Insurers in Hong Kong are on the hunt for talent as the industry undergoes a technology-driven transformation.
Demand in the sector for technical candidates is creating opportunities for people with the right skillset, even if they are not from an insurance background.
Daniel Wallis, Global Partner and Asian Managing Director at Gravitas Recruitment Group, explains that for a long time, insurance has been a traditional business and, as a result, it has lagged behind the banking industry in terms of its technology adoption.
But things are changing rapidly as insurers evolve to become more agile and customer-centric, and this shift is creating demand for talent in non-traditional areas.
Wallis says: “Insurance is changing. There are disruptors, transformations, and businesses are evolving. In order to remain competitive and customer-focused, we are seeing investment in technology, which is changing everything from how insurance is sold, to how policies are serviced and how claims are paid.”
He adds that insurers are investing in areas such as robotic process automation (RPA) and artificial intelligence (AI), which supports more effective and efficient processes in terms of underwriting and claims processing.
In addition, they are building up mobile apps and web interfaces, as well as developing chatbots creating additional sales channels to compliment traditional distribution.
“We are seeing a lot of growth in these areas, as well as increased demand in the area of data science. We think it will only continue to rise into the future.”
In terms of the talents companies are looking for, Wallis says there is a high demand for data led professionals. These include data architects who are competent in building data lakes and data scientists who mine large volumes of data creating business intelligence.
He adds that actuaries are also sought after, as while they are not necessarily associated with technology, there is a close relationship to that of data science. Actuaries are often doing similar tasks – analysing and modelling large volumes of data to creating models and intelligence. The difference is actuaries are insurance specific where data scientists are sector agnostic.
Wallis explains that due to the current transformation, talents do not necessarily need to have insurance experience in order to move into the sector.
“Certain technology skillsets are very niche, but they can be applied across multiple sectors. This is a new area that is rapidly emerging and as such often something new for the sector, at times it would be impossible to have people who also have insurance experience in these emerging technologies,” he says.
He adds that there are also roles for which some insurance experience is preferred, for example, transformation managers who oversee the automation of processes, such as underwriting and claims servicing, as these areas are insurance-focused, rather than being purely technology-focused.
Wallis thinks there are a number of advantages for technology talents in making the shift into insurance.
He points out that despite difficult trading conditions in Hong Kong in the past nine months, the sector has not seen a fall in jobs, while there is also a lot of growth in the industry, as technology opens up previously under-served markets in rural areas of Asia Pacific.
He adds that it is also an exciting time to be joining the sector as it breaks new ground.
“Insurance companies are looking at how to build the next generation of insurance, working back from a customer perspective to create a new solution and bringing in technology to enable it.
“It is really innovative and quite exciting for a lot of individuals, and it offers a great career perspective into the future.”
Gravitas was founded in Hong Kong and London 10 years ago, and specialises in helping insurance companies fill niche positions in areas ranging from actuarial and finance roles, such as implementing the new accounting standard IFRS17, to regulatory compliance and technology.
Wallis describes it as operating in a “niche within a niche”, adding that its high degree of specialisation means it has built up a deep knowledge of the areas it covers, enabling it to remain ahead of the curve in terms of the candidates its clients will need going forward.
“We have a methodology of building relations with the best candidates who are not always easy to find, building our insights in the markets through these relationships to create a good knowledge base and network within those niches within niches,” he says.
The firm, which has won multiple awards, including being named Best Specialist Recruitment Business at the Global Recruiter Asia Pacific Awards for two consecutive years, has worked with the full spread of companies, including large international life and general insurers, reinsurers, brokers and virtual insurers.
Gravitas also prides itself on really getting to know talents as individuals and helping them to find the role that is right for them.
“We work them through a journey. We often say we don’t work the jobs, we work with candidates because we are trying to create an experience with them. Many of our relationships have spanned a decade,” Wallis says.