Sharing the secrets of the insurance industry

Alastair Allison, Chief Risk Officer of Zurich Insurance, reveals how to navigate the insurance industry, the various roles and opportunities available and the skills and attributes needed for success.

Since leaving the Royal Air Force in 2002 Alistair has worked in risk management, business continuity and governance. He ‘fell” into the insurance industry and how he did is a powerful reminder of the importance of having an up-to-date LinkedIn profile.

“Zurich found me on LinkedIn and invited me to apply for the role of information Governance Officer and I had an interview. For me the hop-over was down to my LinkedIn profile being up to date and being good enough for them to invite me in.”

His biggest problem when first job seeking was not having a degree listed on his CV: “so I put ‘educated to degree standard at Cranfield’ instead and it worked. It taught me a valuable lesson about getting the CV right in terms of what employers and recruiters are looking for just to get over that first hurdle.”

There are various roles within the industry, from underwriters who examine the risk factor to Investment managers who invest reserves to get good returns. If you are thinking of entering the insurance sector, Alistair explains, there are key terms that you may want to consider when you do your company research.

“Look at their combined operating ratio (this should be less than100%). What is their net promotor score? What is their presence in the market? What is the number of claims they are processing – it’s useful to understand. Look at their retention share – how much business are they losing or are they keeping their market share?”

Where do the opportunities lie for ex-military? According to Alastair, Zurich and many other insurance companies are investing huge sums in cybersecurity and digital. It’s a big growth sector.

Ex- military can contribute to project management, IT, surveyors and risk management. At Zurich, recruiters, security, fraud investigators and procurement are roles currently represented by former military staff.

Alastair completed an MSc during his transition phase and advises: “Be prepared to invest in new qualifications if you can during the resettlement process.”

Don’t underestimate the skills that you have it’s not all about technical skills. It’s good to have natural knowledge.

Technical skills are one thing and we shouldn’t get hung up on that, you can learn technical skills. The armed forces bring a lot of other skills which are not readily available.

There are times where the technical ability or the insurance knowledge may be weak. “I recently hired someone, ex-military staff, who didn’t have all the required technical skills but was highly competent on leadership and management. We took the risk of hiring as you can learn technical skills. He was a great hire. The armed forces bring a lot of skills that aren’t readily available elsewhere”.