Michael Faulkner says securing a constant supply of talent is by far the most worrying issue for the industry

Every few months Insurance Times hosts a dinner for a small and exclusive gathering of some of the insurance industry's top players. Held under Chatham House rules, these dinners provide an informal opportunity to discuss the issues of the day and, perhaps more importantly, find out what the issues of tomorrow will be.

Unusually, this week the group was posed a general topic, namely the issue of improving insurers' and brokers' operational efficiency and profitability - by coincidence, it was appropriate timing given Aviva's latest cost slashing efforts.

As the discussion took a whistle stop tour of the perennial insurance themes, such as offshoring, office closures, delegated authorities, and customer service, a single fundamental factor emerged that many in the group said underpinned these areas. Talent.

The lack of new talent coming into the insurance industry was seen as the most important long-term issue for the industry to address if it is to be certain of future growth and profitability.

That is not to say that operational inefficiencies should not be addressed. Of course they should. The insurance industry is mired with myriad examples of old-fashioned and cumbersome processes, outdated legacy systems and cumbersome paper-based working methods.

But the view of many in the group was that cost cutting was an easy option, a quick fix solution. Attracting and keeping good candidates from schools and universities is what is needed to secure insurers' and brokers' futures. Talent is the fundamental building block of the insurance industry. IT