Insurance Q1 Market Review 2021

January 28

2020 was a year full of unexpected events and challenges for every industry – that goes without saying. Now that we are out the other side of it, we are finally able to take a step back and reflect.

It is worth noting the comfortable position that the Insurance industry is currently in as opposed to other markets. Let us compare Insurance directly to the Banking space – where redundancies (both voluntary and involuntary), pay cuts, and total halts to external recruitment activities have been far more prevalent. In terms of recruitment, companies in the Insurance space have exercised necessary caution when hiring, but a healthy level of recruiting and hiring still went ahead despite the large-scale uncertainty 2020 has brought. Redundancies, lay-offs, pay cuts and other “cost cutting” measures to human resources were not quite so common thankfully.

But that’s not to say there haven’t been shifts in trends, behaviours and expectations when it comes to hiring and/or moving jobs in Insurance. We explored a few of these shifts below:

To Hire or Not To Hire

When compared directly to other industries such as Banking, companies operating in the Insurance industry thankfully were not faced with anywhere near as many redundancies, lay-offs, pay cuts or other cost cutting measures to human resources. However, cost considerations to external recruitment did come to the table far more often than pre-Covid. “Do we really need to hire?” was the question asked by many HR and Finance professionals in our Insurance clients.

Often, the answer was yes – but the question then became “do we really need to hire now?”. Most of our clients and candidates alike attest to an intensely busy 2020 – particularly within Claims, Underwriting, Advisory roles within Brokers, and even Sales positions where the heat may have been turned up due to newly conservative buyer behaviour. Many larger companies attempted to absorb the excess work across existing team members in the interim. A lot of smaller companies had no choice but to hire even at the height of the pandemic.

There has understandably been some newfound hesitance among candidates surrounding changing jobs in 2020. However, with Insurance gaining a reputation as being a “safe” career, for many, it wasn’t enough to deter them from moving on when their minds had been made up. Employers’ taking their time in deciding on often critical hires, did not attract quite as negative a reaction from candidates, compared directly to the pre-Covid world. Many were perfectly content to wait for the right offer, or alternatively, knew that their options were slightly limited now, as compared to pre-Covid hiring levels.

New Allowances

Interviewing, like many other traditional face-to-face meetings, had to go digital in 2020.

The most common method has been to complete the entire interview process remotely – often with more interview rounds than there would have been previously, to make up for the lack of body language and subtleties in conversation that can often strengthen the relationship between hiring manager and candidate.

The vast majority of larger insurers and brokers closed their doors in March and remain closed to date, but there are some pockets of the industry that are still allowed to open for essential purposes. As Ireland yo-yo’s in and out of varying levels of lockdown, some employers have seized the opportunity to meet their candidates for casual coffees or even formal boardroom meetings. Because of this minority that are still allowed to open, Insurance is an outlier in that quite a few of our 2020 placements actually started their new jobs in the office, as opposed to their kitchen counter – which can’t be said for most industries.

Candidates Expectations

As with every other industry, 2020 has resulted in a massive influx of candidates demanding remote working, both now and in the future. While now, as we are under Level 5 restrictions, this is a given, for many candidates seeking a new role they want to be assured that flexible working options will always be an option for them, with the majority leaning towards a hybrid workforce. On the contrary, there are other candidates who are eager to get back into an office environment, and so for those candidates knowing that there is a plan in place to ‘’return to the office’’ as the pandemic hopefully improves is a key factor for them in their decision making.

Along with remote working comes flexible working hours. This is particularly important for those in remote roles, who want to ensure they are not working more than their usual working week just because they are not physically present in the office. Many feel that when working from home they should be able to somewhat choose their hours, and this is often something they can discuss with their managers and come to a compromise on.

New Market Entrants

One trend worth drawing attention to is the slow rise of InsurTech. Year on year, there are more companies who can be classed as “InsurTechs” growing their presence in Ireland. These are appearing in the form of new market entrants, as well as existing players in the Insurance space who are stretching into more technology-fronted product offerings.

From a Customer Experience standpoint, there is a lot to be said for how time-consuming and often confusing it can be to obtain a new Insurance quote or a mid-term alteration on an existing policy. The potential for InsurTechs to simplify or streamline this process is huge – and the potential for typical Underwriters or Client Managers to move, perhaps laterally, into more product-focused roles certainly has been very exciting to date and will likely continue to be as we move into 2021.

Moving Forward

Economist predictions for 2020 and 2021 in Insurance have remained positive, despite reductions in Gross Written Premiums (GWP) to match that of 2008. The outcome of ongoing court debates surrounding Business Interruption Insurance and whether this ought to protect businesses forced to close as a result of COVID-19, will undoubtedly have a major impact on the larger insurers providing such cover to the market. While we know from many case examples throughout the last recession, multinationals are not invincible. However, for many of the larger insurers, short-term losses on the balance sheet will not necessarily imply losses in jobs.

It is still likely that the impact of Brexit will lead to further new business (direct insurance and reinsurance in particular) moving across from the UK, and there will be greater demand for niche skillsets such as Lloyd’s market knowledge. Salaries and wider compensation packages have remained largely unchanged thus far, but it is still a candidates market and is likely to remain that way throughout 2021.

Regardless of the impact the recession will have on the economy, everyone needs insurance, and everyone will continue to need insurance in some form or another. A level of demand for skilled underwriters, for competent personal injury claims defendants, for subject matter experts and knowledgeable advisors in group pension schemes, life insurance, retirement options – both for individuals and for employees – will remain.

About the Author

Donal Whelan

Director – Compliance, Risk & Financial Services 1 661 0444

Donal is a recruitment professional with over 6 years experience across the Compliance, Risk and Finance markets. Donal currently manages the Compliance and Risk disciplines at Lincoln Recruitment Specialists. He has an in-depth understanding of the compliance and risk recruitment market with a strong network of contacts. He has successfully worked with many national and multi-national companies in Ireland, who were either establishing new compliance and risk departments or expanding their in-house teams.


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