Imagine a world without insurance. No shipping or travel, no construction, no factories or offices, no doctors or other professional consultants, no motoring – potentially even no home ownership. Without insurance there would be no risk taking. Without risk taking, there would be no businesses – and no innovation!
The role of the insurance sector is to provide financial safeguards for organisations and individuals to protect against unforeseen risks and circumstances. It is about more than just motor and home insurance; celebrities and sportspeople, concerts and events, the Olympic games all depend on the insurance sector.
Insurance companies provide financial cover in the form of insurance policies. Insurance brokers are intermediaries who work on behalf of the customer to find the best insurance product at the best price. Insurance sales is all about ensuring that buyers understand their insurance needs, explaining and exploring the options available and helping them to purchase appropriate insurance policies. The business is about working with individuals and businesses to manage risk in order to protect against catastrophic losses and to anticipate potential risk problems.
The insurance industry has lots of exciting job opportunities to offer – from sales, underwriting and processing or assessing claims, to general business roles in larger insurers, such as marketing and finance.
The industry is a highly reputable sector and insurance qualifications are globally mobile, with insurance graduates qualified in Ireland finding employment in Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Dubai, Bermuda and of course mainland Europe, particularly London. If travel and adventure are part of your future plans, then a career in insurance could be the perfect fit for you.
EDUCATION - THE PASSPORT TO SUCCESS
This new series of articles from the Insurance Institute of Ireland profiles insurance professionals who began their careers in Ireland but who have gone on to secure exciting opportunities all over the world. In addition to highlighting the roles insurance qualifications play in career development, these pieces also shine a light on the global network of insurance contacts available for members of the Irish market to plug into.
According to Insurance Ireland there are over 27,000 people employed in insurance throughout Ireland. The following are some careers you could expect to find in the Insurance Industry:
Getting into Insurance
- Insurance brokers act as intermediaries between insurance companies and their customers. They assess the customer's insurance requirements and match them with the insurance company who best fits the customer's needs and budget.
- Claims handlers are responsible for investigating incidents and paying claims. They assess the extent and validity of claims and determine the amount due to the customer.
- Actuaries use statistical and mathematical techniques to study past events and predict future outcomes, allowing them to calculate premiums and offer guidance on whether or not a company has sufficient assets to meet future liabilities.
- Insurance underwriters assess risks and decide whether to accept them, and if so at what price and on what terms. A degree in business with a professional insurance exam is usually a requirement for this role.
- Reinsurance companies are the industry's own insurers, enabling large and small companies to mitigate their own potential risk and to take on bigger risks from customers.
- Risk surveyors provide underwriters with information on the levels of risk associated with each customer and offer advice on the ways in which risks can be minimised. Roles include risk surveyors, risk control surveyors, risk analysts or risk advisers, some of whom specialise in specific areas such as fire, health and safety, theft or public liability.
- Loss adjusters are independent claims experts who help insurance companies and policyholders resolve complex or contested claims. Loss adjustors are expert in many fields and have a thorough knowledge of insurance as well as the area in which they work and often advise both the insurance company and policy-holder on repair and replacement techniques.
The insurance sector is a good alternative to third level education for school leavers. Many insurance companies recruit school leavers and train them in-house, with plenty of opportunities for further education and up-skilling available.
Increased compliance standards and regulation set out by the Central Bank of Ireland now requires that those who provide advice to customers within the broader domestic insurance market must hold a relevant qualification. There are several specialist qualifications that can be obtained.
The Insurance Institute of Ireland and LIA provide qualifications and support to candidates at all stages in their career paths, allowing them firstly to become compliant with Central Bank of Ireland regulations and then to progress their professional education through more advanced qualifications. [See below].
The insurance market has seen an increased demand for qualified candidates in recent times. A wide range of opportunities exist in the field for talented, high-calibre graduates from highly specialised, mathematically driven roles to customer service and general business management, marketing and finance roles within larger businesses.
Insurance is an industry undergoing very significant change, both in respect of short and longer-term economic challenges as well as radical social and technological changes. The landscape is changing, representing both a challenge and an opportunity for the industry and for Ireland.
The industry is confident that at least 3,000 jobs could be generated through investment in this sector over the next three to five years. Gaining traction for Ireland as a centre for innovation with consequent wins of service centres and Centres of Excellence could lead to more than 1,750 jobs over that period, in addition to the opportunity to create at least 750 jobs over the next three to five years by attracting companies to locate here. A further 500 plus jobs could also be created in that period through delivering on a reform contract to Irish consumers including the reform of the current pensions regime, investments in technology and health insurance.
Ongoing social trends are shaking up traditional business practice in the insurance industry. Increasingly customers are demanding simplicity, transparency and speed in their transactions. More and more, insurance will be ‘bought’ rather than ‘sold’.
Technology is impacting insurance, as with other sectors - increased access to the internet through smartphones and tablets is fundamentally changing the market. Insurers too need to process the vast quantities of information generated (big data). The next wave of competitive advantage will come from exploiting unstructured data such as social media information, in order to maintain competitive advantage (Source: Insurance Ireland PWC Sector Report, 2014).
Millions of financial transactions take place in Ireland every day and management of all this ‘money movement’ lies in the hands of those working in the banking sector. According to the Irish Banking Federation, around 90,000 people are employed across the financial sector in Ireland.
The importance of the sector to the Irish economy has been evidenced in recent years by the banking crisis. To assist with moving out of the economic crisis, the Government provided a major injection of capital to Irish banks in order to keep them afloat and to allow them to start lending to business again, and NAMA was set up with the aim of getting the banks functioning successfully again. The recovery process is likely to last a few years, but the banking sector will be one of the first to reap the rewards of such a recovery with employment becoming increasingly available.
Banking can be divided into three areas: Retail banking, which provides services to individual and smaller businesses; Corporate banking, which provides banking services to large organisations; Investment banking, where customers money is put to use to make greater profit by investing in foreign exchange, bonds, gilts and on the stock market.
Retail Banks and Building Societies deal with the every day financial transactions of the public. They provide us with services such as saving and loan accounts, investment accounts, mortgages, foreign exchange and credit card facilities.
Corporate banks provide financial services (advice, lending, clearing, investing deposits and specialist products) for business clients with high turnovers (e.g. in excess of £25 million sterling), such as financial institutions, major companies, and Irish commercial state companies. The leading banks all have a corporate banking division.
Getting into Banking
Many young people enter this area of employment after graduating in business, accountancy, economics and financial studies. Others gain employment on leaving school and may decide at a later stage to arm themselves with further qualifications.
Bank cashiers and other clerical workers require a Leaving Certificate level of education. Most banks seek people who have good communication skills, enjoy public contact and feel comfortable handling large amounts of cash.
Each Bank is overseen by a Bank Manager. He or she has an assistant manager to help with the managerial tasks. Sales representatives and those in executive and management positions usually need a degree in a business or finance related area.
Irish banks have their own professional banking exams which you must be prepared to undertake if you wish to progress through the ranks. The amount of experience and the level of responsibility involved in the particular job influence associated salary levels.
E-commerce is the buying and selling of products and services by businesses or consumers over the internet. An example is the buying and selling of books on Amazon.com or various products on eBay. E-commerce products and services are the methods used by banks and banking organisations to carry out their transactions without necessarily coming into physical contact with their clients. These services include Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs), Electronic Fund Transfer (ETF), mobile banking, online banking, Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) and telecommunication services.
Consumers are shifting from traditional in-branch banking to online banking for many services. Most people now use a smart phone, a laptop or a tablet and this is changing the way banks do business. It is also bringing new alternatives into the market. For example, PayPal provides a service allowing business or individuals to send and receive payments online.
More new ways of conducting financial transactions have emerged in recent years, alongside advances in technology. These Disruptive businesses are providing online services that are changing the traditional face of banking. Disruptive businesses such as Realex Fire/Realex Payments, supply users with an online current account that allows them to pay friends and businesses in real time. Another online service, Linked Finance, is in the business of lending money to projects.
Investment Banking and Funds
Banks must make good use of the profit they make from their customers. All of the larger Banks in Ireland have their own Investment Banks. They also put their customers money to use in order to make greater profit. This is done by investing in foreign exchange, bonds, gilts and on the stock market.
The people who operate this end of the Banking business are known as Traders or Dealers.
A Dealers job is to buy commodity at one price and sell at a higher price. A typical transaction may involve buying 800,000 in US dollars in the morning and offloading it for another currency at a better rate later that day.
Investment Managers usually work for either large Investment Banks or for medium-to-large businesses. Their main function is to help their company find money to operate and grow the business, make acquisitions, plan for its financial future and manage any cash on hand.
You might work for a large multinational company or a smaller player with high growth prospects. Responsibility can come fast and your problem-solving skills will be put to work quickly in corporate finance. A degree in Finance or Business would be the minimum expected qualification for these positions.
Working as a Fund Manager for a Life Assurance Company is another good example of a career in Investment and Financial Management. The fund (money) usually comes from different sources and is then invested and managed by the Fund Manager and his team of financial investment specialists for the benefit of those who contributed to it. The individuals working in fund management i.e. mutual pensions, trust funds or hedge funds must have excellent educational and professional experience aswell financial management.
There are around 12,500 people employed in the funds industry in Ireland according to the Irish Funds Industry Association (IFIA) and almost all of the world's major fund service providers have a presence here.
Getting into Investment Banking and Funds
Many people go into this area having completed a degree in Business Studies or accountancy. Within the funds industry there is such a wide range of services provided and products available that the roles and responsibilities of the people working in the industry and the opportunities available are equally wide and varied, as are the CVs of the people who currently work in the industry.
Careers in the Funds Industry can be directly related to the servicing of investment funds (e.g. shareholder services, fund valuations, custody, fund accounting, client relationship management, compliance, taxation, risk management). There are also many other careers in business support areas such as information technology, human resources, marketing, business development and management accounting.
The Central Bank of Ireland is responsibile for both central banking and financial regulation. The role of the Financial Regulator is to oversee the activities of:
- Credit institutions, investment intermediaries, stockbrokers, financial exchanges, collective investment schemes, funds, investor compensation and related consumer issues
- Life insurance, general insurance and related consumer issues
- Credit unions
- Moneylenders, mortgage and credit intermediaries, the monitoring of customer charges by credit institutions and related consumer issues
The Central Bank monitors and enforces the consumer protection, conduct of business and prudential requirements of all financial institutions operating in Ireland. It also sets the minimum competency requirements for firms.
We are all familiar with the High street banks and building societies in every town and city in the country, but Dublin's IFSC is the hub of the financial services activity in our capital city, and of financial services business activity in Ireland. The IFSC was established in 1987 to attract investment into Ireland from global financial service organisations. Financial services are now Ireland's 4th largest services export sector.
The sector can be broadly divided into four areas of financial activity:
- Accounting and Financial Management – see Accountancy and Taxation Sector
- Banking and related services
- Financial and Investment planning
- Insurance Services
Half of the top 50 banks in the world, including Citigroup, JP Morgan, BNP Paribas and Bank of America/Merrill Lynch are located in Ireland. Over 450 international financial services companies operate within the IFSC, with number also located around the country, including BNY Mellon in Wexford and Statestreet in Kilkenny.
More than 100 Irish companies also provide technology and associated support services to the sector. In addition there is a significant number of indigenous financial services and insurance organisations operating in Ireland such as Fexco, FBD, IFG, AIB Bank, Bank of Ireland, Abbey Capital, EBS, Irish Life & Permanent, VHI, Liberty Insurance and Quintillion.
Getting into Investment Finance
Many young people enter careers in the banking sector after graduating in business, accountancy, economics and financial studies. Others start working in the area on leaving school and build qualifications as they gain experience. The financial services industry has a long history of attracting energetic and ambitious people.
A career as a Financial Investment Manager or Dealer may involve working for a large multinational company or a smaller player with high growth prospects. In Corporate Finance, responsibility can come fast and this is where your problem-solving skills will be put to use quickly.
A degree in Finance or Accountancy would be the expected minimum qualification for these positions. The work of an Investment manager or Trader tends to be a very pressurised and competitive career demanding a high level of concentration and in depth knowledge of the market.
If you like lots of responsibility and the pressure that goes with it, this career may be worth considering. Most investment Banks and Corporations have their own in-house training for Traders and Investment Managers.
It usually takes at least 2 years on the job training before you gain enough experience and expertise to be given the authority and freedom to trade on behalf of your Bank or Corporation.
International Financial Services
The Internatonal Financial Services (IFS) industry in Ireland is undergoing a process of evolution. This sector is a sub-sector of financial services and has grown dramatically in the past 20 years. IFS companies continue to view Ireland as an attractive investment proposition. Skills currently in demand to meet their needs, as reported by EGFSN (Guidance for Higher Education providers on current and future skills needs of enterprise - Springboard 2014/ICT Level 8 Conversion Programme, February 2014) are as follows:
- Product development for the funds industry, and process innovation
- Accountants with experience for the financial services sector
- Regulation and compliance skills
- Project management skills
- Hybrid technologists - business analysts with IT/Systems skills
- Data Analytics skills
The Aircraft Leasing Sector
The aircraft leasing sector is included in the Financial Services Sector in Ireland, in which there were 16,803 people employed in 2012. Ireland is a leading centre for aircraft leasing. Nine of the of the world’s top ten leasing companies currently operate here, with operations spanning the industry value chain, from sales to asset management and technical services.
Historically, the success of the sector was founded on the establishment of GPA in the 1980’s and the consequent development of local skills and experienced resource pool. More recently, the key factors in the success of this sector have been the favourable corporate tax regime, human resource expertise and the broad tax treaty network. The use of leasing services by the major Irish airlines has also promoted the sector.
Ancilliary service providers such as Shannon Aerospace have also grown up around the major leasing operations.
Activities performed within operations range across a broad spectrum and include sales, remarketing and lease placement, financing operations, acquisition and management, transaction negotiation, execution and deal structuring and technical services including Irish aircraft registration.
Over the past two decades, aircraft leasing has grown from a niche market to a $150 billion industry. Irish based companies own or manage 19% of the roughly 18,000 commercial craft flying today.
Minimum Competency Requirements
The Minimum Competency Requirements (2006), set out by the Irish Financial Regulator, and the new Minimum Competency Code (September 2011) are designed to ensure that the ability of those involved in Insurance and Financial Services is sufficient to serve the customer.
The principle is that consumers are entitled to a certain level of professionalism, education and expertise from all of their financial service and insurance advisers and that these competency requirements will help achieve this goal.
The Requirements apply to individuals who, on a professional basis, act, for or on behalf of a regulated firm and:
- provide advice to consumers on retail financial products (including general and private medical insurances);
- arrange or offer to arrange retail financial products for consumers; or
- undertake certain specified activities.
Compliance with the Minimum Competency Requirements can only be achieved by attainment of a recognised qualification from an external professional educational body. It is the responsibility of the regulated firm to assess which is the most appropriate for individual employees or principals of the firm and to monitor compliance with those Requirements. Examples of recognised qualifications include:
In 2013, the Irish services sector recorded its largest rate of growth since 2007. The sector is looking forward to futher growth and expansion in the year ahead and beyond. There is a sense that while some challenges remain, the outlook is better for companies in the sector going forward.
Reported skills shortages for the Financial Services sector include the areas of Risk, Regulatory Compliance, Accounting (solvency, financial management, multilingual technicians), Fraud, and Credit control).
The latest EGFSN report (Guidance for Higher Education providers on current and future skills needs of enterprise - Springboard 2014/ICT Level 8 Conversion Programme, February 2014), additionally reports skills shortages for International Financial Services including Accountancy with Funds experience; Regulation and Compliance Management and Project Management. Click here to view report.