C-Suite: Empowering young Asian professionals

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A senior Indonesian insurance broker reflects on how companies in the Asian insurance sector can help attract, retain and develop the best young graduates.

The financial services sector in Asia continues to grow rapidly spurred by a period of sustained economic development in the region. Asia is viewed globally as an exciting prospect for growth, and financial services businesses including those in the insurance sector, are expanding their footprint in the region.

As a result, there is increasing competition for a limited talent and resource pool. The insurance industry has often come off second best in this battle to attract and retain young professionals coming into the work force. The lure of banking/finance is as strong as ever and the sector retains its prestigious image despite recent banking scandals.

In an increasingly material world, the offer of big salaries, bonuses and benefits packages is hard to resist for graduates out of universities.

So what can the insurance industry do to attract, retain and develop the best talents who are just starting out in their careers?

Let's face it, the Asian insurance industry still has a traditional image. Sometimes, the mere mention of insurance causes people's eyes to ‘glaze over'. To attract the best talents, companies in the insurance sector must work hard to change perceptions and focus on the rising professionalism and reputation of the industry.

The insurance sector plays an increasingly important role in the global financial community especially in the context of support for economic recovery following the increasing number and severity of natural disasters around the world.

This positive message must be projected to young professionals entering the workforce, in conjunction with the availability of the many different and varied roles within the insurance sector - (re)insurance companies and (re)insurance broking.

For sure money talks but this is not the only criteria. It is essential to meet the challenge of how to retain resources once they have entered the insurance industry. The lack of a talent pool has created stiff competition for qualified resources. The knock on effect creates an environment where high staff turnover is common due to high demand.

The number one priority for creating a cadre of future insurance practitioners is to be passionate about developing people and this must come from the very top of organisations.

Asian corporate culture is still dominated by rather traditional patriarchal systems of management. For the young professionals coming out of college today, this style of management may be viewed as outdated.

The idea of new employees entering the workforce and being assigned to a desk in the corner to let them ‘experience' the working environment is old fashioned. There is no substitute for ‘learning by doing' but it is important to achieve a balance between in-house work programmes geared to specific organisational needs and the broader experience offered by external trainings with a more regional, cross cultural and cross industry focus.

The successful cultivation and retention of leaders will evolve if there is a commitment to mentoring, to building a culture of empowerment and that success will ultimately lead to recognition and reward.

A pipe line of leadership talent will only emerge when leaders in the insurance industry develop clear policies for succession planning, career development and management training.

This will go a long way to changing the image and position of the insurance industry in the eyes of young professionals and will help build a solid cadre of insurance practitioners. The industry can then be seen as employers of choice when it comes to career opportunities.

Swandi Kendy, pictured, is president director IBS Insurance Broking Service in Jakarta, Indonesia. IBS Group is a member of broking group Brokers Link. 

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