Wednesday, 29 May 2019
How to plan your career in a volatile insurance industry
by Paul Murphy
As an insurance professional, do you want a job or a career?
A job may fill the hours and pay the bills, but on its own, it’s going nowhere.
A career, on the other hand, has the potential to be deeply satisfying as well as seriously rewarding. Facilitated by a career plan, it transforms your job into a step on the ladder of your upward trajectory. And having a career plan is more important than ever, given the challenges facing the insurance industry right now.
Plan your career to overcome these threats to your advancement
In the more than three centuries that the modern concept of insurance has been around, there has probably never been such a perfect storm of hazards that exists right now. Challenges that you and your career have to contend with include:
The fallout from the Banking and Financial Services Royal Commission. As a result of Commissioner Hayne’s hearings and recommendations, the insurance industry is facing negative publicity, increased scrutiny, regulatory upheaval, additional compliance requirements, more limited sales opportunities, and elevated customer expectations but potentially reduced commissions.
Technological disruption. Data analytics, AI, robotics, machine learning, data-gathering sensors in buildings, cars and even people, RegTech, and digitalisation of policy application and claims processing, are all conspiring to radically change those human employee functions that they don’t eliminate altogether.
Mergers, acquisitions and divestments changing the face of the industry. Market size and capital requirement limitations are encouraging consolidation, while regulatory challenges and increased scrutiny are leading banks to divest themselves of non-core assets like insurance.
Unstable economic, political and climatic conditions. The prospect of a global economic downturn, the domestic slowdown, the interest rate outlook, the end of the housing boom, political leadership spills and elections, all topped off by climate change and the increasing frequency of natural disasters, all add up to a major headache, even in an industry for which risks are the daily bread.
With so many challenges, how can you plan your career?
Here are the steps you need to take to set you on the road to a better career.
Step 1. Set aside time to plan
It’s appropriate for insurers to borrow a bush fire survival mantra: “Planning to make a plan is not a plan”.
So don’t just have an intention to make a career plan, one day. Actually set aside time and do it now!
Step 2. Identify your objectives
A plan without an end goal is a path that leads to nowhere. Don’t get stuck in the same role until you retire. Establish your ultimate aim, whether it be CEO, General Manager, Chief Risk Officer or Underwriter, Head of Claims, or owning your own brokerage business.
To help you arrive at a realistic decision, pinpoint your own strengths (likely to be things you actually enjoy doing) and weaknesses (where you need to improve).
Step 3. Create a clearly defined SMART goal
What is a SMART goal?
Specific (i.e. well-defined – the who, what, where, when and why)
Measurable (the steps to be reached along the way, and how to know you are on track)
Achievable (you have, or can develop, the time and resources required to reach it)
Relevant (makes sense in the context of your industry and experience)
Timely (a start and finish date, to add motivation and urgency)
Here’s an example:
Beginning today, I will ask my supervisor for involvement in more risk-assessment projects. I will request further training in emerging technology. I will enrol in an MBA course this year and aim for completion by 2024. By 2021 I will be Risk Officer in a large organisation. By 2028 I will be a Chief Risk Officer.
Step 4. Design a detailed action plan
Your SMART goal has set out some measurable steps, but you will need a more detailed action plan to facilitate them. The measures you need to take include:
Gain transferable knowledge outside your area of specialisation. You may be adept at processing claims, for example, but what about problem-solving, critical thinking, collaboration and communication? Aim to develop these soft, transferable skills.
Upskill your specialisation, broaden your generalisation. If you’re going to be a senior manager you need to have an area of deep specialisation (research online, seek advanced training, attend conferences) and also a broad understanding of wider insurance issues (research online, ask to attend meetings as an observer, request temporary secondment to other departments).
Grow your network. People are hired by other people, not by organisations, so the more people you know, the greater your chances are of getting hired, and not all jobs are advertised. Grow your LinkedIn network (start by connecting with Ensure Recruitment) and develop new connections through participation in bodies like the Australian and New Zealand Institute of Insurance and Finance.
Seek a mentor. Find someone senior in your organisation or industry body who will be willing to mentor you via scheduled meetings.
Become a leader. Develop both your specialisation and your soft skills to become a thought leader in your field (consider posting to LinkedIn Pulse) and a people leader in your organisation (communicate, collaborate, suggest ways to advance the business).
A one-click career-advancing step you can take right now
Contact Ensure Recruitment to have a chat about your career aspirations and to be put in touch with opportunities that might provide you with your next upward step.