Howard Lent says schemes to attract graduates into the industry are having only limited success, companies need to do more

In July this year Hays Insurance warned that Lloyd’s is in danger of suffering a ‘talent drought’ unless new recruits come into the industry in the next few years. A survey of Lloyd’s managing agents confirmed that the market faces a talent shortage due to the lack of graduate schemes in place.

The survey found that just 25% of the 46 managing agents that responded had graduate schemes set up.

Yet set against such bleak headlines, a number of initiatives launched to attract young talent into the industry have finally been launched – from the CII’s talent initiative launched last October to the creation of training academies across the industry.

However, given the findings of some recent surveys, it must be asked whether the initiatives have had any impact at all in enticing young people to consider a career in insurance.

Mark Butterworth, chairman of Lloyd’s Market Association (LMA) professional standards committee, agrees that the Hays survey highlighted an important issue. However, he insists the LMA’s online initiative,, is already tackling the problem.

Launched in September 2006, the graduate recruitment portal reportedly gets more than 800 hits a week and is thought to have resulted in graduate hires entering double figures.

A recent survey conducted by the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR) shows a substantial increase in graduates applying for roles within the insurance industry more generally.

It is arguably too early to measure the impact of the CII’s talent initiative which was launched less than a year ago. However, despite the scheme still being in its infancy, the CII has already secured some impressive milestones.

Being nominated for one award, Target 2007, and winning another – the AGR 2007 Best Integrated Marketing Campaign – indicates that the CII’s impact has been felt within the recruitment world.

The judges were looking for a campaign that delivered against objectives and had relevance to its target market. Winning the award demonstrates the growing appeal of insurance to the talent available.

Chris Hanks, general manager of Allianz Insurance and chair of the CII’s talent steering committee, comments: “We know that the initiative is changing the perceptions of graduates towards our industry and we plan to step up this activity. Later this year we will also be expanding the initiative to target school leavers.”

The CII is running its first general insurance careers fair in Manchester on 31 October. It will be a full-day conference and expo and ultimately aims for visitors to consider insurance as a career of choice, and to look at the insurance industry rather than other financial services companies such as banks for exciting opportunities.

The CII is hoping to attract in the region of 500–750 undergraduates from the greater Manchester area and is offering the industry the opportunity to target this key audience.

It will be interesting to assess after the event how many students attended and how many companies exhibited.

Notably, last year’s careers fairs were well attended by the students, but overall representation by the insurance industry was negligible if not non-existent. Occasionally some of the bigger names had stands. The CII’s attention in this area may help to rectify this omission.

There is some evidence to suggest that companies are confronting the ‘talent’ challenge. The Oval Group now offers a graduate recruitment programme and is taking an active part in the CII’s talent initiative.

Oval has also had success with young non-graduates whom it has taken on and trained over a two-year period. This ‘earn as you learn’ model is likely to prove particularly attractive to bright students who are put off university because of the debt it can create.

Yet there are still challenges in getting some of the top talent because, as the AGR’s recent survey highlights, insurance is lagging badly behind other sectors in terms of appeal for new graduates. As demonstrated by investment banks and major law firms, money can buy talent, but keeping it is another matter.

Sandy Scott, director general of the CII, comments: “It’s not just a matter of pay, or benefits, but also internal talent management. Organisations must have a culture in place to develop people to their optimum potential.”

According to research revealed by business psychology specialist OOP last month, over half of UK employees in the insurance sector feel their employers are failing to help them realise their potential. The study indicates there is a huge amount of talent currently untapped by the nation’s business leaders, and the implications are apparently costly.

Nearly half (47%) of those in the industry are committed to changing career in the near future, which will lead to spiralling costs in extra recruitment and training expenses for UK businesses.

Initiatives such as Towergate’s training academy assist in this area, but all companies need to develop plans to fight this gathering storm.

Early signs indicate the various talent schemes are having a positive impact in attracting young people into the industry. The challenge is to build on these numbers and retain the individuals we attract.

The CII intends to conduct a survey, similar to that undertaken before the launch of its initiative, which will assess whether there has been any shift in students’ opinions in terms of considering a career in insurance and their thoughts about the industry more generally.