Covea's Adrian Furness on pursuing a career in insurance
Historically people have 'fallen' into insurance rather than seeking it as a career. Adrian Furness, chief operating officer at Covéa Insurance, asks if this is changing.
I was at a meeting recently when the topic came up of how many people want to join the insurance sector because of what they’ve heard about us from our existing employees – often their family, friends or people in their extended networks. These numbers tell an interesting story, possibly suggesting a shift towards insurance becoming an industry people choose to join, rather than one they simply fall into, as was often the case for the generation before them.
So what’s behind this appeal? It’s true the industry is undergoing a period of dramatic change, with the rapid advancement of technology creating a palpable sense of being on the brink of major transformation. Many old-fashioned rules have been confined to the archives, replaced by a refreshingly modern and socially aware mindset, spurred by increasing numbers of purposeful millennials in the workforce keen to exert their growing influence.
So is insurance becoming a conscious career choice for those looking to satisfy their desire for meaningful work and the ability to make a difference to society? In this respect, the insurance sector offers a prime opportunity. It fulfils a valuable role to protect the things that matter to people – their health, families, homes and livelihoods.
Working in insurance means facing big issues of the day, such as climate change, protecting communities and helping individuals and businesses get back onto their feet when they suffer the devastating impact of fire, theft, cyber-crime or extreme weather events. Our industry needs meteorological experts, technologists, data scientists and actuaries to help us prevent human loss and tragedy, as well as claims handlers, loss adjusters, brokers and customer care teams to respond to the immediate human needs and practicalities on the ground.
Holding this position in society gives us a unique insight which, if used well, has the potential to influence real change. For example, on my own doorstep the recent floods in Yorkshire gave a timely reminder of the value of Flood Re, a collaborative initiative which brought the government, insurers and communities together to ensure access to affordable household insurance protection for all.
A renewed appeal
However, there’s also something simple and more fundamental at play in the renewed appeal of insurance as a career. We all want to enjoy our working life, get along with our colleagues and have a work/life balance that can be adapted to our own lifestyle choices, and here there has been huge transformation.
Better communications technology has enabled an explosion in flexible and remote working that is making it much easier for people to do their jobs and work in a way that suits them and their lifestyle. This has been embraced by insurance as much as any other modern industry, allowing people the freedom to choose ways to work that suit them to get the job done.
As well as flexible working, ‘agile’ working is becoming more routine. This method of setting priorities and having clearer goals with shorter lead-times to gain fast results can make work more meaningful and provide a stronger sense of accomplishment. Working in agile cross-functional teams also has the added benefit of boosting collaboration, enabling people to build effective working and social relationships and support each other in achieving their shared goal.
Even the work environment itself has visibly changed beyond recognition – grey is no longer the dominant colour, for hair or clothes. Many companies, including ours, no longer have formal dress codes, people have meetings in coffee shops as well as in the office, or work from home. There is also a stronger connection with wider communities through partnerships that are broadening perspectives and promoting greater diversity.
There are more different entry points and pathways into insurance now than ever before, encouraging a diversity of applicants to suit almost any interest, ability or aspiration. In our business alone, we estimate our training budget raised through the apprenticeship levy will soon be approaching £1m. That’s a huge investment into recruiting, developing and retaining talent.
That's why I’m excited about people recommending insurance as a career to their family and friends. It gets to the heart of what real people who actually work in insurance see it and this bodes extremely well for the future of our industry. As a fifteen-year-old work experience student who visited one of our offices phrased it, “it’s not at all quiet and boring how I expected”.
Claims and operations director, Covéa Insurance