Hiring for an InsurTech (*is tough)

giphy (43).gif

InsurTech v FinTech

InsurTech’s are all too often referred to in the same context as FinTech’s; as a broadly defined part of ‘financial services’, the Insurance industry is characterised as the slow-moving ‘older brother’ of banking.

The use and reference to FinTech firms happened after the 2007 financial crash, when ‘fintech’ became a common term outside of the finance world, owing to various venture capitalist firms making huge investments into fintech businesses which aimed to disrupt the failed financial institutions. InsurTech, as expected, was a term coined later.

In InsurTech market in the UK, according to the recognised commentator Nigel Walsh, is divided into “3 categories” in a recent blog post – 1). cloud-native equivalents of the traditional (large) core system 2). a similar model to ‘Category 1’, however, with the option to write business in specific states or geographies, and 3). adjacent InsurTech players that have been built from the ground up to solve a niche, single specific problem.

The main challenge for these burgeoning technology start-ups in InsurTech is the same as it was for the FinTech companies – hiring talent! 

Courage man jumping over cliff on sunset background,Business concept idea

The War for Talent

The use of the phrase ‘war for talent’ has been used (and overused) considerably since the recession and one conclusion had been drawn – the talent won! 

It is a candidate-driven market now and companies find themselves aggressively competing for technical talent. As an employer now, your brand position, culture, environment, mission, technology stack, benefits (i.e. pension, flexible working policy) and overall offering are scrutinised and considered at every stage of the recruitment process. Fail to get the brand positioning and message to market wrong and you don’t attract or engage talent and if you give little or no consideration to the candidate experience, you will lose candidates from the process or simply get ‘ghosted’.

The dynamics of the market are such now that, as the employer, you have a significant challenge to recruit talent – you are no longer in direct control – therefore, your approach needs to change to be successful.

Teamwork meeting concept

Define the differences

Life in a start-up and scale-up is different from operating in an established SME or enterprise business – in most cases in the Insurance industry if you’ve worked for a major Insurance carrier, you have been ‘the client’. This is one of the most significant differences and one of 3 major differences.

1). Client v Service Provider

There is a mindset shift that is required to operate successfully in an InsurTech; stakeholders are no longer internal or 3rd party suppliers – they are actual customers. You are now customer-facing, driving a commercial agreement to deliver a project(s) that have implications for the end clients’ business and significant impact on the reputation and revenue of the InsurTech you represent.

There is no hiding place – you are front and centre and you will be responsible for all the commercial conversations, issues and escalations, client engagement and end-to-end delivery. You will be dealing with ambiguity, crafting solutions with limited amounts of resource available and you will be under pressure both internally and externally as the focal point. Would you be comfortable with this level of exposure and scrutiny?

2). Learning while in-flight

Typically, an InsurTech won’t have a slick on-boarding process that provides you with training on all the core products and services, an induction about the current state of the business and a few days grace to orientate yourself with your environment and colleagues and/or team members. The approach is often ‘laptop-open-and-GO!’.

You will need to be resourceful and collect information, data and self-learn as you start to take on responsibility for deliverables (both new and existing); the onus will be on you to set-up meetings with your peers and team to introduce yourself and get a sense of them, their role and how they fit into the dynamic of a constantly growing business.

In short, if your first question is ‘what’s the induction process?’ – this isn’t the environment for you.

3). What does success look like? 

Creating the exact psychometric profile for an individual that will be successful in a start-up and scale-up has been the pursuit of many incubators and accelerator programmes, VC and Angel investors and talent acquisition and recruitment companies. There doesn’t, at this stage, appear to be a definitive profile that guarantees success.

In my experience, there are 3 characteristics that are commonly found in the companies I have partnered with when they are scaling their business.


The pressure to deliver, the pressure to find solutions, time-pressure, pressure from client demands and pressure to be forward-thinking requires one thing – resilience. If you don’t have experience of dealing with pressure, finding ways to personally reconcile the demands of the business whilst maintaining healthy mental well-being, this environment can be challenging.

A resilient mindset will help steer you through the ambiguity, find solutions when there appears to be no straight-forward answer and it will ensure you protect your team when the demands are high and the final phases are close to being delivered. You will lead where others simply manage.


Ambition can be seen as an unattractive, slightly disruptive, quality in an individual. Ambition in a start-up is essential. Start-ups are built on the ambition of its founders. Assessing the ambition of an individual that wants to join a start-up can be approached in a number of ways; have they been or sought promotion in their previous companies? why do they want to join a start-up? do they have a plan for their role within the start-up and what are they going to improve, change or add to the business?

If working in a start-up ‘appeals to you’, or you think you could ‘add value’ or perhaps you think you have ‘relevant skills and experience’ – make sure you define the ‘why’ and ‘how’ to support these statements. Start-ups run fast, run hard and ask questions – they don’t make unsupported statements. 

Critical thinking 

What is critical thinking? – that’s a question I get asked by recruitment agencies and candidates. In the context of the companies, I have partnered with, it’s the ability (based on intellect and experience) to critically evaluate a decision, solution and/or existing project, commercial process or scenario and then provide a number of options – even options that haven’t been tested (but, could quickly be tested and validated).

It’s not the ‘ability to think outside the box’ as that cliche means very little in the context of a highly pressurised project delivery.

Critical thinking also requires you to trust your own decision-making process and be comfortable with known ‘unknowns’. It also means trusting your team and their knowledge and input, however, being confident enough to make and take the final decision.

Zirvedeki Aşıklar


Joining an InsurTech, on face-value, maybe be very appealing – and these companies need talent like any established business – however, the environment, requirements and the ability to be successful are determined by different factors on a personal and professional level. If you think you want this kind of challenge, feel free to contact me for an introductory chat. InsurTech needs great talent! 


Reference material:

Nigel Walsh post entitled “Is the insurance core system the lowest common denominator in the InsurTech (r)evolution?” – Read the full post here

TechBullion – “What is InsurTech, Origin and History in Financial Technology?”


The Recruiter’s ‘Portfolio’

giphy (17)


Over the last few weeks I’ve been searching for a new project and what I have encountered, rather surprisingly, is a lot of the norms that we as a recruitment industry, still seem to be holding onto dogmatically. The one recurring question is ‘can you send me a copy of your CV?’.

My expectation would have been at least to ask me for a link to my LinkedIn profile; my hope is that I might be asked if I have a website or online portfolio, examples of campaigns I have successfully delivered, a request about blogs or any other information that would, in my opinion, actually present a holistic picture of the me as an individual and talent acquisition an recruitment professional. Across the board, the CV request was predominant.

I appreciate there is a counter-argument here which is ‘why don’t you just add links to your CV?’ – I’ve tested that and the click-through rates are low. From that test sample, my conclusion is that Hiring Managers / Agencies are still looking at the CV and making their decision based on the chronological script of my prior experience.

giphy (18)


This is going to sound like a sales pitch, however…

Whenever I recruit, I aim to build a picture of the individual through a combination of their LinkedIn profile, social media, blog posts and combine those notes and use them in the introductory conversation with them to really get a sense of them as a professional and person. With this knowledge, you can really start to explore their thoughts on culture, environment, working patterns and their mindset in the face of challenges and change. In short, you end up offering the Hiring Manager a ‘portfolio‘ of the person as opposed to a CV and each part of the process acts as an additional level of qualification beyond the standard ‘skills matching’ approach.

Flip the focus to recruiting for talent acquisition and recruitment professionals, would it be more interesting to your client to see examples of the following;

  • job specifications
  • social media content (i.e. posts, adverts)
  • recruitment assets (i.e. candidate, interviewee and on-boarding packs)
  • process workflows
  • interview formats
  • blog posts

How interesting to you and your client would this portfolio of information be at an introductory or pre-screening stage?

giphy (19)

Building your Portfolio

What are the challenges with starting to build your own recruitment portfolio?

The consideration of time is always the obvious starting point; the time to create a website of online host compared to writing your CV using a template is clear. Having said that, do you want to look back at your legacy in recruitment and have only a CV and some anecdotal stories and hiring numbers to refer to? – keep track of your journey and collate the information you have learned. Create your own ‘Recruitment Playbook’ – something you can use as you navigate your way through your career steps.

Another key consideration is, who owns the content you’ve created? – if you are a permanent employee (whether in-house or agency side), you’ll be subject to legal obligations regarding the content you have created. Having said that, referring to this content if it’s already in your, or the clients, social media feed isn’t a crime – blog about it even. Tell the story behind how and why you created it. This can be positive PR for the client’s brand.

What if I don’t have any of this content? – perhaps your in a role that hasn’t required you to write job specifications, create social media posts or implement new workflows. Then my suggestion to you is start!

The role of the Talent Acquisition (TA) and Recruitment (Rec) professional is evolving rapidly and you need to offer more than the ability to search, screen and present an applicant. As tools and products providing greater levels of automation change processes and the way tasks are completed, one of the greatest assets of a TA and Rec consultant is their ability to deliver creative solutions and the knowledge they already retain about the process of where to discover, attract and engage talent.

An invitation to fellow Professionals

If you want any suggestions as to where to start, I’m happy to have a chat. Just ping me a message. We can all benefit from sharing ideas! 

The Basic Salary Question


The ‘salary’ question

Working agency-side for over 10-years, you get very used to asking the question – “..and what’s your current basic salary?” before moving onto the next phase of the conversation about salary expectation and what the opportunity (that you’ve introduced) is offering.

As an agency recruitment consultant, you learn (very quickly!) to ask this question towards the end of the introductory conversation as it’s a rapport-killer – it feels like you’re on a metaphorical first date and at the end of the meal you’re saying – “if you’re not going to finish that, could I have it”, then reaching over (invading your date’s personal space) and scraping the food off their plate.

As the recruiter, part of your responsibility as the ‘talent broker’ is to ascertain this information to present to your client alongside the other key information you have gleaned that isn’t stated on the CV. In short, your client expects you to provide a holistic picture of the individual and the salary information forms part of the report.

For the applicant, this question can feel like you’re immediately being quantified, assigned to a ‘box’ and your negotiating position becomes null void. I say this because I have also been the recipient of this question. In short, your ‘monetary value’ has been determined by your current employer and your potential future employer is using this information to inform their decision.

For all the talk about ‘your future potential’, you – as an applicant – are still being benchmarked, in part, on historic data.

The ‘loaded’ agenda

It my agency days, it was widely touted that a basic salary increase between 10%-15% was the standard when moving to a new job.  Any increase above this percentage was reserved for ‘senior’ or ‘exceptional’ individuals. Where did this ‘rule’ come from? I have no idea.

What I do know is that the agency model was sustained by protecting the margin it charged the client for services delivered. The client perpetuated this by providing the recruitment agency with a ‘salary range’ that they deemed suitable to pay for a particular role profile. The combination of these two factors meant that a potential candidate was already subject to a ‘financial scale’ irrespective of their skills and experience. The conversation agenda was, essentially, already loaded towards ‘the salary question’.

Banned in the USA

giphy (16)

On January 9th 2017, the State of New York passed legislation into law banning state agencies and departments from requesting salary history from applicants until after an offer of employment is extended. Furthermore, if an applicant’s prior compensation was discovered or offered by the candidate, that information could not be relied upon in determining the candidate’s salary, unless required by law or a collective bargaining agreement.

And so it began…

As of August 2018, there are 11 State-wide and 9 local bans that are a result of the adoption of the laws and regulations that prohibit employers from requesting salary history information from job applicants. But why? 

These laws are aimed at ending the cycle of pay discrimination in terms of the gender pay gap, and to some degree, ethnicity and ageism. To illustrate that point, a half a century after the US passed the Equal Pay Act, American women still face a substantial gender wage gap across the spectrum.

Today, on average, a woman earns 80.5 cents for every dollar a man earns, and women’s median annual earnings are $10,086 less than men’s, according to data from the US Census Bureau.


UK versus USA

Whilst gathering significant pace in the USA, the ban on asking applicants for their basic salary information hasn’t reached the shores of the UK. There has been some press attention on this subject in the Independent and one of the UK’s ‘red top‘ publications. Aside from that, I haven’t noticed any serious Ministerial interest in this as part of the Gender Pay Gap; in fact, in the report on Actions to close the gender pay gap, they encourage the complete opposite action by ‘encouraging salary negotiation by showing salary ranges’ owing to a perceived notion that “women are less likely to negotiate their pay”.

From the perspective of a negotiation, both parties should start on an equal footing; if the employer is transparent and states the salary they are offering, how does that empower the applicant to negotiate if the benchmark has already been set?

Recruiting in the UK

If the US legislation starts to gather momentum in the UK and Europe, what would that mean for the recruitment industry?

For Applicants

The prospect of not having to provide your current salary information may improve the negotiating position of the individual – in short, the compensation you negotiate could be based on the skills, experience and your output during the interview process as opposed to being benchmarked by the salary your currently securing with the company you’re planning to leave. In addition, by not having to divulge this information to a recruitment agency, you could choose to discuss remuneration with the client directly at a stage in the process where there is meaningful engagement.

A point raised in an article written by John Feldmann in Forbes raised the question of whether an applicant (and employee) might both be disappointed if they progressed through an entire recruitment process to find out, at the end, that they were completely misaligned about the basic salary on offer (from the employee) and required (by the applicant). In this situation, I think it’s perfectly reasonable for the employer to be transparent about the basic salary on offer as long as they acknowledge that there may be a negotiation (upwards) at the point of offer. This may inform two approaches, employers low-balling salaries from the beginning of the process (which may impact application levels), or they set a realistic ‘upper limit’ that they are prepared to pay that they operate within. My question to any employer would be this – what would the cost to your business by not hiring great people as opposed to trying to keep to rigid salary model? – I understand cost models, however, great people = increased productivity = increased profits (=increased budget for more great hires). 

For Employers

What about those applicants that try to game-the-system and negotiate ridiculously high salary increases? – my counter to this is, if you know the role you’re recruiting for and the skills and experience you require, then the 1st interview stage should screen-out the individuals with limited experience or are unable to articulate their experience in relation to the role. In addition, with all the data available regarding current market salaries, we are all in an informed position anyway. The prospect of not being able to ask for current salary information actually asks the employer to start to be more creative in terms of the recruitment assessment process.

The major concern for employers would be their current salary structure; how would this be impacted if they started to bring in new employees potentially on higher salaries than existing employees in the same grade. Equally, would current employees see this as an opportunity to negotiate improved salaries? – I think this will actually act as a positive catalyst that will bring the subject of compensation to the forefront. How often have you, as an employee, sat in an end of year review waiting for the opportunity to discuss a remuneration and have felt as though it’s a taboo subject or it is completely related to your current performance (and less about the skills you have gained and your future performance).

There is another option – pay all your employees the same basic salary like Dan Price. Completely remove the need for negotiation as the basic salary is transparent and the same for everyone; then surely you would know that applicants are focusing on more than just the money on offer.

For Recruitment Agencies

This will be interesting to observe should this legislation become a reality in the UK. The majority of agency models still leverage off the fact that they are the ‘broker’ between the applicant and the client; by finding and negotiating with the applicant before the CV/application is passed to the client or HR team, the agency provides ‘value’ by having the conversation(s) that the client doesn’t want to or feels will have a negative impact on the introductory conversation with an applicant. Removing the power of the recruitment agency to negotiate with the applicant, removes a critical part of their function.

Whilst UK recruitment agencies continue to develop their solutions and offerings by offering psychometric and skills assessments, increased levels of pre-screening (i.e. video interviews such as RecRight) and employment pre-screening (i.e. Disclosure Scotland); if the agency hasn’t developed these offerings and the prospect of negotiating with the applicant on behalf of the client over salary is removed – does this reduce them to little more than a CV-parsing offering? – would the client not be best positioned to have the conversation instead?

Salary Data Companies 

There are established companies in the UK that charge extortionate amounts in subscriptions or one-off payments to gain access to data they have collated (through scraping other people’s data). What would this mean for their business models – or at least the way they gather their data. How would they pivot in an economy where salary data wasn’t as valuable?

Assessment and Training Companies 

Providing assurance of a potential employees skills, experience, cultural fit and mindset would become more of a critical part of the recruitment process in a world where how much someone earned was used as a benchmark of assurance as to their credibility and suitability. The days of “well, they were paid that much by X so that must mean they are good at their job“.

Talent management companies that can access and provide meaningful data to employers about the current and future potential of potential employees would become the safest way of mitigating against a poor hire. With the confidence in the ability of the potential employee, surely the investment (basic salary) would be more than worthwhile.


Moral Compass

giphy (15)

When it comes to any negotiation, trust underpins the process – whether consciously or unconsciously; the feeling that you are agreeing to a deal that is mutually beneficial. That is a purely human emotion and not one an assessment or test can inform…other than a lie-detector test…and I’m not sure we’re quite ready for that to be introduced into a recruitment process yet.

With that in mind, and if the question of basic salary is removed, we default to the question of trust. In this scenario, building trust comes with giving trust, through developing meaningful working and professional relationships. Perhaps the question of basic salary isn’t so much about ‘are you good enough’, perhaps is more about ‘do I / we trust you’. In this situation, I personally always start with a ‘yes’ until you provide me with a reason to think otherwise.







Reject me, just don’t ignore me!

giphy (11)

It’s Not You, It’s Someone Else…

We’ve all been there…we’ve received the generic ‘Sorry, your application didn’t progress’ or ‘We offered the role to a more suitable candidate’; or even, you’ve been one of the many people that takes time and energy out of their day to attend an interview and you’ve received zero feedback! Nothing! – a virtual ‘feedback blackhole’.

So why do the majority of companies, and more specifically, Hiring Managers / Leaders still find it so difficult to provide feedback; extend a simple professional courtesy to another professional? – I mean, there is advice out there if you’re worried about the implications of providing feedback to an individual you don’t intend to offer a role.



…you’re focusing your time and energy on the person you intend to offer and that process is your top priority…you’ll get round to the rejected individuals when you’ve got your ‘chosen one’ secured? – it’ll take 5-10 minutes out of your day to make a call and provide feedback, however, the impact of this action will be positively received by the individual. 

…there is a potential disconnect between you (Hiring Manager/Leader) and the in-house HR/Recruitment team and the feedback hasn’t been passed along or got lost in a whole host of hiring activities the in-house team are managing? – it should be the Hiring Manager/Leader’s responsibility to prioritise the feedback activities with the in-house team and follow-up to ensure is has been actioned. 

…the fear of disappointing another individual and you’re a perpetual ‘pleaser’ and you’d lie awake at night worrying about what that person might be saying about you across social media? – leaving an individual with no feedback leaves the door open to speculation and a greater sense of rejection. In short, inaction has had the complete opposite effect.

…the Recruitment Agency that introduced the individual and the feedback hasn’t been passed back because the Agency lost interest as soon as they knew it wasn’t ‘their candidate’ that was to be offered the role? – again, it should be the Hiring Manager/Leader’s responsibility to prioritise the feedback activities and request confirmation that it has been actioned. 

In all these potential scenarios, the responsibility, or delegation of responsibility, for providing feedback sits with the Hiring Manager / Leader in my opinion. Specifically linked to this are the concepts ‘Candidate Experience‘ and ‘Brand Advocacy‘.


What’s your baseline? 

When any client asks me to assess their ‘Candidate Experience’, I start with the purpose of answering one question – ‘How do they treat the people they don’t hire’? – that’s my baseline. Interestingly, I often find that the data and information available for the individuals that haven’t been offered a role with a company is often sporadic, undocumented and very inconsistent in approach from one Hiring Manager or team to another.

Many have asked, why bother with the people we haven’t hired? 

My counter to that question is, if the experience for the people you haven’t offered is really engaging, the experience for the people you do hire must be amazing!

The net result of an amazing offer and on-boarding experience correlates to a reduction in the loss of individuals to counter offers or other opportunities. 

The obvious result from an engaging experience for individuals you do and don’t hire is brand advocacy and that could lead to referrals and that will lead to a boost to your talent pipeline! Also, you may not have hired the individual today, however, what about in another 6, 12 or 18 months time?

What is your Candidate Experience baseline?

If you’re the hiring manager, team leader, company or HR / Recruitment professional about to embark on a overhaul or improvement programme focused on your Candidate Experience (CX), please let me offer some advice;

  • your current CX is only as good as the last negative feedback you received
  • data is important, however, stories of human experience are more valuable
  • focus on the individual and build the process around them
  • personalisation should underpin your CX journey
  • build your CX vision, don’t replicate
  • be creative and be brave

it's all about you

Are you currently looking for a new career opportunity?

Searching for a new career


Suggestions for your searching strategy

Asking a favour of friends

I recently conducted a short survey by inviting friends from Facebook to complete a questionnaire entitled ‘How do you look for a new career opportunity?’. The questionnaire was quite easy to create using Google Forms (*for anyone that might be thinking of doing something similar) and I separated the questionnaire into two specific parts; the first part has already been mentioned as it’s the title of this blog post (see above) and the second was entitled ‘The perfect experience’.

In an attempt to not overload the blog post, I have detailed the first part of the survey results below as a list of ‘Questions’ and ‘Suggested action’; let me know what you think…

How do you look for a new career opportunity?

Searching Question: When asked ‘How do you look for a new job typically?’ and where the individuals were given the chance to choose more than one option, the top options came out as 1). LinkedIn (64%) and 2.) Recruitment agencies (64%) and then 3). Referral from a former colleague (58%) and finally 4). Applying direct to companies (52%). It’s interesting to note that ‘Referral from a former colleagues’ (58%) was more popular than a ‘Referral from a current colleague’ (23.5%).

Suggested action: Individuals want interactivity; whether this is via an immersive platform or through the curation / brokering of a 3rd party (recruitment agent) and I think this is based on assumed trust. Additionally, a degree of separation from their current employer is preferable and direct contact with an employer (via LinkedIn or direct applications) is also important. Create a list of people and agencies where you have pre-existing relationships and contact them with the specific goal of talking about new career opportunities; it’s important to ask for what you want, don’t delay with introductory chat, as those individuals that are prepared to help/support you will respond (and those that won’t will probably delay or engage in polite chit-chat). Always remember to record those that help you for a follow-up afterwards; professional courtesy is key.

Timing Question: Another interesting result was illustrated when individuals were asked ‘How much time per day do you spend looking for new opportunities?’; an overwhelming majority (52.9%) stated that they spend 30-minutes per day looking for new opportunities and this appears to be on LinkedIn as 82.4% stated this was their primary platform compared to others in the market.

Suggested action: Time is precious! If you are searching for a new opportunity, it’s often in your own personal time; therefore, the ability to find, review and apply to new opportunities quickly is important (and perhaps why LinkedIn is preferred platform). Set yourself alerts and reminders on the apps/platforms you are using to keep to a strict schedule of applying and following-up on open applications. Ensure you have a singular view of all the applications you have ‘live/active’ if you are using multiple channels.

Challenges Question: Pain points in searching for a new opportunity can be different depending on your approach, so when the individuals were asked ‘Do any of the following things make job searching difficult?’ it was surprising to note that the two main ‘pain points’ were dominate. Firstly, more than 41% state that ‘Filling in an online application for each role’ was prohibitive, and secondly; over 35% stated that ‘Not being able to apply to the company directly’ was also restrictive to the process.

Suggested action: Again, I think we return to the idea of time efficiency when it comes to applying for new opportunities; however, closely behind these two front-runners was the issue of ‘Lack of information on a companies latest vacancies’ and ‘Taking time to update your CV’ indicating that the provision of information appears to be time-consuming for both parties in the two-sided market. Therefore, get prepared with an updated CV (if required) or update your LinkedIn profile for the ‘Apply via LinkedIn’ option.

Making It Easier Question: In contrast to the previous question, individuals were asked to select 3 options that ‘Would make your search for a new career opportunity easier’. There were 3 clear leading responses to this question — 1). Direct contact with an employer and/or hiring manager 2). A shorter timeline between application and response from employer/hiring manager 3). Being able to ask more questions about the role/opportunity before applying.

Suggested action: From mapping your contacts, you’ll be aware of the individuals you can contact at specific companies; if any of them are at companies on your ‘interest list’ then approach them directly and ask them and start a specific dialogue. This action will also facilitate being able to ask more questions about the opportunity, company, culture and environment; also, it will invariably reduce the timelines for feedback.

Source of Information Question: Individuals were asked ‘Who is the most trusted source of information when you’re applying for a new career opportunity?’; the conclusive result for this question was, the Hiring Manager (58.8%).

Suggested action: If you can contact the Hiring Manager or can be referred to her/him via a friend/contract, then absolutely do it! It’s the ultimate approach! If you do not have direct contact with the Hiring Manager, can you make contact with her/him through LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or via corporate e-mail? For the latter, use Google Chrome and add the Hunter plug-in to find the e-mail address.

I will be posting another blog post towards the end of this week about ‘The perfect experience’; in the interim, I’d welcome your thoughts and feedback on this first part.