Nicky Amor says the traditional ways of in-house recruiting and training in the insurance industry have gone, but there is help at hand

The insurance industry is a service industry. Its most valuable asset is people. To enable the insurance sector to stand and be counted alongside other service professions we must recruit intelligent, bright young things (BYTs). This will also ensure a healthy longer term delivery of the current problems facing companies, such as succession planning.

Over the past 10 years the number of graduate training programmes in the industry has dwindled. At one time insurance was seen as a career, a job for life. One went into a training programme after A levels or a degree, ran a one, two, or three-year programme of training and evaluation that included ACII sponsorship, payment for the exams, allowing time to study on a weekly basis and generally a bonus for passing each stage.

Insurers have always led the way in providing training provision for staff. But larger brokers closely followed them as they again had a better infrastructure to cope with absences due to study leave.

It was always accepted that there should be loyalty to the company that provided your training throughout the training period and for a few years afterwards. The old saying of looking after the people who looked after you applied.

Rewarding situation
Then the market would open up, the world was your oyster. The BYT would be poached by a smaller company which, not having the same infrastructure, would offer more money. Thus graduates would come up through the bigger companies and move out into the wider insurance sector. It was a healthy and rewarding situation for all.

That was until the major insurers and brokers stopped the traditional recruitment and training process. One can hardly blame them, it takes time and effort and, most of all, money to feed the industry training conveyor.

The industry after several years of 'conveyor' neglect has now turned around in surprise, complaining about the quality of staff, the lack of BYTs and the price of mediocrity.

Almost every industry has embraced change of working practices, different ways of training or the continuation of traditional investment practices - for example, the accountancy and legal professions. Why is it within insurance we are not willing to learn the lessons of other professions' tried and tested methods?

In the marketing sector, Freshminds has identified that clients need assistance in research, analysis and recruitment. It focused on helping clients tap into a talent pool of bright, creative and results-focused analysts.

Caroline Plumb, Freshminds co-founder and managing director, believes that by recruiting exceptional individuals with the highest academic standards to their talent pool, Freshminds can put together a team to deliver short and long term resourcing needs to many industry sectors.

"We supply them with creative and intelligent analysts for project-work on a flexible basis, as well as the perfect candidate to fill a full-time role."

There is a new dawn. A new development on both a different new frontier as well as reinstatement of traditional investment in training personnel from the ground up. A recent article in Insurance Times suggested the industry should look at the 'root of the problem' going as far to suggest that lack of communication is a significant problem.

I would go as far to suggest the root of the problem is not communication. Although it is agreed that there needs to be significant investment in getting a message out to the schools, colleges and universities. The more fundamental problem is to decide on what the strategy and message is actually going to be.

A strong message needs to go out detailing the vast opportunities within the insurance market, the rewards a career can bring, and the personal development that is possible within the sector.

Surely we can be more innovative than thinking inside the box and delivering what we've always done: internal investment into recruited graduates that don't stay. Perhaps the insurance sector should embrace the potential that certain organisations bring.

What about looking at different ways of resourcing staff? Outsourcing or insourcing? What about BYTs who, due to placement in projects across the industry in widely differing companies, are afforded fabulous on-the-job learning experiences together with getting additional tuition on principles and practice of insurance, reinsurance, project management, management principles as well as doing the requisite CII courses.

How good would that be for graduates. They would receive a much more holistic training programme, a much wider range of insurance occupations than one insurer or broker could give them?

Flexible workforce
One such company breaking the mould and thinking outside the box is Talent&Pro an insourcing company that recruits BYTs and places them into companies to act as a flexible workforce. Talent & Pro has a clear business vision. Its Dutch founding director Cint Kortmann states it: "When I started T&P in 1998 I wanted to form an organisation where graduates could expand their horizons, gaining experience and expertise while forming an integral part of our team."

Talent & Pro UK development director Marc Wilson has a vision of what the model can achieve for its clients in the London market.

"Talent&Pro needs to be seen as a strategic tool to be used by clients as a facility to flex their own workforce in times of need with

talented and professional individuals. We pull in graduates who are looking for a career in the insurance industry, but may not know which area will be right for them. We train them in different disciplines. They have CII training plus we have our own weekly tutored sessions," he says.

Organisations like that can build a business model around training a BYT intake while providing them with experience.

For the insurance industry it does seem

possible there is light at the end of the tunnel. Let's hope the CII Talent Taskforce can similarly think out of the box and move talented young people forward to become our future stars. IT

' Nicky Amor is a strategy consultant to the insurance sector and director of the Amber Partnership