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Foreign languages and communication skills in the insurance industry: a make-or-break deal

Maria, one of our experienced Client Managers takes a closer look at the need for foreign languages in the insurance industry and shares her experience managing language training for some of the key names in the business.

 

Having worked as a Client Manager for several years, writing about this topic takes me back in time to the first insurance firm I ever worked with. I remember being asked by my manager at the time how familiar I was with the insurance sector in London. Although I cannot recall what my answer was, it must have been rather vague as I hadn't had much to do with insurance policies or clients back then. Luckily for me, the client was a small and friendly branch of one of the household names in the insurance sector in Spain, and a client that went on to be, and still is, one of my long-standing clients.

 

The heart of the City

 

As my list of clients grew, I started to visit them at their offices in the City, and I was puzzled by how often students in insurance companies told me they were absent from their office to be ‘at Lloyd’s’. Shortly afterwards I had the opportunity to visit Lloyd’s, thanks to my manager’s husband at the time, who was a senior employee at a big insurance firm. He kindly got a pass to the building for me and gave me an informative tour.  And so, I learnt that Lloyd´s of London is the insurance and reinsurance market at the heart of the City, where its members, organised as syndicates, insure, and spread out the risk of organisations and businesses around the world. A meeting point that started in a coffee shop more than 300 years ago became, over time, a body that regulates services to the global insurance market.

 

As someone with a keen interest in 20th century architecture, I was especially excited by the prospect of seeing its thrilling ‘inside-out futuristic office building’, now grade 1 Listed, and to ride their outside lift. However, I was surprised to find that this modern building hides unexpected wooden carvings, a spider net of escalators, and a very loud underwriting room, packed with syndicate boxes, a persistent telephone ringing background noise and the contagious buzz of an actual market.

 

The language of insurance

This visit was a bit of a revelation and helped me understand how communication skills are at the centre of this industry, perhaps in a more poignant way than in many other sectors. When we think about professional communication, we often picture presentations, meetings, written reports etc. In insurance, it goes beyond and refers to being able to do business, earn someone’s trust and show empathy when required. It is therefore not surprising to see that communication and negotiations skills appear at the top of the list of desired skills in every insurance job description. Skills such as listening, speaking and communicating through writing, but also using soft skills and developing cultural awareness. All of these are important to insurance jobs, regardless of the department or role of the employee (claims, underwriting or another area of the industry). And for those working with peers and clients based overseas, being able to communicate in their counterparts’ language is a huge advantage, as you often need to travel to or receive visitors from abroad and take part in exchanges with people from different backgrounds (often with little English skills).

 

 

The Brexit factor

Brexit has affected the languages needed for business. The UK's exit from the EU meant an expansion beyond the Lloyd’s building doors at 1 Lime Street, with a Lloyd’s Europe office now based in Brussels. This has brought an increase in requests for French, German and Italian language training. Equally, insurance markets continue to develop in South America and China, the fastest-growing market for insurance. All this suggests that having good communication skills in your mother tongue is not enough anymore in this sector. Understanding cultural nuances and being able to build up long relationships by showing a willingness to facilitate communication is more important than ever. Mastering a second language might take a bit of time and effort, however language training participants comment on the immediate rewards that using even basic language confidently brings when establishing new commercial relationships.

 

Over the years, PLS has trained insurance employees to support them in their business trips; helping them conduct business abroad and offer a linguistic welcoming to visiting clients; provided them with tools to be able to understand the subtleties of policy documents written in different languages; helping them acquire relevant skills to be able to relocate and join office branches overseas.

 

In an industry where ‘you do business with the person, not the company’, what might seem like a small step on the way to master a foreign language, is indeed a big leap. Feeling confident enough to use your client/counterparts’ language can just be the difference that makes or breaks a deal or business relationship.

 

PLS provide language lessons to a variety of corporate clients in the insurance sector and many othersGet in touch today to discover how you & your employees can get set up on a language training programme.

 

Contact Us (HQ)

Language Solutions

7 King Street Cloisters

London, W6 0GY

Email: webenq@langsols.com

Websitewww.langsols.com

Language Solutions Holdings - our companies

  Professional Language Solutions Ltd
Established in 1991, PLS provides language training in multiple formats and over 50 languages for corporate and government customers across the UK.
     
  Language Solutions International Ltd
The international branch of our organisation, LSI offers specialist English language training and staffing solutions for customers and projects around the world.

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