Greater challenges lie ahead but the sector is confident and keen to take risks, says CBI

Insurance sector leaders are calling for calm in the face of the continued economic gloom.

Respondents to a survey, published by the Chartered Management Institute, argue that the temptation to make knee-jerk responses must be held in check.

The survey shows that just 11 % of the 1,118 polled feel secure in their current job in the insurance sector. However, although over half (60 %) admit that ‘work has become more stressful’, indications are that respondents are able to deal with the pressure.

For example, 78 % in the sector view the downturn as presenting them with ‘greater challenges’ and one-third (39 %) say it has ensured they are ‘more focused at work’. Only 35 % claim that fears over the economy have caused them to ‘lose sleep’.

Insurance managers have confidence in their ability to deal with the current situation. The study shows that a large proportion are still keen to take risks (26 %) or accept extra work (60 %). Many are also not prepared to ‘sit tight’ during the downturn, with 60 % suggesting they would be ‘tempted to move if the right offer came along’. Perhaps surprisingly, 42 % claim to be ‘actively looking for a more senior position’.

The research also identifies the top factors currently putting most pressure on the financial performance of UK organisations. Rising energy costs top the list (32 %), followed by concerns over employee motivation (29 %) and weak demand (27 %). However, despite a clear majority (81 %) admitting that the current state of the UK economy is having a negative impact on their organisation, more than half (56 %) are either ‘optimistic’ or ‘very optimistic’ about business prospects in the next 12 months.

The research that the sector’s managers and leaders believe that a combination of experience, decisive action and long-term planning is the key to business survival:

Seventy percent in the insurance sector have previous experience of redundancy and 53 % have supported friends or family through redundancy. With this in mind, three-quarters (83 %) argue that there is now less stigma attached to redundancy than in the 1990s

Fifty three percent of respondents in the sector say their organisation has already frozen recruitment, with 48 % diverting attention to developing the skills of core internal staff. 88 % also argue that focusing on management and leadership skills will help them survive the recession

Seventy two per cent in the sector suggest that ‘organisations should focus on product innovation and service’ to stay afloat in the downturn. The idea of investment is backed up with only 36 % agreeing that ‘the best response to recession is to cut costs’

Jo Causon, director, marketing and corporate affairs at the Chartered Management Institute, said: ‘It is vital that the UK’s leaders remain composed in the face of growing economic pressure because knee-jerk reactions will only serve to exacerbate the problem. It’s easier to manage when times are good, but the current climate is a real test of how strong the UK’s leadership credentials really are.’