For decades, the insurance industry has underinvested in managerial talent. This is in sharp contrast to banking. Until recently, no insurance company would have appeared on a list of preferred employers at top business schools. In addition, the compensation was generally less attractive than in other parts of the financial services industry. This is partly due to the retail nature of the business, with a heavy focus on mass operations – but it’s clearly become an issue for the entire industry, and Asia is no exception. The most aggressive players have already started to change – globally and in Asia – and identified talent as a key success factor for continued growth and value creation.
In many markets, the situation is exacerbated by the fact that the insurance industry is still very young and a whole generation of managers with more than 5-10 years of experience is therefore missing, especially in India and China. But here, too, the winners are already standing out from the crowd. ping on of China now has 74 expats among its top 100 executives – most, but not all, of Chinese background. And ICICI – Prudential attracts top talent in India, benefiting from the group’s strong brand and image and a sense of national pride.
The key to developing and attracting top talent for life insurance companies is a holistic approach. Compensation, while important, is certainly not the only element, nor is it the most important in the eyes of young managers. For example, graduates of top business schools regularly cite attractive career opportunities and company culture as more important than remuneration. According to a Hill & Knowlton study that surveyed 527 MBA students at 12 top international business schools, 95 percent of students rated career opportunities as “extremely” or “very important” when choosing an employer, while 86 percent of them rated career opportunities as ” extremely” or “very important” rated the corporate culture as just as important.
Life insurers should look to best practices from other industries to improve their people and talent management functions. Companies like GE demonstrate that the key to building a strong management bank is hiring the best, giving them great responsibility early on, and actively managing their professional development through systematic training, career paths and mentoring. This is particularly important in Asia, where managerial talent is scarce and a culture of poaching employees from competitors often sets in motion a downward spiral of overpayment and frequent job hopping. Building a strong management bank will be a key success factor in life insurance in Asia over the next ten years.