Part of the solution to broker shortages lies with selling the idea of a career in the sector to university graduates and school leavers

Recruitment vacancies among UK brokers are causing a “significant headache” for firms and hampering optimistic growth expectations, said Aviva chief distribution officer Gareth Hemming. 

According to Aviva’s latest Broker Barometer research, published 26 April 2022, 98% of brokers are currently recruiting for a role in their business.

Staggeringly, however, more than half (53%) revealed that a vacancy had been open for four months or more.

In comparison, as highlighted in recruitment platform Totaljobs’ Hiring Trends Index (January 2022), the average time to hire in the UK during the final quarter of 2021 was just 4.3 weeks.

The issue of long-standing vacancies is most prevalent among local brokers (59%), followed by national brokers (52%) and regional brokers (42%).

Growth was cited by one third (34%) of respondents as the leading driving factor to hire, rising to 50% among nationally focused firms.

The data was taken from a survey of 220 professional brokers across the UK, conducted on behalf of Aviva by Censuswide Research between March and April 2022.

But why are broker vacancies rife?

Freedom Services Group executive director of culture and engagement Chantel Emilius said: “Trying to recruit someone with insurance broking experience now is so difficult as there is a real shortage in the market, with most brokers changing their modelling to recruit on a national scale post-pandemic.”

She further highlighted, however, that “this shortage spans across many areas in the insurance space”.

Broker Insights chief commercial officer Alan Sanderson, meanwhile, said: “Speak to any broker and they will likely tell you they have no spare time.

“Capacity of the existing workforce is an ongoing issue, which suggests that there is a shortage of talent.”

Well kept secret

Alongside time restraints and chasing growth post-pandemic, Aston Lark chief executive Peter Blanc said, “it has always been a bit of a challenge encouraging [university graduates] and school leavers into insurance” as the industry is “a well kept secret, populated by people, like me, who fell into insurance by accident”.

Mike Latham, chief executive at Verlingue UK, echoed Blanc’s sentiments: “Even with my own children, I talk to them about insurance as an option and, notwithstanding the fact it’s been very good to them, they want to look elsewhere.”

Driving this lack of interest is “the outward perception of the industry”, said Ed Halsey, chief operations officer and co-founder of Hubb.

He continued: “Diversity remains an issue at every level, be it background, age, race or gender. You need only to flick through an industry publication to see how everybody looks, talks and thinks the same.

“We’re an industry that is quick to dismiss new ideas, fearful of the unproven and desperate to avoid changing.

“The problem is the gulf between us and an ever-changing customer base is becoming greater with each and every day.”

Trouble recruiting can also be exacerbated by staff retiring. According to Aviva’s research, 19% of brokers disclosed that vacancies were occurring because of staff retiring, which “emphasises the need to bring the next generation through”, said Hemming.

Where a vacancy exists due to retirement, brokers are most likely looking for a junior member of staff to join the team (36%).

Generational change

To attract new entrants, Latham said “we need to showcase what insurance is about – insurance is about people, it’s about relationships. It’s not about selling car insurance. It’s about the people you interact with”.

Part of this involves raising the insurance industry’s profile among local universities and schools, while taking the opportunity to be “advocates” for what he feels is an industry that “doesn’t have glass ceilings”.

Attracting this pool will create the opportunity to “change” and “innovate” insurance products, added Latham, so they better cater towards younger people, which the market needs to improve.

Blanc stated that Aston Lark is currently reaching out to students, but “it takes time”.

“We should be an extremely attractive profession to grads – [there’s] less competition than banking, but arguably a lot more fun,” he said.

The key to retaining new talent is “creating the conditions and culture that keeps these new entrants within the industry”, said Sanderson.

He sugested three questions for firms to ask themselves around “difficult issues” that are “important” to addressing talent shortage issues:

  1. How is the sector perceived by those starting out in the world of work?
  2. How adaptable is the sector to the changing nature of work?
  3. Does a career in the sector offer longevity?

Considering longevity, Sanderson stated that if “talented individuals” don’t “find themselves in the right roles”, they will “move on”.

“The key for prospective employers is to identify the core skills that are required, not just the qualifications, for each role they are seeking to fill,” he added.

One way that Aviva is focusing on the next generation is via its apprenticeship programme, which is currently recruiting for its third cohort since its creation in 2020.

The firm also offers the Aviva Future Leader programme, which is designed for independent brokers wanting to move up the career ladder and become broking principals.

Halsey said: “If we want to attract the next generation of talent, we need to sell the industry to them, the job security, the growth opportunities and the chance to truly make a difference in people’s times of need.”


Brokers’ needs and wants in terms of employee benefits have changed.

Chantel Emilius, executive director of culture and engagement at Freedom Services Group, explained: “The pandemic changed the landscape greatly. The ability to work from home has been the biggest benefit and is one of the first questions a potential recruit now asks.

“The flexibility of working from home created a better work-life balance for so many giving people much more quality time to spend with their families and it’s something a lot of people now consider at the top of their list when looking for a new job.”

Read: Covid lockdown boosts industry’s prospective talent pool thanks to home working

Broker Insights chief commercial officer Alan Sanderson, meanwhile, said: “For employees that prioritise hybrid working amongst individual benefits, failing to offer it is equivalent to a poor salary.

“Ultimately, it’s a decision for the broker and the individual and one size certainly does not fit all.”

Salary, for Verlingue UK chief executive Mike Latham, is “just one piece of the jigsaw”, as the broker focuses on “engagement and developing a sense of belonging” – the “family aspect to us is massively important”, he said.

Latham continued: “How do we display that with our colleagues? It comes from our benefits programme.

“It’s not just around private health and life insurance. It’s around employee engagement, around mental wellbeing and it’s also how we behave or react to situations.”

Keeping insurance simple is also one of the broker’s “core values”.

Ed Halsey, co-founder and chief operations officer at Hubb, added: “Meaningful discount, flexible hours and financial advice are all considerations, but there’s also been a much needed refocus on self-care with mental health days, gym memberships and free counselling now scoring highly with recruits.”