The insurance industry has historically been seen as less attractive than banking when it comes to exciting career opportunities and earning potential. This perspective has changed somewhat within the last few years as recruitment volumes in banking haven’t yet recovered to the levels we last saw in Asia in 2006/2007. Insurance firms, meanwhile, have been expanding in the region.
As we head into 2014, the insurance sector could well provide one of the most buoyant job markets in Asian financial services. Here are six reasons why careers in Asian insurance are on the up this year:
1) Recruitment is rising
Insurance firms are being spurred on in their hiring by economic growth and rising personal wealth across the Asia. Higher salary levels and beneficial savings interest rates are also creating favourable conditions for the insurance market to flourish. In fact, many large insurance companies in Asia expect to increase their headcounts by 10 to 15% this year, in stark contrast to the banking sector.
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2) Skill shortages are getting more severe
Insurance firms have long been criticised for not investing in their employees at the same pace as their banking counterparts have done – and in Asia there is still a definite gap between the sectors when it comes to the quality and quantity of available talent. There is a shortage of skilled insurance staff in Asia and this is set to worsen as many seasoned professionals within the industry begin to retire. Expect, therefore, to see more insurance companies beefing up their talent management programmes, competitor market mapping, and leadership succession planning.
3) Reinsurance is on a roll in Singapore
Asia is one of the fastest growing markets in the world in reinsurance. Within the region, Singapore is now recognised as the leading reinsurance centre, with 16 of the top-25 global reinsurers basing their Asian hubs there. Reinsurance exposure and premium growth is expected to outpace regional gross domestic product growth, driven by current low penetration rates in Asia and an accumulation of insurable assets in areas vulnerable to natural disasters. Singapore is at the forefront of this growth and is looking to upgrade itself from a regional insurance marketplace to one capable of writing risks from across the world by 2020.
4) Asia is urbanising
By 2030, the world's urban population will swell by 1.4 billion to reach 5 billion, with growth concentrated in Asia and Africa, according to the United Nations Population Fund. This will create job opportunities in the Asian insurance industry as rising incomes and asset ownership in urban centres drive the growth of non-life personal insurance, including motor and home insurance. Within life insurance, the increased levels of education and financial literacy associated with the urban environment will further contribute to the sale of more complex life insurance solutions, such as wealth distribution products.
5) China is catching up quickly
Although China remains a comparatively tough market for foreign insurers, China's insurance industry as a whole is growing and is estimated to have made total profits of 91.8 billion yuan (US$15 billion) for the first three quarters of 2013 – an increase of 135% compared with the same period in 2012. The introduction of new investment guidelines that give insurers more access to financial tools in the equity market has helped to cleanse the sector of confusing and occasionally fraudulent wealth management products. This helped to contribute to both the confidence and volume of consumers.
6) Insurers are investing in technology
With all the major insurance companies having plans to grow in Asia, a critical part of their success will be how they embrace new technology in marketing and distribution. Expect to see insurers in Asia integrating new technologies and social media within their growth plans, creating roles for candidates in these areas. Social media, in particular, will be taken much more seriously by insurance businesses – its integral role in cost-effective marketing strategies and in winning younger customers is beyond doubt. Niche technology candidates and marketing professionals with social media expertise are sure to be in demand.
James Carss is managing director, Asia, at search firm Dryden Human Capital.