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Addressing perceptions to avoid a talent shortage

By Prateek Vijayvergia, Business Leader – Key Accounts, Australia, Xceedance

The insurance industry must change its public image, or it will continue to face a talent shortage.

The acute lack of qualified personnel available to work in insurance is fuelled by public perceptions of the industry: insurance isn’t seen as a “hero” job, a role that attracts respect. While insurers are constantly paying claims, that is not the public perception. We need to alert people to insurance’s critical function in helping people and making the world a better place.

The Scope of the Problem

A new survey from global insurance broker Aon shows that “attracting and retaining top talent” is ranked much higher for executives across a range of industries.

Aon’s biennial 2023 Global Risk Management Survey ranked it the fourth most pressing issue for top executives, which Aon concludes demonstrates a shift in how risk managers now view human capital. Aon CEO of Human Capital, Lambros Lambrou, said business leaders were recognizing that “shortfalls in talent, workforce or critical specialized skills can hamper innovation and competitiveness and increase exposure to cyberattacks, regulatory breaches, supply chain issues, business interruption and reputational damage.”

The Hays Salary Guide FY23/24, a survey of more than 14,000 respondents, found 90% of Australian insurance employer respondents experienced a shortage of skilled employees. The survey suggests the shortage will last well into the 2030s.

The top in-demand roles were commercial brokers, SME and property and casualty underwriters, liability claims consultants, and workers’ compensation specialists.

What can be done?

Globally, Xceedance has been presenting to university and college students about the industry in a bid to showcase its attractions. We need to sell insurance as a profession, and one with a great variety of available roles.

While using AI for mundane, repetitive tasks can reduce headcounts, it also means people entering the insurance industry have opportunities to work in more challenging, innovative roles.

Attracting the next generation

Simone Dossetor, CEO of Insurtech Australia, says people are attracted to the tech sector because the work is more relevant and exciting, which makes insurtechs popular employers.

She says insurance lacks “fresh blood” because those who understand the industry are retained but move into different roles. Because AI has seen many entry-level roles disappear, there is no longer the same funnel to attract people into insurance at the lower rungs.

“The next generation is more purpose-led, and that’s an advantage, but there’s no magic wand to solve the shortage.”

Simone says large industry players are being forced to change how they operate, which is driven by “start-ups doing things differently”.

As big insurers’ market share is eroded by challenger brands, they must seek ways to emulate the insurtechs’ successes.

Getting the Whole Organization on Board

Dan Marsh, Managing Director of insurance-focused recruitment agency Blake Oliver, who has global insurance industry experience, says insurance is held in high esteem in the United Kingdom and the industry there has strong relationships with universities and elite schools. “In Australia, insurance is seen as a secondary choice.”

Dan highlights a common disconnect in insurance businesses, saying HR teams want to fill jobs quickly and cheaply but organizations must be more strategic about raising the industry’s profile with those who are not yet job-ready.

Dan’s firm launched Blake Oliver Connect, now in its second year, as an initiative that brings together industry representatives and high school and tertiary sector students to raise awareness of the career depth insurance offers to enable students to make better-informed decisions. The event is a collaboration with Insurtech Australia and the Australian and New Zealand Institute of Insurance and Finance (ANZIIF).

Dan wants the industry to be more proactive by talking directly to potential employees to demonstrate the diversity of well-paid roles across varied industry sectors and the travel opportunities. “There should be events like Blake Oliver Connect every month,” he says.

Blake Oliver Connect  has just won the 2023 annual SEEK SARA award for the Innovation in Recruitment category.

Dan says the win affirms the event’s significance in shaping the future of recruitment in the insurance industry.

Encouraging longevity

Mark Silveira, General Manager Industry Engagement with ANZIIF, says the talent shortage is caused by a combination of factors, including the industry failing to devote sufficient energy to attracting people. The transportability of insurance employees’ skills makes them attractive to other industries, particularly the finance sector.

Mark says the industry needs to have a greater focus on education and training if it wants to be taken seriously as a profession. “Insurance is not seen as ‘sexy’ – we talk about people falling into it and that’s not a great tag line to entice people into the industry.”

He says greater industry support can help to demonstrate that insurance provides well-paid, long-term careers. “When people jump into insurance, they rarely leave – they’re not stuck, they want to stay.”

Claimants’ happy stories

The insurance industry has a gold mine of positive stories within claims files that could help to promote the sector.

Insurance Council of Australia data shows the general insurance industry pays an average of $150.6 million in claims each working day, amounting to $38.8 billion a year.

I’m sure many of those happy claimants would love to share their stories.


There are a range of well paid, long-term career opportunities in insurance, but — for the industry to thrive — we must invest more time and effort in attracting and retaining new talent. Part of this will undoubtedly be attempting to change perceptions of the industry, and highlighting insurance’s potential to empower change.

December 07, 2023