A career in insurance is not a popular choice for a business graduate joining a graduate scheme or selecting their first role after University.  In fact, according to the 2014 ‘Deloitte Talent in Insurance Survey’ (carried out by Universum), Insurance employers are positioned as 18th out of 30, in terms of popularity.

In the UK, despite the City of London having been the home of the insurance industry for hundreds of years, insurance is a less popular choice of career for business graduates than in the U.S., in the Pan-Asian countries and also in France, Spain and the Netherlands.   In the UK in 2014 only 0.5% of all business students surveyed list an insurance employer in their top 5 choices.   (Deloitte/Universum, 2015)

This is disappointing for the insurance industry which makes a significant contribution to the UK economy: in 2013 gross written premiums (GWP) made up 14.5% of the UK GDP.  Whilst this is a fall since 2008 – when the GWP as a percentage of UK GDP stood at 20% – the insurance industry has been very resilient to the financial crisis.

So, what are the reasons for this lack of popularity? And what can insurance companies do about it in order to attract the best talent into their organisation to become future leaders?  The Deloitte survey in 2014 interviewed 210000 business students about their career goals, aspirations and interests to find some answers to these questions.

Why Is Insurance Not Popular?

  • It is seen as boring
  • It is seen as old fashioned
  • The perception among students is that it attracts people who match this image
  • Students are not aware that insurance offers an international career with opportunities for relocation, whilst banking is known to offer this
  • Product is not seen as exciting, for example the FMCG sector which includes some of the UK’s most exciting and appealing brands is the number one choice for business students. banking comes in at number two with technology and software services at number three
  • The City of London is home to really well known banks who have a stronger profile as desirable employers for graduates. This works against insurance which has the traditional image of ‘men in grey suits’
  • The insurance industry must play to its strengths in the employment market and also work to downplay or improve on perceived weaknesses.The CII Communications Director, David Ross spoke about this issue to the Insurance Times in 2015, saying, “many young people’s views of insurance are heavily influenced by mainstream media, such as television, YouTube, social media platforms and newspapers, and by family and friends.  Advertisements focusing on price tend to resonate more that any positive stories around the social value of insurance.  And there is the age-old problem of insurance being a grudge purchase, with the only interaction coming when a claim needs to be made.”


    What Does A Career In The Insurance Industry Offer?

    Playing to Strengths

  • Financial stability of the organisations. This is not being communicated clearly enough in employer campaigns
  • Strong, long established company cultures
  • Professional training and development – a clear career development path
  • Offers more control over working hours for graduates (in comparison to other careers such as banking.) In 2014 the top career goal for business students surveyed was ‘work-life balance’ (Deloitte 2014)
  • Insurance plays an important role in our society
  • Offer security and stability for employees, and is likely to offer long tenure for successful graduates
  • Offers prestige to those who find this desirable
  • The industry is moving in exciting new directions with technology, for example telematics in cars and wearable tech for health, data analytics
  • Recently modernised workplaces are becoming more common within the industry, for example the ‘Cheese Grater’ and ‘Walkie Talkie’ buildings at 122 Leadenhall Street and 20 Fenchurch Street have become London landmarks and the £19 million investment that Hiscox have made in their new offices in Hungate in York.
  • Insurance is a global business offering international experience


Future Challenges In Graduate Recruitment To The Insurance Industry

  • The industry is becoming more and more technologically innovative to remain competitive, therefore will need to recruit graduates with more creative thinking and innovative capabilities than it has in the past
  • These innovative thinkers and dynamic leaders are being chased by other employers; banks, FMCG and technology employers
  • The current profile of ‘insurance inclined’ students does not show much inclination for creativity, which needs to be developed as a capability in order to protect the future of the industry (Deloitte 2014)
  • The internet has allowed price comparison sites (aggregators) to become dominant and this blocks the kind of relationship building with customers that other employers, for example FMCG, rely on to also build their employer brand. Students are less and less likely to have a direct relationship with a retail insurance provider, therefore they simply don’t have the awareness of insurance brands as potential employers
  • Finding new leaders. Amongst current ‘insurance inclined students’ only a third (33.6%) are interested in leadership opportunities compared to 38% of all business students overall.  This is a concern as indicators of future success for industry leaders are arguably ‘be a leader or manager of people’ and ‘technical, functional expertise’
  • Changing market. This is a time where disruptive financial technology firms (‘fintechs’) are starting to focus on insurance.  This means that more innovative and creatively minded talent needs to be attracted into businesses in order to keep up with the chance and safeguard the future for the industry with dynamic leaders who are able to cope with this pace of change

What Can Be Done To Address Challenges?

  • Insurance companies should work together and with Universities and industry bodies to promote insurance as a career and try to make it more appealing to a broader mass of business students and raise profile in comparison to FMCG
  • More could be done amongst students to promote awareness of insurance brands and products. At this early stage in their lives it is possible that students have not had much personal exposure to insurance as a consumer.  This can enhance employer branding.  Both of these issues could be addressed with more campus presence and targeting marketing
  • Work towards correcting some broad misconceptions. Examples of these are ‘insurance is only for men in grey suits’, ‘insurance is not a career for women’
  • Attracting more women could be encouraged by highlighting role-models. These could be women in top-level roles in the industry, but also those in mid-career and mid-level doing varied and interesting jobs.  Job descriptions could also be tweaked to be more appealing to women.
  • Graduate Scheme campaign communication could emphasise the smoother career journey in comparison to banking, the fact that there is an opportunity to pace your career development and to enjoy more work / life balance
  • Foster innovative talent within the organisation and develop it. Incentivise people to come up with good ideas.  Communicate in recruitment campaigns what kinds of innovations are being used in the business, for example telematics, which advances insurance beyond its traditional role of risk assessment and pricing.  Technology is supporting a move towards involvement in risk prevention and reduction.  In both the health and home insurance markets, disruptive technology is transforming the industry.  Being sure to communicate this in campaigns would encourage the business graduates who favour innovative work environments.
  • Improve the breadth of training to include elements such as data modelling, digital technology which could be broadly applicable and transferrable over the length of a career
  • The Deloitte survey showed that ‘insurance inclined’ students are less likely to seek out customer interaction. (Deloitte/Universum 2014) Whilst it is desirable to broaden the candidate pool to include some more dynamic future leaders of people and innovative thinkers, naturally ‘insurance inclined’ graduates who don’t have these competencies could be introduced to the wide variety of roles that do not require so many social skills – such as re-insurance and analyst roles
  • Where there are international opportunities within your organisation, then make sure they are communicated clearly in recruitment campaigns, and incorporated into the development programme for graduates
  • Analyse what is being done in graduate development in more popular sectors. For example, within FMCG
  • Make it clear to candidates that if they develop new skills this can guard future job security, and that within the industry new skills are required; innovation, tech, analytics


The positives; 

Finally, paradoxically, although insurance came out very low in the popularity charts globally in the survey, it does have the potential to satisfy a number of the top career goals of the current graduate cohort.  The number one career goal of graduates in 2014 / 15 was access to excellent learning and development opportunities.

An example of an organisation that has found recent success in improving its relationship with school leavers and graduates is Liberty Speciality Markets who have created a flexible graduate programme which focuses on an individually tailored development plan, which they call the Liberty Academy.  The launch of this programme has co-incided with efforts to carry out outreach in schools and offer insight days to students to improve their profile.  Alongside the CII they have developed an APP for graduate learning based on the interactive DiscoverRisk game that the CII has been delivering to schools since 2010.  http://www.discoverrisk.co.uk/  This initiative has been very successful in raising awareness of Insurance as a career option for younger people.  The programme, delivered in secondary schools to year 12 students, has been claimed by the CII as being responsible for a 50% increase in technical insurance apprenticeships since 2013.  Whilst this may not be of direct relevance to recruiters working with graduates, it is encouraging to think that a generation of school leavers are much more aware of insurance as a career option, as well as the diversity of roles available in insurance.  Sian Fisher, CEO of the CII, said in a 2016 report on the CII website, “It is hugely encouraging that more and more employers are realising the benefits insurance apprenticeships can bring to their business, and to the profession as a whole

To end on a really positive note there are two insurance businesses sitting at the top of a couple of ‘best employer’ lists.  Simply Business who specialise in Business Insurance and who have been voted number one in the ‘Sunday Times best businesses to work for’ for the second year running.  Whilst they do not run a Graduate Scheme, they do employ graduates and see talented and innovative young employees as their future, they carry out a significant amount of campus activity and interaction in order to raise awareness and build relationships with students.

Chaucer, the specialist Lloyd’s Insurance group has been voted as the ‘Top Company for graduates to work for in 2016/17 in the accountancy and insurance sector, in the smaller employer category for the fourth year running by JobCrowd, the graduate employer review platform.

Insurance companies as graduate employers would be advised to get really clear on what skills and capabilities they need within their organisations now and over the long term to build an innovative mindset within the business, then armed with this information you can:

  • Build profiles for ideal candidates
  • Pinpoint where you are likely to find these candidates
  • Understand what would motivate people who fit these profiles
  • Aim recruitment campaigns directly at these people
  • Keep campaigns locally focused
  • Build flexible and attractive graduate schemes and communicate them clearly and in innovative ways