Shortage of talent in insurance industry


  • Business
  • Monday, 20 Jan 2014

PETALING JAYA: Talent or the lack thereof is taking centre stage among local insurance players as competition hots up amid the implementation of the Financial Sector Blueprint, while poaching of professionals is rampant as a spate of merger and acquisition deals in recent years place a strain on the supply of employable graduates.

While consumers gain from the competition in terms of the choice of services and products, insurance firms’ bosses lament the difficulty in getting professionals or even fresh graduates with the requisite qualifications.

Syarikat Takaful Malaysia Bhd group managing director Datuk Mohamed Hassan Kamil, who has been vocal on the issue, told StarBiz that the rapid development of the insurance/takaful industry had made it all the more difficult to recruit the right people.

Describing the shortage as an ongoing issue, he said insurance firms were luring people with attractive employees’ benefits and competitive remunerations.

The blueprint, announced in December 2011, would be implemented through to 2020 and focuses on a more dynamic and interlinked financial services industry catering to more discerning Malaysians. Among the blueprint’s nine focus areas was the need to develop talent to support the financial services industry.

To that effect, the blueprint recommended that a Financial Services Talent Council be established. Other initiatives include developing talent for entry level, promoting continuous learning for the existing workforce, and attracting talent from abroad. It also recommended that to ensure an adequate supply of skilled talent to meet the challenges in the new financial landscape, greater collaboration and coordination among various agencies beyond the financial sector would be required.

To date, the council has not been established although the Institut Bank Bank Malaysia runs the Financial Sector Talent Enrichment Programme, set up in September 2007 to develop talent in the financial services.

Industry observers also noted that poaching of talent has intensified among players with the implementation of the Financial Services Act and Islamic Financial Services Act last July, to an extent where Mohamed Hassan warned that this could impact players’ competitiveness.

“The ongoing issue of talent shortage, especially in obtaining professionals well versed in insurance/takaful principles is one of the main areas that need to be looked at critically in order to remain competitive in the industry,” he said.

An industry observer said one way of solving the talent shortage was to hire from abroad.

Meanwhile, a Reuters report last October on the talent shortage in the Islamic banking industry showed that the growth of the industry did not necessarily mean growth in jobs largely due to a skills mismatch, which Asian Institute of Finance chief executive Raymond Madden said had not been addressed by the industry.

On the other hand, besides the skills mismatch, firms across the board and not just in the financial services industry have had a tough time hiring as talent shy away from the the straight-laced corporate world after a few years employed in a multinational or listed company and decide to strike it out on their own.

Andrew Lee (pic), managing director and co-founder of Evant & Co Sdn Bhd, a human capital and strategy consulting firm, said in an email reply that the knee-jerk reaction of companies, when faced with an increasingly tight supply of talent, would be to offer attractive packages.

“Equitable pay is a given, as otherwise employees will be caught up with the unfairness of the situation and can’t focus on their work, its important that organisations get the pay issue off the table so that employees can do what they do best,” he said, adding that the carrot-and-stick approach may be insufficient to motivate people for today’s challenges.

Lee suggests that employers need to motivate their workforce, especially among younger hires such as the millenials. “Large organisations generally do quite poorly at this, which explains why millennials are increasingly shunning corporate jobs, opting instead for a career that actually matters and make a positive difference in the world,” he said.

Lee pointed out that larger organisations would need to emulate start-ups in this respect, as despite lacking the resources, brand name and job security, start-ups tend to emphasis meaning and impact. “They position themselves in pursuit of a larger objective, which resonates with young people,” he said.


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