The insurance profession

Used with permission from MicrosoftThe insurance profession has undergone a profound mutation due to the current trend of economic exchanges. Such movement has geared up so fast that the change witnessed by the insurance business in the recent two decades is said to have been equal to the one that had occurred during the past two centuries.

In a conventional approach, the notion of the insurance profession is a generic term that covers a chain of economic activities involving a certain number of crafts and competencies branches. It refers to a corporation which embodies tasks at the core of insurance as well as transversal ones. Yet, the whole set refers to an autonomous profession, to its culture, its technicity, its way of operating, its professional code of ethics.

Areas of the activity chain

  • Production: Offer creation and product adaptation: marketing and actuarial methods
  • Distribution: in networks, in counters, outside counters: commercial, public relations
  • Management of clients' contracts, underwriting and indemnification activities: Technical, legal, administrative frameworks
  • Assistance: Extension to all service activities: health, travel, dwelling, building, motor, dependency, expertise, counselling
  • Support fonction: IT, accounting

Insurance: changing sector and crafts

The insurance sector is subjected to the tide of change that affects the business as a whole with fallouts on corporate structure, work organisation and even the mere design of conventional crafts.

In the new context that is building up, some professions are vanishing, others are undergoing mutations and new profiles are being created to meet unheard of activities.

Change guidelines

  • The activity's progressive industrialization. Even though it comes under the tertiary sector of services, insurance is being turned into a business governed by criteria such as the rationalization of organisation and production process and the standardization of techniques. The life of the firm is, henceforth, based on competitiveness and the imperative of cutting down production costs.
  • The dissemination of information and communication technologies. The massive introduction of technologies has radically altered the company's internal functioning and task management. It led to the fragmentation of the activity chain, the bridging of hierarchical ties, a new relationship with time. The computer tool has liberated the insurer from calculation tasks to focus on coaching, reflection and research activities.
  • The development of competitiveness. Within the framework of the market economy, the rationale of offer has given way to that of demand. Marketing has become a sophisticated weapon of the markets' conquest strategies. The business is invading fields where communication has become a dominant factor through philanthropy, sponsorship and factual actions. Insurance has, therefore, become a major player in the field of prevention and awareness-raising to all kinds of risks: public health, environment and natural catastrophes.

Other exogenous factors enhancing the phenomenon:

  • The new consumption ways related to the ageing population and to the requirements of the insured turned into a client. The gradual but steady drifting of the business towards the task of assistance and intervention has led to the creation of the new proximity professions.
  • The impact of environmental factors and the emergence of new risks require an immediate responsiveness through a much higher investment in the tasks of research and development.

Repercussions on the professions

Used with permission from MicrosoftConventional crafts are undergoing full-swing mutation both at the level of profiles and competencies. Apart from technical, legal and administrative knowledge, the manager has to master a relational know-how required for complete control over the client. The new requirements in terms of qualifications are relying more and more on smartness, behavioural promptness and techniques stemming from the most advanced researches in social sciences.

Another important factor: Everywhere we are witnessing the gradual feminisation of a sector that was once dominated by men. This factor impacts, indirectly but significantly, the design and the exercise of the professions.

Tasks are getting transversal. The borders between the different categories are less conspicuous; the extent of their action scopes is opening to other fields of competencies by way of an interaction among a multitude of interlocutors. It is no longer the case of carrying out specific tasks in a particular sector, but it is all about an enlarged vision of tasks in a competency-based comprehensive approach.

The classical notion of craft has come to standstill. The gap between polyvalence and speciality concepts is thinning. To prove to be a competent executive staff member, one has to be, at the same time, a generalist and an expert in one's domain.

The current evolutions are affecting all professional categories:

  • Coaching managerial duties are evolving towards a profile of high capacity in terms of mobility between several fields of competency and relying on the qualities of highly-affirmed personalities.
  • Information experts will have to deal with production teams and to develop new capacities.
  • Salesmen will have to include a major component of behavioural knowledge in order to meet the clients' requirements.
  • Technical executives will have to combine a technical expertise with the ability to work outside the hierarchical realms within a project pattern that involves mixed disciplines.

Henceforth, and with the development of technical platforms of reception and counselling, the professional categories are divided between back office and front office.

Optimisation research for cost-reducing procedures has led to outsourcing and even to the relocation of the back office activities. It is the conventional crafts that are threatened by extinction to the benefit of new high value-added professions.

Human resources management

The metamorphosis of the insurance landscape implies the continuous adaptation of the profiles of human competencies to the new corporate needs. Despite the general rise in the training level of recruits in all categories, it is the search for new competencies that defines corporate policies in terms of human resource management. Rather than professional qualifications, that is, potential that is often linked to academic background, it is competency, in the comprehensive sense of the term, that is required, that is, the effective reality of handling an activity or a task in a timely manner. 

New human resource managements

In all industrialized countries, staff management departments have vanished away from the companies' organisational charts paving the way for the human resource managements endowed with sophisticated management tools. Confronted with merger-acquisitions and restructuring plans with job losses on the horizon, the Human resource Departments had to develop reconversion plans, to imagine alternative schemes for the benefit of the concerned staff members.
Henceforth, they have to provide an employment provisional management that includes change anticipation and the adoption of measures designed to guarantee monitoring thanks to retraining and vocational training courses lasting throughout the career.

Training for insurance professions A multitude of players and devices

Used with permission from MicrosoftTraditionally, crafts were moulded on the ground of practice, within the company, in a system of knowledge transmission based on guild or tutorship.

Professional associations have later on taken over. They have been always at the origin of vocational training schemes in all countries. In addition to the basic technical apprenticeship for the benefit of young recruits, they provide continuous training through improvement and recycling trainings of the different professional categories.

In order to meet their specific needs in qualified staff, the biggest companies have set up internal training devices: corporate universities, schemes for intermediary career balance, intranet training, walk-through training, tutorship formula, evening classes, practical workshops for role-play games and e-learning.

In industrialized countries, for thirty years now, most universities have offered specific diploma-awarding branches then specialized public and/or private establishments have been dedicated to insurance training, quite often, in association with the business.

Due to the diversity of the profiles needed by the profession and of the levels of qualifications required, insurance training adds up several disciplinary fields ranging from tertiary to master's degree in technical, industrial, mathematical, legal, financial and accounting techniques.

The training programs curriculum and the teaching methods are regularly updated to cope with the new corporate needs.

With the institution of poles for the validation of experiences and accomplishments, the training schemes are keener on adopting the principle of alternation which combines acquisition of theoretical knowledge with its implementation in business.

The insurance profession in Africa and in the Middle East: the current situation

Used with permission from MicrosoftBe it in the Maghreb, in Africa, in the Middle East or in Asia, in the country where the State still keeps a firm grip over the sector, insurance profession still remains subjected to the status and to the culture of “the wage earner”, that is, to a bureaucratic management of tasks and to a “hierarchized” and often authoritarian coaching. In such a system, the transmission of knowledge and know-how is often faulty, staff renewal inadequate and recourse to high value-added competency still underused. In fact, it is the entire insurance sector that remains unappealing to graduates of renowned institutions and to the sharpest profiles. 

Nonetheless, the restructuring process and, especially, the liberalisation underway in most of the regions are creating an in-draught that is likely to benefit the insurance sector. This phenomenon is clearly sensed in China as well as India where insurance development is attracting more and more young graduates and triggering consequent needs in training.

It is also the case of some Gulf countries where the sector is draining important investments and an ensuing top-level competency.

Used with permission from MicrosoftIn these regions, different schemes of insurance training are trying to meet the sector's needs. The syllabus is provided either directly by professional organisations, by way of short-term training programs or in the form of university study cycles, or in institutes. But in most cases, the syllabus still remains academic and their graduates are not provided with immediate operational competencies. Their recruitment by companies raised the problem of tardy return on investment. However, some initiatives are surfacing here and there to make up for the deficit. In the Maghreb, for instance, the Development Funding Institute (IFID) in Tunis, set up in 1981 is supplying Tunisian and Algerian insurance companies with most of their managerial staff.

For French-speaking Africa, it is the International Insurance Institute (IIA) in Yaoundé (Cameroon) that is meeting the needs of the CIMA zone companies in middle executive and senior executive staff. In the English-speaking region of the continent, South Africa and Nigeria are endowed with ancient specialized establishments which benefit from the expertise of the Chartered Institute of London to which they are associated.

E-learning: A solution for the future

Used with permission from MicrosoftFor the numerous companies faced with a deficit in competencies and in training costs, the distance learning scheme relying on multimedia resources provides a solution for the future thanks to multiple advantages of the system such as:

  • Time and money gains for the company as well as for the learner.
  • Flexibility which allows to adapt the curricula to the individual needs and to plan classes.
  • The capitalisation of accomplishments and the possibility of continuous appraisal.
  • Access to different services and resources: financial data bases, economic press, libraries.
  • The play-based and interactive teaching methodology which put the learner in the driving seat of the learning process.

The senior establishment of insurance training institutions The Chartered Insurance Institute of London (CII)

The country where the business first saw the light of day, United Kingdom has played a pioneer role in insurance training. The foundation of the first training institute dates back to 1873 in Manchester. Training, then, dealt basically with fire insurance. It officially became CII in 1912. It has 13 000 members and it is associated to 90 institutes around the world.

Insurance, a labelled training

An international label was created in 1967 in the universities of Harvard and Warthon in USA by the MBAs Association with the purpose of assessing the quality of the curricula provided by the big schools and universities and of guaranteeing a top-level managerial competency for the new graduates. Today, only 15 MBAs are labelled in France.

News: The European Conference of National Institutions for Insurance Professional Training was held on October 11 and 12, 2007 in Malta. This annual conference gathers sixty leaders of insurance training bodies from the European Union and associated countries (Turkey, Russia, Switzerland and Norway). The 2008 conference will be held in Lithuania in Riga in association with Stockholm University of Economic Sciences. France will play host to the 2009 conference. 

Your rating: None
Advertising Program          Terms of Service          Copyright          Useful links          Social networks          Credits