THERE is growing interest from candidates, particularly at the entry level, in a career in life insurance. Candidate feedback shows that there is a lot less resistance to a career in life insurance — it seems the economic downturn took some of the shine off the allure of a trading or other higher-risk finance career.

However, the skills shortage in life insurance will continue unless employers relax their focus on only recruiting candidates with five or more years of experience.

Most life insurers are now looking for experienced life underwriters, for either group or retail, as a result of growth in demand and competition within such products. They want candidates who already understand the subject matter, can make decisions and add value immediately. They want someone who can hit the ground running.

But the current supply of such candidates is disproportional to the demand for experienced life underwriters in Singapore. Despite this, many employers will not consider recruiting and training an entry-level candidate, or employing an underwriter with two to three years’ experience. 

Such unwillingness to invest in candidates has not only led to a number of candidates being unable to pursue a career in life insurance, but it also has obvious long-term skills shortage ramifications. This comes at a time when employers could be taking advantage of candidates interested in a career in life insurance.

Mr Cedric Luah, vice-president and head of sales with a European life insurer, has been working in the industry for 15 years. He says there are definite advantages in recruiting at the entry-level: “Training someone up into a career in life insurance sales provides employers with an opportunity to instil the proper discipline and philosophy. They will also have a person who has more drive and desire to achieve success.

“The fact that we have more interest from entry-level candidates indicates that the stigma associated with life insurance sales has shifted. There seems to be a better understanding and wider acceptance of the need to be financially prudent since the global financial crisis.”

While Mr Luah says it is not an easy career to begin with, the rewards are worth it.

“A career in life insurance sales allows me to help people when they really need it, if not emotionally, at least financially,” he says.

“It is also fairly unique as it allows for choices along the way. You can continue to work in sales throughout your entire career if you enjoy interacting with people and find fulfilment in being able to help people at a time of need.

“Others who are looking for management responsibilities can move into sales management.

“There is also opportunity to move into the more corporate side of insurance, if overcoming corporate challenges is what will motivate the candidate.

“It is, of course, not a career for everyone. Those who are looking for financial rewards are likely to be disappointed.

“While one can potentially enjoy a high income through sheer hard work, financial reward alone is not a sustainable driver to allow one to continue long-term in a career like this one.”

There continues to be a vast disparity in the salaries offered by employers for the same role. Naturally, those offering salaries at the lower end of the scale find it far more difficult to secure skills over others.

While candidates are attracted to roles for more than just the salary on offer, this only extends so far and the top talents will not apply for a role offering $40,000 less than a comparable role elsewhere.