Just like in banking, working for global firms may not necessarily be the preferred choice for insurance professionals in China.
Lily Xu, senior consultant, banking and financial services, PSD Group, says most candidates prefer to work for mainland insurance firms over international ones.
She explains: “Candidates find it stressful to work for a global firm because they aren’t as well developed as local organisations. The heavily regulated industry also benefits mainland insurance companies more. (The China Insurance Regulatory Commission oversees everything from the appointment of senior management to the opening of new offices). Yet at the same time, these global companies have ambitious targets because they want to expand very quickly.”
Local vs global
Still, both sorts of institutions have their respective plus points. Xu says domestic firms are a good cultural fit for local candidates and they also provide a “bigger, more stable and more profitable” platform.
On the flip side, working for international firms can help improve candidates’ technical and management skills. And global insurers generally pay about 30 per cent more than Chinese ones. That said, Xu says the local players are fast catching up on salaries –
some are now able to offer salaries similar to their global rivals.
Connections, connections, connections
Although switching from international to domestic may be desired, candidates do find it tough to make the change. Xu says: “Chinese firms usually hire people through internal referrals and recommendations; they rarely use a search firm. Hence, professionals who lack the connections, or guan xi, may find it challenging to break into mainland insurance because it’s not easy for candidates to get a job just by sending their CVs over.” They may also find it difficult to adjust to the different cultural background and working style of a mainland company.
The silver lining
The insurance industry in China doesn’t seem to be as affected as the banks in this downbeat economy. Xu says this is because most international insurance firms on the mainland are joint ventures, hence they tend to be more stable thanks to their domestic focus, limited investments (mainly on the fixed-income side), and long-term and stable products.