“Passionate” and “insurance” don’t often go together, unless you’re interviewing with Francesco Nagari, Deloitte’s Hong Kong-based global IFRS insurance lead partner. “You’ll soon hear how passionate I am about how the insurance is changing so dramatically and if you want to join my team, I’ll want to hear that you are too,” says Nagari.
The big change he’s talking about is a regulatory one – the upcoming International Financial Reporting Standard (IFRS) for contracts sold in the insurance industry. Nagari moved to Hong Kong last year to build up an Asia-focused IFRS consultancy team of accountants based in the city. He spoke to us about who he wants to hire.
Why build a consultancy team focused on IFRS accounting for the Asian insurance sector?
A new International Financial Reporting Standard for contracts sold in the insurance industry is expected by Christmas or early 2016. It will for the first time require insurance companies to tell customers and investors the true cost of buying insurance and how much profit insurers expect to make – it will make these numbers visible and more transparent and make it easier to compare companies and products, both locally and globally. The industry has gone through reforms before, but none so important – we’re offering a chance to join at the beginning of a major change.
How many people are you hiring in Hong Kong?
We’re building a multi-disciplinary team in Hong Kong to look after every aspect of the implementation of the new IFRS – we already employ actuaries and technology consultants, for example. Now I need to recruit accountants for Hong Kong-based IFRS-focused jobs who can complement the other experts. I want to hire at least 20 IFRS insurance accountants within the next 18 months – they’ll eventually make up about 20% of a Hong Kong team of about 100 people. The team is assisting large insurance firms in Asia with IFRS compliance, but more importantly we’re here to help them use the new IFRS as an opportunity to run their businesses better.
What kind of candidates are you looking for?
Ideally, they’ll have experience in these three areas: 1) insurance-accountancy experience within a consulting firm or the insurance industry; 2) knowledge of insurance companies’ business drivers and operating models; 3) a good knowledge of the new IFRS in insurance. But we don’t want to be too rigid – eliminate one of these and you still potentially have a good candidate. If you don’t have consultancy experience, for example, we will offer training programmes so you can quickly learn this aspect. We’re hiring at the mid to senior level, so four to five years’ would be the minimum experience needed. We aren’t looking for Mandarin skills – English is the only language prerequisite.
What’s the main recruitment challenge you face?
The main obstacle with insurance-accountancy hiring – for the Big Four firms and the insurers themselves – is that many accountants don’t want to work in the insurance sector because they perceived that it’s a closed shop. They think industry is too niche and they’d get stuck in a sector which doesn’t have many opportunities for accountants. But I think the IFRS changes will help change this negative perception – the sector is set to expand and become more attractive, especially in Asia where the middle classes are growing and are increasingly concerned about protecting their family and investing to build their pension pot.
What do you like to ask candidates at job interview?
I need to know that they can grasp the huge opportunity of this new IFRS – understand that the role they’re applying for is focused on such a landmark change. I might ask them “do you know what is going to happen to the industry as far as the new IFRS is concerned”. If you’ve done your due diligence, this will put you on a good path.
How will the new IFRS affect the longer-term career prospects of people who join your team?
The prospects of growing your career are very tangible given how rapidly the insurance industry is expected to demand advisory services to implement the new IFRS. In the longer term you could potentially go in-house, eventually becoming a CFO in an insurance company, for example. And because IFRS is already a global regime – most insurance companies will do financial reporting in the same manner across the world – the opportunities for international mobility will be much higher.