< Blogs | 08.11.2019



Alex Dooler analyses the risks of specialising too early in your career

Specialisation is often seen as a positive for one’s career. The more specialised your knowledge, the more value you can add.

But specialise too soon and you risk limiting your future career options and being blinkered in your vision. Specialise too late and you may lose the advantage of time and experience.

The Range – a New York Times bestselling book by David Epstein – argues that early hyper-specialisation could limit your career. In it, he argues that through sampling broad experiences in your early years, you will better understand your own strengths and ultimately succeed in the long run. In short, specialising too early pigeonholes you.

Through gathering a range of studies on elite athletes, he found that in almost every sport there was a ‘sampling period’ in which athletes played a variety of sports. In doing so, they learned about their own strengths and interests. Those who delayed specialisation were often found to be better than their early-specialised counterparts.

This has important implications for young people starting out in the insurance market. Experience across a broad range of careers and sectors will undoubtedly inform you of your strengths and what you enjoy. If you know what you’re good at, you can better succeed at it.

In the business of measuring risk, a broad tapestry of life experience is an underrated asset


In the business of measuring risk, a broad tapestry of life experience is an underrated asset.

This particularly resonated with me, because I have been a beneficiary of broad experience. As an insurance underwriter turned financial journalist at Debtwire, my time analysing financials has helped me enormously in the world of journalism. Chasing scoops and interrogating financials is a lot easier when you have worked on the other side. And it has also allowed me to take on more responsibility through having different skills to those around me.

This is especially important as technology creates disruption across the industry. With a broad set of experiences, you will be better able to adapt to changing job responsibilities.

And technological disruption is nothing to be sniffed at. Indeed, one set of economists – the Oxford Martin Programme – predicted a 99% probability that insurance underwriters will cease to exist by 2033.

Gaining a broad range of experiences across different areas is a surefire way of learning what you love and what you’re good at. But it will also help to insure you against the risk of digital disruption and inform the risk appraisal process through a rich tapestry of life experience.

Alex Dooler is a financial journalist at Debtwire


In the coming weeks, we will be completing a crucial phase of our work on Insuring Women’s Futures. There will be guidance for members on building diversity into product governance and customer communications, and on building financial wellbeing into flexible working policies. We will also be discussing our work at a special hearing of the Insurance All Party Parliamentary Group.

We are putting the finishing touches to an important piece of work with Scope on disability and insurance, which sets out practical ways in which the profession can be more open to people with disabilities, while making it easier for disabled people to find employment in the wider economy.

The FCA’s new Senior Managers and Certification Regime comes into force on 9 December, and the FCA is finalising how it will supervise firms under the new regime, based on challenging what Andrew Bailey calls “any organisation that prioritises being within the rules over doing the right thing”. It is planning a consultation on its approach to a duty of care and a paper on Organisational Culture – which the CII will be contributing to – in the first half of 2020. As the FCA moves to enforcing principles as well as rules, these developments will be key.

Finally, 18-22 November will be the Money Advice Service’s Talk Money Talk Pensions Week and we will be raising a series of key issues for consumers, from the protection gap in travel, home and life insurance, to the need to save now for retirement. We are using 19 November for the launch day of our Talk 2 10K financial wellbeing event.

I am happy to say that our profession has a strong story to tell – especially with the fantastic work we have all been doing in recent years.

Sian Fisher is CEO of the CII


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