For a young person, applying for a job at Lloyd's can be a daunting prospect. The typical view of the market is that of an “old boys' network” in which there are few vacancies for new blood and where nepotism is rife.
Traditionally, to be employed at Lloyd's, it was necessary to be on first-name terms with a company director, or potential candidates had to place their CV in the chairman's office and wait for a response.
Nowadays, however, the reality is quite different and young Lloyd's employees come from a variety of backgrounds.
Foot in the door
Lloyd's spokesman Adrian Beeby says the commonly-held view in the Lloyd's Market is that no one sets out to work in insurance. Therefore, he says, companies within the market have many ways of recruiting young insurance employees and graduates.
Typically, many of the older generation of Lloyd's insurers joined the market at a young age without degrees and worked their way up the ladder. But increasingly, Lloyd's firms offer their own graduate training schemes.
Graduates come from a variety of backgrounds – from maths, finance and economics to law and history.
In terms of securing a position at Lloyd's, Beeby says initiative counts for a great deal.
“Networking is very important, as there's a great deal of ‘churn' in the market – people moving from broking to underwriting and between companies,” he says.
He adds that the age-old method of putting your CV in the chairman's office can still bring results, as insurers look to recruit people who are risk-takers.
Damian Smith, 28, deputy underwriter on the non-marine treaty account at Hiscox, joined Lloyd's at 18. When he left university, he had a masters degree in mathematics, and decided to become an actuary. While he was looking for a permanent job, he joined Hiscox as a temp, and was offered a full-time position.
Lloyd's has a graduate training scheme, which offers trainees the opportunity to experience a variety of positions in the market, so Smith had a number of varied placements in underwriting and broking.
“Hiscox is a young company and many of the underwriters are under 40,” says Smith. “Since the training scheme was set up a few years ago, there has been an influx of young people.”
But, he adds, there is a lot to learn. Completing the ten Chartered Insurance Institute (CII) courses takes approximately three years.
Perks of the job
One of the main advantages of working at Lloyd's, says Smith, is the fact that the job is so varied. Also, the working hours are much more sociable than those in the banking and trading sectors.
Antony Bastow, 26, is a claims barrister at Lloyd's. He found his current position in the national newspapers. He says: “I know that sometimes it's useful to network and most people seem to do it. But I'm a great believer in employment based upon merit and not who you know.”
He admits that Lloyd's is a difficult market to break into, but says for those who are patient and prepared to build up experience, there are opportunities.
Bastow considers Lloyd's to be a “great place to work”. He says: “My colleagues are superb and very supportive. We often meet with clients and there are many PR occasions and prestigious events to go to. I'm constantly meeting new people and building up business contacts.
“Of course, there's lots of hard work and the position has daily challenges, but I consider all that to be part of working in the exciting environment which is Lloyd's.”
It's certainly not all work at Lloyd's – there are plenty of opportunities to socialise. There are numerous societies, including under-35s clubs for both marine and non-marine syndicates and reinsurers.
Neville Ching, chairman of the non-marine under-35s reinsurance group (U35s), says: “Our programme centres on education – we organise debates and seminars, but there are also events such as summer parties, football matches, golf days and wine tastings.”
Guest speakers draw in large audiences – earlier this year, more than 2,000 people attended talks on the implementation of the London Market Principles (LMP2001).
Every year, each club has a two-week trip to meet other insurers and large insureds. The trips remain very well supported – about 30 people in the under-35s group went last year.
Spaces to fill
One notable gap in the Lloyd's Market is that there are very few young brokers, says Ching. “This may be because many people are negative about the broking side, as they believe that brokers will soon be replaced by automated services.”
New entrants to the market are generally encouraged to go into the actuarial or underwriting side, although there are many other options on offer, from legal and insurance services to reinsurance and corporate positions.
Ching's advice is to get work experience if possible. “A lot of people want to work in the City but don't know what they want to do, so work experience gives them an insight,” he says. However, he admits that having connections in the Lloyd's Market is one of the main ways new employees find out about vacancies.
Working at Lloyd's is the best possible start when it comes to building an impressive CV, says Beeby, as it is a globally-renowned brand name.
A number of overseas firms, particularly those from the US, send their staff over to Lloyd's to gain London Market experience.
“This is an international hothouse, as people come to gain skills that they can take back home with them,” he says.
For those with a solid educational grounding and a degree of tenacity who are just starting out in insurance, the Lloyd's market has numerous advantages – overseas opportunities, a social life, high salaries and the prospect of excellent career development.