There's always insurance

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It doesn't pay the most money, or have the most exciting jobs, but recruiters say the City of London's insurance industry is still hiring and that the jobs are hard to fill. This may, however, be because the requirements are fairly specific - senior underwriters with a background in flood risk and the like.

"The City side of the insurance industry is relatively stable," says Robert Charles, head of the insurance business at recruitment firm Joslin Rowe. "Commercial organisations need to be insured no matter what's happening to the economy - investment banking is a bit more boom and bust."

Joslin Rowe's own research shows there were a mere 0.67 candidates for every insurance role in May, although this was up from 0.38 last year.

Charles says there's no real volume of hiring, however, and that difficulty filling roles is because insurers are often unwilling to compromise: "If they want someone with marine exposure they're not going to accept someone with an aviation or property background."

The insurance industry isn't immune to redundancies: Norwich Union, for example, is cutting 1,500 staff, Zurich is cutting 900, and Guy Carpenter, the reinsurance division of Marsh and McLennan, cut 350 in May.

However, with the exception of Guy Carpenter, most layoffs have hit the provincially located personal lines side of the industry - instead of the commercial insurers who operate in the City.

David Cooper, director and co-founder of Mansion House Executive, an insurance-focused search firm, says the real appetite is for senior underwriters who can lend credibility to newly established managing general agencies (MGAs), organisations authorised by insurers to manage some of their business in specific geographic locations.

Top roles look lucrative. A director of underwriting is likely to receive 150k-200k in basic salary, plus a 100% bonus. "In the Lloyds market there are quite a few people earning seven-figure bonuses," Cooper adds.

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