As part of my role as an Executive Recruiter in the General Insurance market, I have daily conversations with experienced senior candidates regarding the state of the General Insurance market and the challenges currently being faced by most Insurers and Brokers.
On review, there are 5 themes that have consistently come out of most of the conversations I have with clients and candidates over the past year. These themes are not necessarily good or bad, they are simply a reflection of what is being discussed in my meetings with market participants.
Broker Versus Direct Business
One issue that is increasingly being discussed by participants in the market is that of the role of the Insurance Broker and the reality that more Commercial Insurers are looking at direct distribution channels.
On one hand Insurers can potentially reduce their reliance on Brokers by successfully developing direct channels, however they must consider the risks of dealing less with Brokers who may have outstanding knowledge around a particular product or market and also may simply take their clients elsewhere if they feel an Insurer is not supporting them as they once had.
Like most things, there is probably a middle ground. There are most likely certain products or industry groups in which it is easier to distribute a product directly but for highly specialized or difficult risks, the role of the broker will continue to remain critical.
Too Much Capacity in the Market
Having worked in Insurance recruitment since 1993, I cannot remember a time when the issue of too much capacity in the market has not been discussed as much as it has in the past couple of years.
Most participants I speak to are concerned about the effect too much capacity in the market is having. The knock on effect being, lower margins, clients commoditizing the service, companies retrenching staff and cutting back on expenditure.
It is fair to say that most participants I speak to cannot see an end to this cycle at this stage or indeed if this is the new normal.
Most participants I meet with have spoken about the importance of holding onto clients without having to discount premium too dramatically. Premium on renewal business in certain lines was reduced last year and clients clearly have options at present when it comes to premium reduction.
Brokers Rolling Out Underwriting Agencies
Many of the major Brokers have rolled out Underwriting Agencies in the past couple of years to service specialist niches in the market. This appears to be a trend that looks set to continue.
Competition for Talent
With new entrants in the market and a highly competitive environment, competition for talent is high on the agenda of all leaders in the industry. The ability to source, recruit and retain top talent is going to be critical over the next few years.
All of the comments above are based on feedback from participants in the General Insurance industry. I would be really interested in hearing from anyone in my network as to whether there are other key challenges that I have missed in this piece.
Stuart Freeman is an Executive Recruitment Consultant in the Insurance space, a blogger, an owner of a high-end wine business, and a dad of 3 daughters. He can be contacted directly on firstname.lastname@example.org