by Tom Stephenson, Underwriting Management & Business Development, Robus, Gibraltar / Gibraltar Insurance Association (GIA)
The case for Gibraltar as a great place to do business, is made time and time again by industry professionals, as well as Gibraltar Finance and the Gibraltar Insurance Association.
Most of us know the script off by heart; we can talk confidently about the merits of Gibraltar in terms of EU passporting rights, regulatory efficiency and corporate taxation. But what we rarely do is talk about Gibraltar as a great place to develop one’s career. Promoting Gibraltar as a ‘career domicile’, and not just a corporate domicile, is vitally important to the future of our industry.
In the UK there are likely to be hundreds of industry professionals who would seriously consider a move to Gibraltar, if only they knew about it. Many employees in the industry in the UK would love to work abroad, but feel hampered by their inability to speak a foreign language.
That’s why, for example, a lot of them talk about the US, Canada, Australia and a few other international centres, such as Dubai and Singapore, where English is the de facto business language. Europe is generally ruled out in its entirety due to perceived language difficulties.
Only Ireland is a realistic option, but its climate and lifestyle is quite similar to the UK. Gibraltar however, offers a great opportunity for a positive lifestyle change without leaving Europe and without learning another language. So what are the opportunities in Gibraltar?
Opportunities for insurance professionals
Gibraltar has a well-developed insurance industry with insurers, reinsurers, insurance managers, brokers and of course, a regulator. Some insurers and brokers focus on the local market, whereas others are more focused on other European markets, particularly the UK. Lines of business vary widely. Motor insurance remains a dominant class, but Gibraltar companies also underwrite property, liability, personal accident, financial lines, health, surety, marine and most other major classes of general insurance.
In anticipation of the forthcoming Solvency II regulations, regulators are renewing their focus on corporate governance. The concept of “mind and management” is particularly relevant because it means Gibraltar insurers must demonstrate they have the expertise to manage their businesses here in Gibraltar.
In practical terms, this should mean increasing demand (and therefore opportunity) for specialist underwriters, managers and directors.
The close-knit nature of the Gibraltar insurance industry means that it’s possible to gain exposure to areas of the industry which, in the UK or elsewhere, would be far less accessible. An insurance underwriter in Manchester, for example, is unlikely to have any sort of interaction with their regulator or have the opportunity to sit on their employer’s Underwriting Committee.
Similarly, in Gibraltar there is far more interaction with business owners and entrepreneurs. This level of exposure can significantly accelerate personal development and lead to new opportunities in unexpected areas.
Gibraltar also provides opportunities for more formal continuing professional development. The Gibraltar Insurance Institute (GII) is, among the more active local insurance institutes and hosts regular seminars on a range of topics. They also offer support for those studying for professional insurance qualifications with the Chartered Insurance Institute (CII).
Developing local talent
Currently around 50% of the Gibraltar insurance industry was born in Gibraltar. In its efforts to attract expertise from outside, the industry must not ignore the huge potential of local graduates and school leavers. Over the past two years, the GII has done an outstanding job of raising awareness of the insurance industry among 16 and 18-year olds. I am certain this will continue over the next few years and hopefully we will see more local young people attracted to the industry.
This will not be easy, as other sectors, particularly the accountancy and legal professions, continue to have a very high profile among local graduates seeking a professional career.
Promoting Gibraltar as a ‘career domicile’ is vital for Gibraltar’s future. It has long been my view that one of the critical risks to the Gibraltar insurance industry is a potential shortage of skilled professionals. In many respects, this is inevitable in a territory the size of Gibraltar. With only 30,000 people living here, to find a specialist underwriter in a new line of business is not always easy.
There are simply not enough people outside the industry trying to get in. By raising awareness of the Gibraltar insurance industry, both inside and outside Gibraltar, we can hopefully encourage more people to think of it as a career option.