Travelling and living abroad can be a hugely valuable experience both personally and professionally. A number of our younger members seeking adventure in Australia, often contact us wondering how to transition from the Irish insurance industry to the Australian one. Here, John Harnett a loss adjuster at OSG, talks about his experiences 'Down Under' and how having the CDIP L.A. under his belt opened doors at both ACE and Zurich.
How did you get started in insurance?
To be honest I sort of fell into it. After school I started in DIT but really didn’t like my course and I didn’t know exactly what sector I saw my future in, but I was keen to get a job and get started. I was then given an opportunity in OSG which initially seemed as though it might be a short term job but it worked out well and I ended staying for nearly five years, qualifying with a CDIP L.A. in 2011.
Did you always want to travel, or were you made an offer you couldn’t refuse?
I suppose once I saw that five year milestone approaching I decided to take a break to see the world. I’d always wanted to travel while I was still young enough to enjoy that experience fully. In particular I was keen to head for Asia and Australia.
What impact do you feel your qualification(s) had on your relocation?
My industry qualification really opened doors for me in Australia. I had no problem finding work and each of my employers were impressed with the level of knowledge I had achieved through the CDIP L.A. Zurich specifically mentioned that my qualification gave me a real competitive edge while ACE found my CV on a website and approached me. In each case I had no additional compliance requirements to complete and could just get started really quickly. The other thing I hadn’t expected was the salary – in some cases I was getting paid more on a 6 month contract than some of the permanent staff. I have no doubt that was down to having a good qualification under my belt.
What are the main professional differences between Ireland and Australia?
Minimum competency exams that don’t apply across the board, but this does not mean the market is a free for all. The onus is on the employer to assess the needs of their employees to ensure they have the appropriate level of knowledge and experience for the role they fulfil. The companies I worked for self-regulated and I found this to be a much simpler system as if there was a breach it could be dealt with internally in an efficient and fair manner.
In terms of atmosphere in the workplace, most companies work hard to create a good buzz among employees which in turn creates great morale – for example everyone marks major sporting occasions like the Melbourne cup with fun in-house events. I worked for both Zurich and ACE in Australia and each company was really proactive in making sure that I was integrated into the team and made to feel part of the gang.
And what about lifestyle – is Australia an enjoyable place to live and work?
Very much so! No one does work-life balance quite like the Aussies, they take the concept really seriously and as a result people are generally less stressed out. I found people were encouraged to work hard, but to take time to play hard too, which in fairness, is easy to do when it’s 18 degrees outside – in Winter!
Have you any additional qualification goals in mind in the coming years?
Yes – after all that travelling I’ve come back to knuckle down and get working on my ACII. I hope to achieve that goal this year. Following on from that then, I’ll turn my attention to the loss adjusting exams.
What advice would you give to anyone starting out in insurance with ambitions to travel or those established in the industry looking for a change of scene?
There are so many opportunities around the world, I found taking a year at first to just explore and find out if it was for me worked best. I had such a positive experience that I will always be open to moving abroad for work. Seeing how other markets work and experiencing other professional cultures really complements qualifications and experience gained at home.