Insurers are ogling banks' risk expertise

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Risk professionals don't seem to be suffering to the same extent as other investment banking employees in this downturn, so it may seem slightly unfair that they're also the people who'll find it easiest to get new jobs in the relatively less affected insurance sector. This, however, is the case.

With the implementation of Solvency II rules fast approaching, recruiters say insurers are eager to improve their risk systems. Investment banks are the obvious places to look.

"We've seen much increased appetite from insurance companies for investment banking talent on the financial risk side," says David Butters, principal consultant at recruitment firm GRS Risk.

He adds: "Operational risk is fairly new to insurers, but is very evolved in the investment banking world, so insurers are also interested in picking up people from banks who have a comparatively high level of operational risk experience.

John Gillespie, a headhunter who works on senior insurance roles, confirms the trend. "In the past, the Lloyds market was very heavily focused on underwriting risk and was slow to embrace the broader concept of operational risk. That is now changing."

Ranjit Jaswal, a risk and capital management specialist at PriceWaterhouseCoopers says insurers are also increasingly using capital models to help make the right risk decisions: "This requires a quantitative skill set enhanced by the ability to understand the commercial implications of capital, or lack of."

Unfortunately, the history of investment banking risk meisters moving into insurers isn't a particularly happy one. The poster boy for the move was Marcelo Cruz, who quit Lehman to become chief risk office at Aviva in late 2007, but left after less than a year.

This doesn't seem to have put other bankers off moving. Butters says he's getting "absolutely loads of CVs" from risk managers in banks who want to move into insurance. Salaries are apparently comparable with an investment bank, at 60-150k.

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