Glasgow offers more career opportunities than you might think, argues Mark Amos. And the after-hours lifestyle is attractive, too
Glasgow does not normally spring to mind as one of the UK's foremost general insurance centres. Its importance in this market is, however, mistakenly overlooked.
If you compare the raw numbers of people working in insurance in London with their Glaswegian counterparts, of course the Scottish city comes off worse. But if you view general insurance employment in proportion to the total workforce of each city, the ratio would be remarkably similar. Perhaps there is even a larger percentage of the total workforce employed in insurance here than in Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle and other regional centres.
It is important to stress that Scotland's population is a small fraction of England's. However, Glasgow's advantage is that it is by far the most densely populated city in Scotland, and its catchment area ensures its unchallenged status as the country's insurance capital. Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen and other major Scottish towns are lively and vital employment centres. However Glasgow clearly stands out as the “London of the North”.
The overall insurance market has suffered a great deal of turmoil and uncertainty during the past decade. However, if we look to the future, Glasgow is arguably more attractive, in many respects, to the aforementioned regional centres.
Compared to London, an insurance market of massive worldwide importance, it naturally has less insurance expertise. The reinsurance, aviation, credit and marine sectors are all synonymous with the English capital. Yet, set against all other UK cities, Glasgow is missing few insurance skills. It has much to offer existing employees and job-seekers in terms of both their professional and personal lives.
All the major composite insurance firms, including Axa, Royal & Sunalliance and Zurich, have offices in Scotland's biggest city.
The general rule is that the traditionally UK-domiciled companies remain the highest-volume employers. However, insurers outside the top four or five, including Independent, Groupama and NIG, also contribute significantly to the choice available in the market. They tend to operate smaller offices, usually an overseas, niche or development office, but they offer tremendous career opportunities for individuals with specific skills.
Something for everyone
There are environments to suit the requirements and expectations of every employee, either working in higher-volume commodity insurance or in highly technical and complex areas, such as professional, indemnity and specialist liability. The commodity market also includes employers in direct insurance, predominantly personal lines classes such as motor and domestic.
The city is home to both insurer and intermediary firms. These large employers create significant scope in underwriting and claims handling. Claims are a significant sector in Glasgow and the sizeable departments of several market leaders increasingly make this a centre of excellence.
Niche areas have been expanding recently in Glasgow, with progressive new companies entering the market. They may employ significantly fewer staff than general insurers, but they create excellent opportunities and a wider career choice for exceptional talent.
Several new names, such as Alexander Forbes and Smart & Cook, have also moved into the Glasgow broking sector in recent years, joining an already impressive array of both national and ambitious provincial brokers.
These firms, incidentally, have not moved to Glasgow out of curiosity. They have researched the scope for business development throughout Scotland generally and have chosen Glasgow as the hub of their operation. Most have exciting long-term plans. Few would bet against the interest of other dynamic UK and international firms being stimulated by this activity.
Despite these many positive factors, it is always possible to make things in Glasgow even better. Given that there is an impressive line-up of employers, it is down to employees to heighten the buoyancy of the market. This responsibility lies not only with those moving to Glasgow, but with those workers already based there.
The turmoil of the last decade has, without question, reduced employer numbers. Disappointingly, this has created an unhealthy loyalty, which reflects not so much a desire to stay with a company, but more a fear to move.
As employees worry about the job market and job security, they stay in positions that they no longer enjoy or find challenging. Yet, if you think about it logically, whose career is at greater risk: the disgruntled existing employee working well below capacity or the one motivated by an exciting opportunity with a new employer?
The increasingly sophisticated means of securing new opportunities, for example employing the services of a specialist recruitment company and generally adopting a more focused approach, are subjects of a separate discussion. However, it should be stressed that employees must strive to develop a career path rather than to stagnate in a job they hate.
The lack of significant movement in the market in London and other centres today creates significant scope for those with the required skills who are willing to relocate to Glasgow. There is a great deal of interest in job-seekers based outside Glasgow.
In the past, those looking for a move within the city have been quite open about it and this approach continues to exist today, albeit to an ever decreasing extent.
The net effect is that the market is aware of those who are transparently available and applications from new names, or job-seekers already in Glasgow who have previously been unavailable, are often of particular interest.
Quality of life
Finally, Glasgow lacks little as a place to live. Its quality of life is hugely attractive. Only the misinformed believe this comes at a reduced salary. Remuneration packages in the city are very competitive.
Investigate the Glasgow market without delay. You may find you have a great deal to offer each other.