Downturn brings high-calibre recruits but firms must add value

These are bleak days for the Manchester job market. Over the next five years, the city is expected to lose 21,000 jobs, mostly but not exclusively in the public sector.

Bollington head of commercial Chris Patterson says that, judging by some of the CVs he has recently received, the economic downturn means that there are a lot of high-calibre candidates currently looking for jobs in insurance.

Marsh managing director, north, Paul Fairhurst, who oversees offices across the region, says that the size and sophistication of the Manchester market means that it is relatively good place to fish for talent.

“Small marketplaces are more difficult to recruit in because you have to find your own people,” he says.

But even a large centre like Manchester has suffered from the wider lack of attention paid to training by the industry in recent years, Fairhurst believes.

“There are a lot of good people, but a shortage of skills coming into the industry through the insurance companies,” he says.

Insurers like Allianz and Brit both run their own graduate training schemes, and Allianz north-west regional director Alex Stuart puts the Manchester office’s strong staff retention rate down to the quality of training the company offers.

Reich Insurance group managing director Simon Taylor says the Manchester-based broker seeks to short circuit the skills gap by growing its own talent. “We are not really looking for people with bags of experience, we would rather train them in-house.”

One of the city’s plus points as a labour pool is the tens of thousands of graduates pumped out by its thriving tertiary education sector. Greater Manchester contains more students than any other UK city except London.

Taylor says: “There’s a wealth of graduates coming through the system wanting to stay in Manchester after they finish their studies.”

All good news for the city’s insurance industry.