Lee Gladwell highlights five priorities for the industry with regard to people development

n many industries, one effect of globalisation is that people become even more important as a source of competitive edge. The argument is that communications now enable information and ideas to move at such speed that the only way to keep ahead of the market is by having the best people.

Is that true of insurance too? In an industry where the key assets are people and data, you would expect it to be even more so.

There are some things which influence the competitive advantage of a whole market over the medium to long term – for example tax and regulatory environments. Within markets, insurers and brokers look to achieve competitive advantage in many areas. There’s been an emphasis on insurers developing different distribution models and on brokers consolidating to gain scale or setting up MGAs. Companies and brokers have adopted more effective, low cost operating models. Investment in technology has transformed distribution and customer service.

For individual companies in any market the point remains that few things are exclusive for long. Improved communications, movement of key personnel, and ideas circulated by professional advisers all mean that many companies in our industry at least have access to similar information and options.

The thing that really makes the difference is still people, who determine the quality of decisions that get made and the quality of implementation. Execution is especially key.

The emphasis that industry leaders now place on recruiting talent suggests growing consensus on the importance of getting the very best people. The current reality though is that in several areas of the industry, companies talk about significant skills gaps.

Five priorities seem to be emerging around people development, based on the conversations that the CII has with industry leaders.

First, the CII is doing more to attract talent into the industry in the first place. The CII’s talent initiative has been seen as a great start to this. We need to maintain this energy and extend our activities into schools and colleges.

Second, more companies are looking to raise the whole profile of professionalism and professional development to actively support professional qualifications and to adopt clear professional standards. The aim is to attract the best and to encourage good people to stay and develop careers in our business.

Third, there’s growing demand for focused development programmes for specialists, such as the underwriters and claims experts of the future. These programmes can be designed to plug specific skills gaps or to develop the new mix of skills needed in the future.

Fourth, the need for broader training for people in contact centres is re emerging to improve customer experience, help make better judgments and to retain staff and enable people to develop careers in customer service.

And finally, encouraging people to collaborate. To work across teams of specialists and generalists, across different geographies. Problems are getting tougher. It’s about having the best teams as well as the best individuals. IT