Although there are more start-ups on campus these days, most students we come across are very keen to join the biggest company that they can find. As a strategy, it is not the worst but does not give the full picture. Let’s start there, though, to show what insurance can offer.
If you take the Global Fortune 500 as your measure, the largest insurance sector companies with graduate schemes in the UK are:
- Liberty Mutual
- Swiss Re
Quality not quantity
AXA is a very, very large company with more than 165,000 people working for it around the world. Yet it does not offer a similarly huge number of graduate places. There are usually around 12 positions on its scheme – compared to the ‘Big Four’, that is miniscule. Imagine being one of that small number of people though – a customised programme designed to progress you to be the best you can be in a global business. You have tremendous visibility across the organisation – that visibility simply cannot happen when there is an intake of 100, let alone 1,000 a year.
The sector companies that tend to recruit the largest number of graduates each year are Allianz (on the list above) and Aon (not within the Global Fortune 500 but the world’s largest of its type – (re)insurance broker, consultant and risk management company). Few sector companies hire more than 50 graduates a year – our sector’s approach is focused on quality not quantity.
Rather than thinking about the size of company you want to work for, take time to reflect on the experience that you are after. The best graduate schemes will have excellent buddying and mentoring support, sometimes with scope for reverse mentoring; a strong induction programme; support through all levels of professional qualifications; a commitment to diversity and inclusion; and a meritocratic approach.
Small can be beautiful
There are many smaller businesses in our sector that are still multinational. These smaller companies are likely to offer fewer than ten places to graduates each year but these opportunities are likely to offer you two things – excellent visibility in the business, and the chance to get involved in multiple business areas. Companies that have had a small but high-quality graduate intake in the past include Chaucer, Liberty Specialty Markets and Markel.
Never too soon to start researching
Your plan of action should involve building your knowledge and networks in your first year – if you can gain some sector experience or attend insight days and raise your profile, so much the better; your second/penultimate year is about securing an internship; and your final year is about getting a place on a graduate scheme.
Networking = informed choices
If you are looking to build your network to find out more about companies’ internships and graduate schemes, a good way to do this is to become a Discover member of the CII. It won’t cost you any money and will give you insight in to sector businesses, trends, testimonials and news; more importantly, it gives you access to people who are already doing the jobs that you want to do, as well as people who are involved in the recruitment process.
Who are you?
Before embarking on the graduate job search, take some time to understand yourself. If you’re a shy person, a role in broking is unlikely to be the right choice for you. Similarly, if you are the life and soul of the party, working in a back-office function may not give you the stimulation that you seek.
Once you’ve figured out your personality, understand what roles different sector companies offer. Don’t forget those roles that you find in all companies – HR, marketing, IT, business development and so on.
Find the right shape for you
Not all graduate schemes are the same – some are rotational, giving you exposure and experience in a number of business units. Some are fixed on a particular business area or specialism from day one. It’s up to you to decide what your preference is – a little sight of a few things, or plenty of one. There is no right answer, but do your research on the different schemes beforehand.
Non-graduate scheme jobs
There are many jobs out there are that aren’t badged as graduate schemes – they are often overlooked by students. Don’t fall in to the trap of getting tunnel vision about graduate schemes. These roles will support you through professional qualifications in much the same way as a graduate scheme.
London or beyond London?
Finally, have a think about your starting location. It’s tempting to focus on London – it’s the heart of global insurance and risk management – but don’t forget there are opportunities around the country. For example:
There are thousands of companies across the country so if you don’t really want to work in a big business, in a capital city, you don’t have to.