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The career switch that could help you get a job in Asia

If you have been struggling to find a banking job in the Asia-Pacific market, making the switch into insurance could be a good bet. Some unemployed bankers have already started migrating to a sector that may not have the status of investment banking, but offers more security.

Local insurance firms and financial services recruiters have noticed that out-of-work bankers have cottoned to the growth potential of the Asian market. A recent report by Munich Re said that premium income for the insurance industry in the Asia-Pacific region would double to by 2020. The contribution from “emerging Asia” markets like China or India would be nearly 70%, it said.

Jay Chan, head of talent acquisition for AIG, say she is seeing some people leaving the becalmed banking sector for a more buoyant insurance industry: “This is a growing trend. The banking industry, especially investment banking, has been going through some restructuring and cost-cutting across the region. People are now looking at industries that are expanding or going through sustained growth, and the insurance industry is one of these.”

But bankers working in front office roles will find it more difficult to make the switch. Chan says most of the activity is taking place in middle and back office functions where skills sets can be transferred easily. “Front office roles tend to require specialised skills that are less relevant for the insurance industry.”

Christian Fischbach, manager at Hays Insurance, says that he has seen some bankers becoming more open to moving out of the business, and considering insurance as another option. “Part of it is down to people aiming for greater security, rather than the kudos that go with being in an investment banking role.”

But he adds that insurers prefer to hire staff from their competitors, something that is echoed by Chan, who says that most of AIG’s new recruits come from the competition. “(But we also consider) people from the wider financial services industry and even non-financial industries, such as FMCG and manufacturing.

“There is always a demand for strong underwriting and actuarial experience as there is a limited talent pool in this area.”

A recent report from Research and Markets on the Asia-Pacific insurance market estimated that direct written premium income in Asia-Pacific should rise at a compound annual growth rate of 11.2% in the next four years, fuelled by growing middle class populations in India and China. 

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