Staffing still a challenge, says CEO

A brokerage’s global CEO has spoken of high hopes for its Australian operations but warned that finding skilled staff will continue to be the biggest challenge.

Jardine Lloyd Thompson (JLT) Group CEO Dominic Burke told Broker Buzz that across the Australian and Asia-Pacific markets the aggregate volume of risk was continuing to grow strongly.

“There’s no shortage of capital but there is a shortage of something and that something is skills,” he says.

“I think the insurance industry in this part of the world is still suffering from a shortage of those skills.”

Burke says the solution needs to be homegrown rather than imported.

“I don’t want to see an industry that just repeats what it has done for the last 30 years, which is send out ex-pats from London to the regions. I think that has been a successful model but I don’t think it will be the successful model going forward,” he says.

“The big challenge for JLT over the past three or four years is to be in front of that curve.”

He says recent staff acquisitions have boosted JLT Australia’s depth of experience but the journey was ongoing.

“With our key verticals like oil and gas, construction, mining and energy we want to develop them in-country with the right level of technical expertise and deep-seated knowledge of those industries,” he says.

JLT Australia and New Zealand CEO Leo Demer says these sort of efforts had already paid dividends in terms of JLT’s market share in its key segments.

“We’ve had a very strong year,” he says.

“We won 62 new accounts in the first half of the year. In just the past few weeks we’ve won four major accounts that few years ago wouldn’t have been even been on our radar.”

Burke also spoke of his pride in the recent acquisition of the prized reinsurer Towers Watson Re, a coup he put down to the strength of the JLT culture, in the face of bids reputed to be up to twice as high JLT’s winning offer.

“I think the insurance market itself didn’t want to see Towers Watson Re get merged into one of the big three American firms of Aon Benfield, Willis Re or Guy Carpenter,” he says.

“They didn’t want to see choice removed and we were the one firm – because we were the fifth largest in the world of the reinsurance side – that could absolutely ensure that choice was maintained and we were able to acquire the business at a price that enables us to finance it through its existing profitability.”