It’s an undeniable fact that the relatively recent pandemic proved to be a disruptive catalyst for the insurance sector in the Middle East and beyond, writes Gaenor Jones, regional director of the CII Middle East and central and south Asia.
The post covid landscape induced a plethora of priorities for organisations wishing to remain buoyant in a volatile world, including cost optimisation, new revenue streams and consolidation.
We have witnessed a wealth of mergers and acquisitions as companies strive to become leaner and fitter to navigate the new normal.
So how has the changed landscape affected personal professional development for the sector’s professionals, and how can employers position themselves to nurture talent and future proof the sector?
Advisers need to be continually responsive and adaptable in understanding and addressing emerging trends and new business realities as we enter 2023. Those who possess internationally recognised qualifications and accreditations that demonstrate an understanding and grasp of emerging issues and market needs, have been and will continue to be the natural choice for corporates and organisations wishing to streamline their workforce whilst maintaining competitive edge and best practice.
Continuous Professional Development (CPD) is also playing a major role in keeping advisers up to date on new trends and changes in regulation as they happen, so that clients can be informed of new products and legislation coming to the market.
Annual CPD is mandatory for membership with a professional body such as the CII and we provide our members with this valuable content as part of the membership offering. The ability of financial services professionals to instil essential confidence in the end user/consumer remains crucial, and accredited qualifications from an internationally recognised body go a long way to securing trust.
A fresh perspective on self-development
One positive aspect of the pandemic was that a changed working environment, where remote working became the norm, gave employees a fresh perspective on their career path, and the opportunity to focus more on their personal development goals.
Recognition of the importance of gaining and sustaining knowledge about the key emerging trends and issues affecting the sector, remains key. This is particularly relevant to InsurTech, data analytics and AI. Most insurers had to ramp up digitisation plans during the pandemic to transition practically overnight to a remote workforce and virtual engagement with
customers. Overall, however, while technology transformation has often focused on enhancing internal efficiency and accelerating speed to market, that emphasis has now begun to shift for many insurers to investments improving customer experience and bolstering data and analytics capabilities.
The recent Deloitte Insights report from the Deloitte Center for Financial Services highlights how, “the goal for 2023 and beyond should be to more fully realise the benefits of technology infrastructure investments to make insurers increasingly agile, innovative, and customer-centric”.
What’s more, a recent global survey and interviews with chief data officers by the Deloitte Center for Financial Services found that “upgrading to more holistic data management systems while empowering teams to collaborate on data across functions and business lines could help insurers capitalize on their data and analytics initiatives to accelerate innovation, bolster competitive differentiation, and ultimately sustain profitable growth.”
Developing knowledge of data science and analytics
At the CII, we have long recognised the importance of educating the sector’s professionals about this key issue, creating and offering relevant courses.
This includes Introduction to Data Science & Analytics Developed in collaboration with the Southampton Data Science Academy.
The course is an important first step in developing knowledge of data science and artificial intelligence (AI) within the context of insurance, providing an overview of data tools and technologies to develop understanding of data analysis, data visualisation techniques, an ethical approach to AI and data science techniques for insurance.
We have also focused on conveying appropriate insight and information on the topic to our members, regularly communicated via our digital platforms, through virtual seminars, video and webinars.
ESG a competitive differentiator
Another key focus is that of Environmental, Social and Governance policy, with Insurers now setting their sights beyond compliance concerns to make ESG a competitive differentiator.
Being equipped with technical knowledge through the attainment of qualifications on relevant topics such as Climate Risk will ensure advisors are keeping abreast of this rapidly emerging trend and how it is impacting the sector.
From the employer’s perspective, those companies who are prepared to invest in consistent learning and development programmes for their staff will minimise their talent turnover and attract the most knowledgeable individuals, with all the inherent benefits – accurate targeting of emerging opportunities and sectors, increased performance and revenue, etc.
The CII is focused on educating employers about the supporting factors that help employees attain qualifications, such as allowing for study time through flexible working arrangements or encouraging individuals to take exams as part of a cohort where shared study practices can be enjoyed.
Interestingly, a recent social media poll conducted by the CII revealed that some participants felt that the key obstacle preventing them from attaining qualifications was fitting the study process around their day job. We are addressing this misconception, having created digital study materials, aural and visual aids, and offering remote invigilation, which guarantees the ultimate in ease of access and convenience across the entire process.
Regulation will mandate accredited qualifications
Investment by employers in their employees becomes even more significant and pressing when considering increasing regulation across the region.
The finance minister of KSA, Mohammed Al Jadaan, has recently announced that a new unified regulator for the sector is about to be established in the Kingdom, and we have witnessed the fairly recent merger of the UAE regulators, the Insurance Authority and the Central Bank.
This is a very positive step for the sector because, strengthening regulations goes hand in glove with mandating the attainment of professional qualifications.
Those companies who continue to support their employee’s professional development, through the provision of accredited qualifications will be fully compliant, and this preparedness will assure them of a bright and progressive future, along with their employees.
The result is a buoyant and abundant sector that is ripe with opportunities and securely future-proofed.
This article was written for International Adviser by Gaenor Jones, regional director of the CII Middle East and central and south Asia.