Emma Ann Hughes examines how the insurance profession can attract talented individuals who are looking for a new career path
Many of you will have friends and family members whose roles have been made redundant due to the economic fallout of measures to slow the spread of Covid-19. You are bound to have been asked by individuals plunged into unemployment whether the insurance profession is ‘viable’.
Insurance delivers profound benefits to society – acting as a financial safety net when things go wrong. The unprecedented events of 2020 show insurance is as essential now as ever, and the profession is one where employers have raised concerns about a skills gap.
As Lyn Nichols, HR director at Ageas UK, pointed out in an article for Insurance Post at the start of 2020, the fast pace of change means this profession needs fresh talent – especially those capable of handling data analytics, automation and artificial intelligence.
So, what advice can you give to individuals contemplating insurance as a second career?
For general insurance, Kevin Patterson, director of sales and marketing at insurance intermediary Ceta, says a belief in the value of insurance and what it protects is vital. He believes a good understanding of risk and an inquisitive nature, along with a solid working knowledge of basic maths, are key.
Kevin Carr, CEO of Protection Review, says individuals must swiftly build on these qualities and obtain extensive knowledge plus experience of the market. To succeed in the insurance profession, Mr Carr says professionals must be able to combine their knowledge and experience with their understanding of the client and their situation, so that they can find the most appropriate cover at the best price.
He says: “The ability to ask and talk about sensitive medical issues is both frequent and important, but not necessarily easy. Good protection advisers tend to be both highly ethical and very conscientious.”
While qualifications are not a legal requirement to practise as an insurance professional, Vivine Cameron, education partnerships manager at the CII, says the minimum qualification expectation of most employers is generally the CII’s Certificate in Insurance.
In 2020, the core unit cost about £240. According to Ofqual, it can take 160 hours to complete this qualification. Additional units for specialising in underwriting, broking, claims and other skills cost extra.
If you like the balance of working a real job, having a formal structure to development, and including building qualifications within that, then it is a possibility now
Ms Cameron says: “The cost of qualifying will vary depending on route or specialism elected and would vary depending on what level the individual decides to study to, such as Certificate or Diploma level.”
She says that if you can demonstrate you have the skills and qualities required, most insurance brokers and insurers will pay for you to obtain qualifications, adding: “Having a career in something else before insurance only adds to your skills and what you can bring to a company.
“Try and get a job with a company that will support you in your studies – learning on the job helps with exam questions and studying, and you get used to real-life situations.”
Graeme Pratt, Chartered insurer and professional development and apprenticeships consultant at Ageas, says the profession’s employers are open to those contemplating a career change.
He says: “We know that the skills we need in the future will differ from what might be available now – so if there is some sensible joined-up thinking, new starters could be the people that we are missing from our existing employee base, which could well take us where we want to be in a more digital and advanced world.”
Mr Pratt recommends apprenticeships in professional spaces as a great way to combine earning with studying to obtain the skills needed to swiftly climb the career ladder. He says apprenticeships now mean there is a route into the profession for those who do not want to spend years studying before they get a job or earn some money.
He says: “If you like the balance of working a real job, having a formal structure to development, and including building qualifications within that, then it is a possibility now.”
In terms of long-term career advancement, achieving recognised qualifications pays off.
The CII surveyed 1,282 members who completed qualifications between April 2019 and July 2020 to understand how their qualification enhanced their career prospects. The survey showed the average salary of all insurance members who have yet to achieve Certificate level or above is £29,950.
Those qualified to Certificate level earned on average £2,300 more a year at £32,250.
The uplift was greater among those qualified at Diploma level, achieving an average salary of £38,300 (an increase of £6,550 more than those at Certificate level).
The average salary of Advanced Diploma holders jumps to £53,950; an uplift of £15,150 more than Certificate holders.
Aside from the financial benefits, Protection Review’s Mr Carr says this is a career where you can make a positive difference to the health and wealth of your family and the consumers you serve.
He says: “You will very probably end up buying the best critical illness and income protection cover for you and your family. You will know lots of interesting stats about illness, death, medicine, treatments and more.
“Most importantly of all, while most clients won’t claim on their policies, for those that do, you will have directly provided something that is incredibly important to that family.”
Who wouldn’t want a career where you can make a positive difference to the world in 2021?
To find out more and purchase study texts and the exam sittings needed to qualify to become an insurance professional visit: www.cii.co.uk/media/10120651/cii-qualifications-brochure.pdf
To find out more about insurance apprenticeships visit: www.cii-aspireapprenticeships.co.uk
Emma Ann Hughes is communications director of the CII