MGA Mole: Why does banking look down on insurance?
Post has enlisted a managing general agent industry mole to lift the lid on what the sector is really like. Our anonymous commentator asks why the perception of working in the insurance industry is so bad from the outside.
I started work as the CEO of an managing general agent just last year. I had never worked in the insurance industry before, and I was hired partly because of this independence from the industry. This distance gives me an interesting perspective.
In this series for Post, I want to explore some of the experiences that I have had during the year. Some are mundane, some are amusing, some are shocking – at least to me. Maybe you will recognise these experiences, or some of them, as being true for your own organisation. Perhaps you might even reconsider some of your own assumptions or biases as a result. My aim in writing this article as a mole, undercover, is to reveal some of the great things that the industry is doing and should be proud of, as well as highlighting some awful things that imperil the industry and need to end.
Last month I explored my observations on the insurance industry’s attitude to client confidentiality. In this second column I turn to a topic close to all our hearts as business leaders – people. I will admit that one of my own biases about the industry before I worked in insurance, was a concern about the weak calibre of the people within it. Several friends in investment banking looked horrified when I told them that I had taken on a job as the CEO of an MGA. They couldn’t understand why I had accepted.
Of course, the industry faces many challenges, some of them serious and well-documented. Anyone who thinks the culture at Lloyd's is acceptable, for example, is living in a different universe to me. But Lloyd's is now more aware of its failings and does not represent an entire industry: its behaviours are only a small and shrinking part of it, thankfully.
Overall, my bias was misplaced. I have met very many talented, thoughtful and professional underwriters and brokers. By and large they take their work seriously and they work hard. They want to work in an industry that has an interesting future. They also want a career path.
Unlike other professions, insurance does not seem to have a solid grasp of the career path that it offers graduates or those in the early stages of their careers. The professional qualifications on offer are not broad enough to be truly valuable. This is because the skills required in the past are quite different from the skills required to assure success in the future. For example, there is insufficient focus on the future of the industry: data.
There is a tendency to overlook skills or qualities that, ironically, are in short supply. My favourite example is business management skills – show me an underwriter or broker who really understands the financial metrics of the business that they work in and I will show you a rarity. These skills, along with product development, data analysis, client management, sales and marketing, and others like them, provide alternative career paths for those entering or maturing in the industry.
Like several other professions – investment banking, investment management and law spring to mind, the insurance world has been slow to address its gender balance. Many of the articles I have read about this can only point to pitiful rates of change – or high rates of change from a very low base.
We need a more diverse constituency in the insurance world – diverse in race, age, gender, background, and professional skills – if we wish to continue to attract high calibre people and create worthwhile and interesting careers for them.