Malaysia’s insurance sector has in recent times struggled to compete with its more attractive ‘sibling’, banking, for its share of Generation Y candidates. However, recognising the challenges it faced and having put in place measures to overcome the perception it had, the insurance sector is now looking to sweep aside old failing practices and revolutionise from within.
The year between June 2016 and June 2017 saw not only a decline in registered life insurance agents in Malaysia, but also a lower rate of new agents joining the industry. However, according to Tom Osborne, Regional Director at Hays Malaysia, this shot across the bows is being seen not as a crisis, but rather an opportunity for those involved in the sector, with stakeholders from all parts of the industry seeking out ways in which Malaysian insurance can be promoted. “The governing bodies have been alarmed by the decreasing number of professionals in the industry and have been dedicated to reversing that trend. To this end, Bank Negara Malaysia have been doing their utmost to shine a light on the industry through regulatory means, showing the lie to the industry’s perhaps old-fashioned perception,” Tom says.
It is not only the regulators that have been involved in this shift. Insurance firms, concerned by candidate shortages in various areas, have also been spurred into action. “Many companies, looking to the recent successes of the digital industry boom, have begun implementing development programs for new graduates both on the general and life sides of insurance,” continues Tom. “On top of that, the continued success of PIAM’s General Insurance Internship for Talent project is paving the way for increasing numbers of interns’ success in the years to come.”
While this action bodes well for the future, in the meantime there are still areas in Malaysia’s insurance industry that are drastically candidate short, perhaps none more-so than the actuary sector. While the need for actuaries is a global trend, it is especially pronounced in Malaysia, where the shortage, combined with changing regulations, is driving a market that is particularly advantageous for specialists in this field. “Although the regulatory developments surrounding the detariffication of the motor and fire insurance sectors were long foreshadowed, companies struggled to find the necessary individuals to fill actuary positions, and as July’s deadline came around, companies were forced into a bidding war as they attempted to headhunt other firms’ employees.”
This is seeing actuaries remaining in positions for much shorter periods than companies would wish, as there is always an available opportunity to increase salaries, driving companies to seek out more inventive ways of retaining top candidates. “The promotion of development programs has been visible over the last 12 months, which has meant that candidates can rise very quickly up the ladder. Companies are also sponsoring qualifications while rewarding success in these areas with incremental rises,” Tom explains.
Whether in actuary services or one of the other areas of high demand – reinsurance, underwriting, FinTech, and detariffication – the insurance sector is decidedly short on individuals with strong interpersonal skills, and candidates who can demonstrate they have abilities in this area will be required over the coming year. “Right now, the Malaysian insurance industry is looking for candidates who are comfortable presenting to the C-Suite. They also need to possess leadership skills and be able to demonstrate that they can lead both large and lean teams,” says Tom. “But perhaps most importantly of all, being forward thinking and adaptable to technological change is going to be key. If you can use these tools to your advantage, then you can make a big impact in this industry that is full of potential.”
An overview of what other trends have been observed in Malaysia’s Insurance sector can be viewed below.
• New Deputy Governor of BNM, Jessica Chew expects that Malaysia’s insurance industry will see its most important transformation over the next five to ten years.
• In distribution, the agency sector is looking to adopt more digitalisation through the implementation of tablet and smartphone applications. These will also be developed for the convenience and efficiency of agents and agency managers.
• Growth in Malaysia’s insurance sector is exemplified by the increase of foreign companies looking to acquire a stake in local companies, often through joint ventures with one Malaysian company to buy out another. This is a trend that is expected to continue over the next two years.
• With the fact that there are more Insurance shared services centres arriving in Malaysia, the demand for candidates proficient in Mandarin, Japanese and Korean is growing.
• Companies looking overseas are increasingly keen to use Hays’ Global Link service to locate returning Malaysians in order to fill positions.