A. 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.
Best CEO Picks
CEO; Subsidiary of a Fortune 500
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experience; 70/3, Miller Road, Bangalore-560052.
CEO; Orient Originals Inc.; New Delhi;
MBA with 10-15 years of experience; Orient Originals Inc.
CEO; Indian Subsidiary of a leading
transnational group; Around Delhi; B.E./B. Tech from a reputed institute
with 15-20 years of relevant experience, preferably in the compressor
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Vice-President (Assurance); Single Point security Systems; Metropolitan cities; Seasoned CISAs with experience in business development; Single Point Associates; Krishna House, Raghuvanshi Mill Complex, 11-12, Senapati Bapat Marg, Mumbai-400013.
Vice-President (Finance); Visualsoft Technologies; Hyderabad; CA with 7-8 years of relevant experience; Visualsoft Tower, Kundanbagh, Begumpet, Hyderabad-500016.
Country Controller (Finance); Circle Freight International; Mumbai; CA/MBA (Finance) with 10-12 years of relevant experience; Circle Freight International (India), Commercial Plaza, A-Wing, Radisson Hotel, New Delhi-110037.
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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.
Manager; Oman Trading Establishment;
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Software Professionals; Global Soft
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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.
The Top Level: CEOs,
COOs, CFOs, head of sales and marketing, head of hr, chief of actuarial
The Middle Level:
General managers/vice-presidents in operations, marketing, distribution,
finance, hr, actuarial operations, underwriting, riskmanagement and
The Lower Level: Officers/executives
in operations, marketing, distribution, finance, hr, actuarial practices,
under-writing, and claim-processing.
A Resource Solution
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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