This whitepaper is produced as a result of the Insurance Sector think tank brought to you by Davies Learning Solutions team, specialists in providing development and qualifications to the insurance sector; and AxaXL.  Special thanks go to the participants from BarbicanBessoChaucer, ChubbHiscoxLloyd’s of LondonLVMarkerstudy, Marsh & McLellan & CompaniesMillerNexus Underwriting, Talbot, THB, Tokio Marine Kiln, Towergate and Travellers.   

Detailed discussions were facilitated across three topics 

  • Skill gaps in Leadership & Management 
  • Retaining Talent and  
  • Engaging Early Talent 

The insurance industry is well-known, interesting, challenging, and secure. People will always buy insurance, so it’s a `safe` career path in today’s quickly changing business environment. It’s an industry with a range of career routes and lots of opportunities to progress, grow and succeed. We decided to investigate how attractive the industry is to the younger generations and explore how the industry can attract more ambitious, motivated & talented young people 

We have explored what the industry is doing well and how it can improve, through an emerging talent forum. We invited learning & development (L&D) professionals from across the insurance industry to discuss how we better engage and retain talent whilst exploring industry challenges and where there is potential to improve.   

Awareness and transparency in the recruitment process

The L&D professionals identified that although people know about insurance, there is a general lack of knowledge about the different career pathways and roles that fit within the industry. Young people often don’t know the industry well enough to realise the numerous interesting roles and opportunities that exist. A great deal of new talent entering the industry, do so because they already know someone who works in insurance and have told them about it, or they’ve met an employer at a career fair or through their school.  

Recommendation: The recruitment pool needs to grow by introducing greater diversity of talent. 


People manager skills were also discussed at the forum, and the delegates highlighted how many managers are excellent technically, but can improve their behavioural skills. When leaders socialise with their team members, for example, they may lose professional credibility. Many managers can benefit from developing their empathy and emotional intelligence skills, along with their ability to handle difficult conversations, time and change. 

Recommendation: Invest in leadership skills. 

Our attendees also touched upon a cultural issue where the insurance industry seems to be behind other industries on topics relating to flexible working, support, variety, responsibilities, and leadership. The recent pandemic has forced employers in all industries, including insurance to adapt and offer its workers more flexibility, and it will be interesting to explore what has changed when the pandemic is over. 

Recommendation: Evaluate culture and seek modern ways of flexible working. 

Loyalty is dead

In recent years, employee loyalty has changed. Whilst it used to be normal to work entire careers with one employer, it has become commonplace to move on to new opportunities after short periods. It means that both retaining and recruiting talent is becoming more competitive. Traditional testing methods are also outdated, and it is necessary to build new up-to-date and simple review frameworks to offer talented, ambitious people the progression routes they are looking for. 

Recommendation: Listen to the voice of employees and seek engagement in creative ways. 

The delegates at the forum discussed the almost non-existence of excellent systems that track people’s progress based on measurable outputs rather than perception. Young talented individuals often face disappointment if there are no management programmes available following their training/apprenticeship/graduate programmes. It is also crucial for young people that they develop their skills, knowledge and behaviours whilst working so they have the skills they need for the future.  

Recommendation: Create career pathways that deliver technical and non-technical development opportunities.  Develop talent pipelines and recruit from within where practical. 

Many roles within insurance don’t need a degree, so talent entering the industry can be quite young. Our forum attendees discussed how relationships they have had with schools has enabled them to attract great young talent. Where the young people were offered development opportunities as well, they often stayed with their employer for longer.  

It was also highlighted how HR teams across the industry can promote more transparency by ensuring more people are aware of internal opportunities. Reward approaches are effective when they are transparent and consistent across businesses. Young graduates are ambitious, so they need clear progression paths that are consistent with internal salary reviews across the business. 

Recommendation: Attract and retain talent with competitive and transparent reward packages that map to clear progression routes. 

Developing a culture where future talent can thrive

When businesses recruit and develop talent, there is a clear need to focus on training and development that will ensure firms have the skills that are needed longer-term, such as within technology, AI, data and leadership rather than focusing on managers’ shortterm needs. 

Early talent wants quick answers about development opportunities and organisations need to be adaptable to retain this talent. It is essential to have clear development plans and internal career pathways. There is also an increasing need to allow talent to move sideways and not just upwards, and recruiting internally is, as already mentioned, crucial. 

To create a sense of belonging and a culture where people want to work, firms need to pay attention to individuals and not just the job they do. Investing in people’s mental wellbeing and diversity & inclusion initiatives is crucial. Opportunities for internal support and coaching as well as initiatives for better work-life-balance and development are a must. 

Recommendation: Career pathways need to be flexible and not siloed or just linear.  Opportunities for secondments, rotational placements, coaching, mentoring and networking are key. 

Closing the management skills gap

Our forum participants all agreed that having a range of career options and development programmes for their junior and middle management employees has helped people develop and progress. It was discussed if there is a need for structured programmes with internal application processes where only the top talent is accepted. Technical experts and managers need more tailored development routes. Scenario-based learning with real-life examples is often very effective for this group of people who often need to develop their management skills. 

The importance of a feedback loop was also discussed, where all employees can voice their opinions. While formal appraisals work in some organisations, the process should be replaced with quarterly feedback loops for everybody. Hiring talent and especially leaders from other industries than insurance will help break patterns and encourage diverse thinking. 

Recommendation: Make use of technology for digital learning, 360 feedback surveys, and engage with leaders outside of the sector for networking and recruitment. 


After listening closely and analysing the responses from L&D professionals at our emerging talent forum, it is clear that many insurers are doing the right things to attract and retain future talent. All our L&D professionals brought some great examples of effective programmes and strategies that have developed people and brought positive results for their firms. The delegates also agreed that there is room to improve as individual employers and as an industry.   

Most clear was the importance of supporting and developing people, not only to retain talent but to make sure employees have the skills, knowledge and behaviours they need to meet the industry’s future challenges. Providing the right development opportunities internally brings the additional benefit of helping to attract more young talent to enter the industry. 

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Dave Rose

Commercial Director

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