Colin Lloyd asked a range of brokers and insurers for their views on the skills crisis

Staff shortage is the biggest issue facing the insurance industry.The shortfall is now a major concern for the insurance market. A lack of new blood is causing insurers and brokers to create their own methods of recruitment and retention. From training days to in-house education, various strategies have been implemented to respond to the drought.

Personality before educationBrokers and insurers have recognised the importance of creating strategies to curb the staff shortfall. To work in the market a preference is placed upon personality rather than education when recruiting staff. Insurance can be learnt on site so to speak and therefore it is the personality of people rather than their academic capabilities that is important. However, organisations are working towards ensuring staff acquire minimum qualifications to enhance their own personal development while ensuring that staff retention is maximised.But the image and perception of the insurance industry needs to change in order to attract the next generation of workers to fill a shortfall in people. The market has suffered a bad press over the years and must react in a way that refreshes its image and reputation in order to compete successfully against law and accountancy for quality staff. Younger workers are the future for insurance and the perception of the industry among these key individuals will determine the future course of the trend.' Colin Lloyd is head of operations at Reed InsuranceWhat can the industry do to find and retain quality staff?Philip Hodson, chief executive, Oval Group

I would place personality skills before someone's educational ability"The challenge for Oval is the recruitment and building of quality teams. Most brokers will say the same. We have a duty as employers to make insurance interesting for new recruits and get them excited. The industry is reasonably well paid and in London especially you can earn a lot of money."The problem is that accountancy practices and legal practices attract the crème, the insurance market gets the rest. The way to amend that is to pay people more. If you go to one of the big insurers you'll get the same problem. "In terms of the right people, I would place personality skills before someone's educational ability. I would not write off somebody who couldn't pass their exams. That's why I have a graduate here who knew nothing about insurance, but has the right skills so that we can train him ourselves."Jo Henderson, managing director, Henderson Insurance Brokers

I prefer 18-year-olds to graduates, in my experience they are hungry and not afraid of hard work"Staff issues are huge at the moment and very important to us. The problem is insurance companies have got rid of so many quality workers the market is operating below what it should be."We have addressed the issue by holding open days twice a year. We invite 40 school leavers to come along and talk about their career ideals and what insurance is about. Third tier management and associate directors are on hand to answer questions. We usually pick out half a dozen and take on at least three of those. "We have full-time in-house training sessions to equip staff with the skills and knowledge they need to perform. Young people expect training these days and the right people are out there - you just have to find them."Mark Minton, managing director, SMG Group

You look for people who are like yourself, the education side can be taught later"The industry has been very poor at taking on graduates and training them up, mainly due to the consolidation of brokers. There is a massive shortage of quality people. "Insurers will have to do what they used to do, which was take on apprentices and train them up themselves, or the situation will get worse. I'm a big believer that everyone in the industry needs to promote it and is responsible for its image."Finding the right people is key. You look for people who are like yourself, the education side can be taught later. Something you can't teach is personality but it is the most important component. If you can build up a rapport with clients they are more likely to do business with you."Jason Hawksworth, regional manager, Allianz Cornhill

Everyone has to take responsibility for attracting new blood"The shortage of skills within the industry has meant we had to set up the underwriting academy as a way of producing our own quality employees. Everyone in the industry should have a responsibility for making insurance more attractive to new recruits in order to attract new blood. That is the key challenge facing the insurance industry today - to project itself as an exciting, dynamic and interesting career option, thereby attracting the brightest and the best."David Lee, business manager, Lucas Fettes Northern

The trick is to train staff yourself and then hang on to them"The staff we recruit are mainly insurer-trained because they have knowledge of how to deal with clients. The trick is to train staff yourself and then hang on to them."The insurance market is very incestuous and the biggest asset to any organisation is its staff. You have to look after them or they will leave. It is difficult now because you have to prove under FSA that people are being trained to do the job."Martin Lewis, managing director, Community Broking Group

It's difficult to say what kind of people the industry needs, it varies from role to role"Every employer should be committed to the education and training of their staff. Hopefully then this will help drive awareness of the industry and appeal to a larger audience. It is difficult to say exactly what kind of people the industry needs, it varies from role to role. You have to look after the career paths for workers because it's up to the industry to keep hold of them."