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Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance
Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance

Niche skills in short supply as closed borders hit recruiting

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An inability to secure work visas for candidates located outside Australia is hampering the ability of insurance companies to source specialised experts, and recruiters say demand will only intensify for niche and experienced insurance professionals.

Government restrictions to tackle COVID mean the available talent pool is limited to Australia-based citizens, or visitors who are already on an applicable working visa.

Aon head of analytics Peter Cheesman says it is “virtually impossible” to successfully have company-sponsored visas for new overseas recruits processed in the current environment.

“While in many cases this might be fine as local skills and experience are aplenty, for specialist niche skills such as catastrophe modellers, or for non-life actuaries with reinsurance experience, the pool is quite small to recruit from in Australia,” he said.

Recruitment firm Hays tells insuranceNEWS.com.au its consultants are seeing high demand for dispute resolution officers, underwriters and professional indemnity and liability claims consultants, as well as candidates who have upskilled their digital competencies as the digital transformation progresses.

Hays regional director Carl Piesse says insurance is an active jobs market and demand for niche skills is rising in response to candidate shortages.

“Border closures have reduced the candidate pool and there are now mounting skills shortages across Australia’s insurance industry,” Mr Piesse said.

“With employers expected to add further to their headcounts, demand will only intensify further for niche and experienced insurance professionals.”

Aon would normally advertise globally for Australian roles, often attracting applications from Aon staffers working in other countries.

“Now it is a struggle to fill roles even when they are open,” Mr Cheesman said. “There is no point in us advertising globally now. We can’t apply for any visas for anybody because they are just not being processed.”

Insurance industry risk modellers require specialised knowledge to analyse natural catastrophes such as cyclones, bushfires and floods. Aon has developed a series of models for Australia and New Zealand, and these require skilled individuals – for example engineers or geologists or experts in seismic activity - to maintain and develop its risk management tools.

Mr Cheesman says there are “perhaps only 20 really good qualified catastrophe modellers in Australia” and historically, up to 80% of his team might come from overseas.

“It is a very small community, and therefore recruitment becomes quite hard,” he tells insuranceNEWS.com.au, adding that poaching from rivals is also of limited value.

“Often they are needed and well established and quite happy with their jobs,” Mr Cheesman says. “It becomes quite difficult to get hold of these people”.

Finding actuaries is also a challenge under current restrictions.

This need was historically met by sourcing the best graduates and then investing time to nurture that talent by surrounding them with experienced individuals, often during offshore secondments.

“There are lots of qualified actuaries but the ones that have worked in the reinsurance industry - maybe for a re-insurer or for another broker - is a very small community of individuals and the level of experience required, well again that pool becomes quite small,” Mr Cheesman said.

Aon currently has roles open for skilled applicants and Mr Cheesman has resorted to putting a blanket call out on LinkedIn to his large professional network connections.

“If anyone knows of people already based in Australia with catastrophe modelling or reinsurance actuarial skills that might be looking for an exciting new opportunity please recommend them to come and speak to me,” he said in a post.