glasgow and India, and emphasises that being in the insurance industry was more than just working in a call centre or being an accountant.

“I’ve travelled to places [that I would have not been able to visit] if not for this profession,” she says. 

“It is [about] telling [our] individual stories and making people think ‘oh, I did not know that about the insurance industry’”.

The stigma and accessibility

Dennis acknowledges that, like herself, most industry professionals “fell into” the industry, but were often surprised at what they found.

Speaking as part of a panel entitled Insurance Broking – What Does Good Look Like at the Biba conference last month (11 May 2023), Dennis told the audience that the next generation of leaders saw the insurance industry as “old [and] boring”.

Dennis emphasised that this was “not the case” for the industry, despite it being ”the perception the younger generation has”.

Counter to this though, Dennis has noticed “a huge growth” in the insurance industry becoming accessible and advertising itself as a attractive career choice to younger people.

She explains: “We’ve sort of woken up as an industry and realised how fantastic we are.”

And on top of this, Dennis says that the industry has also woke up to the realisation that there was a “demand for change.”

“You’ve seen so many employers doing brilliant videos to promote careers with the CII and Biba started to do this as well,” she adds.

Future industry leaders

Dennis says she believes that it is important the industry has realised there is a call to demonstrate the attractive qualities of a career in the sector. 

“There is not a lot that happens without insurance,” she explains. 

“In order [for the industry] to keep [being current], to keep growing and changing, we need new talent. That is exactly the impact the younger generation will have.

“They will help the industry change and grow alongside everyone else. They will help [the industry] grow in positive ways, like [it] already has, but they will drive the positive change.”