Insurance firms are encouraging more senior executives based in the UK and US to move to Latin America and tap into the region’s growth opportunities.
While technical staff are urged to advance their careers by taking assignments in Asia and the Middle East, senior insurance professionals should jump to placers such as Brazil, Mexico and Argentina, said Jonathan Howe, UK insurance leader at PwC.
“Insurance firms want skilled underwriters who can assess and price risk on the ground in these high growth markets,” he said. “Often these are secondments for two or three years that allow executives to take the next step up the career ladder on their return. It’s a great opportunity.”
Brazil in particular is expanding. The country accounts for 40% of the gross written premiums in Latin America and the opening of the market to foreign insurers in 2008 has led many firms to open Brazilian offices. Ratings agency AM Best believes non-life insurance growth will be fuelled by a growing middle class combined with a boom in private sector investments as a result of the 2014 FIFA World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games to be hosted in Brazil.
The five largest local insurance groups - Banco do Brasil-MAPFRE, Itau,Porto Seguro, Bradesco and SulAmerica – still account for 60% of all non-life premiums, however.
Reinsurance firms are also moving in. In recent weeks Allianz was granted a local reinsurance licence in Brazil, and also intends to look to Peru and Colombia for premium income, XL named Gino Smith as its new reinsurance manager, while Swiss Re gained a licence in mid-2012.
Outside of the upper ranks, however, insurance firms are more likely to recruit locals because the “salary differential is so large”, according to Steve Stubbings, managing director of insurance-focused recruiters the Emerald Group.
“We’re still seeing a big demand from expats to move to developing markets,” he said. “This is primarily in Asia, with Singapore and Hong Kong desirable locations, but there’s an increasing desire to move to the Middle East, particularly Dubai and Abu Dhabi.”
Howe said any insurance professional with ambitions to move up the career ladder now has to be willing to relocate to growth markets.
“Insurance firms are under pressure to manage costs in a low return environment,” he said. “Therefore, professionals need to be willing to relocate to growth markets. Experience in these countries will in turn enhance their career prospects.”