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Managerspeak

A. SudhakarA. Sudhakar, 42, director, human resources, Ernst & Young, highlights the skills and attributes required to build a successful career in the insurance sector.

What kind of careers can one have in the fledgling insurance sector?

There would be basically two kinds of jobs in the insurance sector-front-end jobs like sales and marketing, distribution, operations, and human resource management, and, the back-end ones, like actuarial work, claim-processing, and underwriting. The career potential at both ends are huge.

What kind of skills-both hard and soft-are required to make a career here?

Hard skills would obviously include knowledge of the insurance business in general and specialised knowledge in the case of actuarial and claim-related functions. In sales and marketing jobs, a thorough understanding of marketing and distribution is essential. For all positions, a sound knowledge of finance and strong operational expertise are a must. The soft skills required would be good communication and inter-personal skills.

What kind of background is desirable for employees?

Pools of skill are available in the PSUs, namely LIC and GIC, and the migration has already started. For sales and marketing, an FMCG background is desirable. For other functions like operations, finance, and hr, experience in banks, NBFCs, and service industries (including healthcare) would be preferred.

In terms of career progression, what kind of potential will this sector offer?

In one word, huge. Worldwide, insurance is regarded as a big-ticket sector in terms of remuneration and career opportunities and India would be no exception. Almost all the players have deep pockets, and the sort of churn one is seeing in dot.coms, for instance, is unlikely to happen here. So, careers in insurance will be more stable.

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Senior Manager (Insurance); Leading diversified group for their companies engaged in the insurance business; East/Central Africa; Graduate with specialisation in insurance with relevant experience of 12-15 years, and in the age group of 35-40 years; Aries export, Bakhtwar, 11th floor, Nariman Point, Mumbai-400021.

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Skills

Jobwatch

Secure your career with insurance! For, the Rs 32,000-crore sector is a huge, albeit untasted, meal of an opportunity. And with the government opening up the sector, several would-be players are waiting in the wings. Around 20 companies, including global behemoths like the US-based Chubb Corporation and Nationwide Mutual Insurance, Dutch Aegeon Insurance, France's Cardif, and Australian Colonial, are queued up. And, the rewards could be rich despite the capital intensive nature of the business and a long gestation period, given the predictions of the Boston-based Monitor Company, which sees at least 30 players in life insurance and 20-odd in general insurance in India.

Thus, around 20,000 jobs may be created in the sector in the next two years. Jobs will be available in functions ranging from sales and marketing, underwriting, risk management and actuarial practices. Though the new companies are likely to be based in the big cities, they could still be hiring around 100 people each, apart from agents. That's a lot of jobs...

This fledgling sector is already a big draw in the employment market, considering the big-ticket remunerations offered and the excitement of working in a start-up. Star managers like Anuroop 'Tony' Singh, the erstwhile CEO of ANZ Grindlays and R. Shyam Sundar, the former marketing head of Smithkline Beecham, are among those who have taken the plunge. Do you have what it takes?

You need to peddle insurance. So, good brand management and distribution expertise is essential in sales and marketing positions. Translated, it means that a background in FMCG or consumer durables is ideal. Experience in an insurance PSU like LIC or GIC would also be valuable, provided it has adequate depth.

For other functions, professional qualifications and relevant experience, preferably in a transnational environment, is desirable.

In specialised functions like actuarial practices and risk management, functional knowledge is a must. Practising actuaries would also need certification from institutes of actuarial practices.

Underwriting would need a strong understanding of finance and insurance and a fair degree of medical knowledge.

Agents have to be a different breed, with computer-savviness and a knowledge of finance.

For all positions, strong communication and analytical skills and a willingness to learn are essential.

Positions

The Top Level: CEOs, COOs, CFOs, head of sales and marketing, head of hr, chief of actuarial practice.
Qualifications: Graduate from a top B-school for CEO and other functional positions, along with extensive professional experience. Relevant qualification from the Institute of Actuarial Practices, coupled with functional experience for actuarial positions.
Compensation: Rs 40-65 lakh

The Middle Level: General managers/vice-presidents in operations, marketing, distribution, finance, hr, actuarial operations, underwriting, riskmanagement and claim-processing.
Qualifications: MBA for the functional positions with relevant experience. Professional qualifications and experience for the actuarial positions.
Compensation: Rs 15-30 lakh

The Lower Level: Officers/executives in operations, marketing, distribution, finance, hr, actuarial practices, under-writing, and claim-processing.
Qualifications: Requisite functional/ technical degrees or diplomas.
Compensation: Rs 3-10 lakh

Tracking

Mother Hens
Talent breeds talent. Which is why incubators the world over attract the best and the brightest. Now, the trend is catching on here. A brand new incubator, set up by a US-based venture capital fund and tentatively entitled AtIndia (@India), has just gone and hired a veritable galaxy of stars. The head, R. Kannan, has had a glittering career in GE Capital in India as the CEO, before being poached. Its marketing head is none other than the suave Kanwaljeet Singh, formerly general manager (marketing) at Intel India. Singh had resigned some time ago and was keeping his destination a closely-guarded secret. The start-up has also roped in Saikat Bhattacharya, a long-time Motorola hand based at the transnational's Bangalore headquarters, to head its hr. That's quite a team. and a little bird told us that it was the Mumbai-based search and hr consulting firm Shilputsi that did the placements and raked in the moolah! Now, will these managers be able to clone their success in cyberspace? Watch this space...

Re-Do It
From peddling liquor to hawking shoes. Is that a move up or down? Well, in the case of Hemchandra 'Hemu' Javeri, the former vice-president (sales & marketing) at UB Group, it certainly is an upwardly mobile progression. Javeri is joining Nike, the global sportswear giant, as its Chief Operating Officer in India. And will perhaps apply his skills to shore up Nike's operations, and improve its standing in the marketspace and the mindspace (both of which haven't exactly been the stuff to write home about). In India, Nike's famed global competitors Reebok and Adidas have zoomed past it due to their first-mover advantage. Well, as the company's famous punch-line goes, Javeri just did it. But will Nike follow suit and re-do its act here?

Foodie Zone
There is something about food surely. Otherwise, why would the fledgling food industry attract managers, well, like flies? Prem Pradeep, who has had a long and distinguished career spanning Pepsi, Arvind Mills-where he headed the US operations-and a US-based software firm, has joined Food World, an RPG Group-owned chain of supermarkets that has been making waves in the South. Sanjiv Goenka, whose baby it is, reportedly has ambitious plans for the chain. And Pradeep will help him execute them, no doubt.

Postscript
Professional services major Ernst & Young (E&Y) has been going through a rough patch in India! First, it had to weather the storm created by a plagiarised report relating to a power project in the South-something that caused the company a lot of embarrassment. Now, it faces the prospect of vanishing employees-from its hr practice. Most senior people are leaving for greener pastures. Know why? Ever since E&Y sold its consulting practice to Cap Gemini, the fate of the hr practice has been hanging in balance. The official line is that E&Y wants to keep the division and rename it as advisory services. But insiders are not too sure and are opting for the safer exit route. A pity, considering that it was a flourishing practice...

A Resource Solution
The bad days are over it seems! Baan, the global provider of ERP solutions, went through rough times and was finally bought over by Invensys Software Systems Division, one of the world's largest software and systems integration companies. Now, in a bid to focus on its India operations, the company has appointed Gopal Madnani as its CEO here. Madnani, an infotech professional with more than two decades of experience with biggies like Tata Infotech, will be responsible for sales, marketing, consulting, and support in India, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh. BaaN there; done that.

Tarun ShethHELP, TARUN!!!

I am a commerce graduate with a good academic record. I plan to enrol in an MBA programme at the end of the year. Although I am confident of cracking the exam, I am confused about the choice of specialisation. I want to take up finance, but my family and friends are advising me to go for marketing. I don't think I have the behavioural attributes to excel in marketing. What should I do?

Almost all mba programmes have a first-year curriculum that includes all subjects and is common for all students, irrespective of the specialisation they opt for. You could go through the first year to get a better understanding of the various disciplines in management, and even wait for summer placement before deciding on your specialisation. Personality-wise, to rise up the corporate ladder you will have to develop inter-personal and leadership skills, irrespective of your function.

I am a final-year civil engineering student. I have already got a job through campus placement with a renowned software company. However, I plan to appear for B-school entrance exams after my graduation. In that case, my career will start only after two years, but the remuneration and prospects will probably be better. The job at hand, though, seems exciting, especially as it involves training in Silicon Valley. Should I take up this job and go ahead for a career in software or should I aim for an MBA and wait for a more lucrative job offer?

If you gain admission to a B-school, it will be better to acquire the qualification first. Later, it may be difficult to extricate yourself from a job. Alternatively, you could target a year or two of work experience and then go for an MBA. This time will allow you to figure out whether you want a career in software or not. However, a bird in hand is worth two in the bush and if you get admission to a top B-school (something you may not get later), you should take it up. You can always get a job in a software company even after your MBA.

I am a 26-year-old mechanical engineer and have been teaching the subject for four years. I have also completed a diploma course in business finance. I now want to switch to the corporate field as academics offers me neither job satisfaction nor a bright future. I want to make a career in project finance where I will be able to leverage my engineering skills and my knowledge of finance. How do I go about this? I am not located in a metropolis and this is also a problem.

You could try to get employment with project management companies (or companies involved in construction and commissioning of large plants). Or, you could apply to manufacturing companies that are expanding or diversifying. You could also seek employment in the planning function. Not being in a metropolis is a disadvantage. However, if you are willing to relocate, you need to keep applying to the jobs described.

I am a 43-year-old commerce graduate working as a marketing manager in a small concern. I have over 20 years of experience, of which 17 have been in sales and marketing. Unfortunately, both the companies I have worked for so far faced industry downturns and went under. Further, both the positions were in the sewing thread/twines industry, which has limited my prospects further. The present job does not satisfy me. How do I go about reviving my career? I am not getting any opening. Is my age becoming an obstacle for me? Should I do an on-the-job MBA? Is there any other course that I can pursue to help me revive my sagging career?

Your experience in the threads and twines industry could be useful in other industries. You should apply to companies that specialise in consumer durables, paints, non-industrial adhesives and chemicals, and plywood. You could get an on-the-job MBA and that will definitely enhance your knowledge and equip you better for the job. However, a part-time MBA is not considered at par with a full-time one, so do not expect a dramatic difference to your career.

Tarun Sheth, the senior consultant at the Mumbai-based recruitment and training consultancy firm, Shilputsi, addresses your career concerns every fortnight. Write to help, Tarun!!! c/o Business Today, F-26, Connaught Place, New Delhi-1.



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