106 Communications

6th Sense

106 seconds with… Cara Norkett, AVP Human Resources, Allied World

July 2016 | 106 seconds, Insurance

Cara Norkett is a Talent Acquisition Specialist who has been in the recruitment industry since 2005. She started her career as an agency recruiter in the Engineering sector, before moving in-house in 2008, and later switching industries to General Insurance, where she has been working for the last five years.

She studied English Language and Linguistics at Roehampton University, and is currently studying CIPD Advanced Accreditation.

Cara moved to Singapore in August 2013, and has been recruiting across Dubai, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Australia.

You have developed an international career in HR.  What’s the journey been like?

My (now) husband and I pro-actively made the decision to move to Asia, taking the time to visit Singapore for a week so that we could meet prospective employers and recruiters face to face and show them we were serious about making the move. It took a pinch of luck, a lot of determination, and the willingness to use our own savings to relocate ourselves.

A lot of people assume that as a woman, I am here off the back of my husband’s career, but the truth is we both left our jobs in the UK for new roles with new companies in Singapore – we received our job offers in the same week and had the same start date!

Looking back, we took a big risk, but neither of us has looked back once.

What’s been the hardest thing in all that time?

Gaining people’s trust can be tougher than you think – expats come and go frequently in Asia, and often arrive without any CQ (cultural intelligence) training, which means local people are naturally quite guarded and you have to work harder to prove yourself, both on a personal and professional level. Relationships are everything – you need to be prepared to take a personal interest in people and to understand the ways in which people approach things can be different across cultures. This is something I am still learning every day, after nearly three years!

How has your career developed since you made the move?

As a developing market, there is much more opportunity to have impact and be creative, so I have been able to be really hands on as well as strategic which has been great. We have around 350+ staff across the region, so it’s small enough that I have been able to get really close to the business and align my work much better to the business objectives. I have also been able to get involved in a lot more that doesn’t neatly fit into ‘recruitment’. My company went through an acquisition, during which I also assumed the additional role of internal communications manager, and since then I have also become a lot more involved in HR projects across several areas. It’s given me the chance to explore other strengths and skills I didn’t know I had. 

What are the biggest people challenges in the world of insurance today?

In this region, there isn’t enough local talent to fill all the available roles in the market – there are lots of small boutique insurers setting up and snapping up people, and whilst some countries are making the effort to attract more young talent to the industry, there is a gap at the mid-senior experience level still, which means we still need to hire from overseas.

Globally, the insurance industry is quite volatile at the moment, with lots of M&A and restructure activity – whilst this creates movement, it also means companies are having to consider applicants differently, in terms of their capacity to re-train into new areas rather than just hiring based on their current skill set.

What’s next for you?

Well, we are about to have our first child in September, so what’s next will be sleep deprivation and total chaos, but we can’t wait! I will be returning to work in February though, and to my CIPD study, which I’ve postponed for obvious reasons!

Finally, Singapore.  Sounds like an idyllic life.  Is it really?

No single country is perfect, but we’d be hard pressed to think of anywhere else that we could have such great weather, food, healthcare, transport, living conditions and general quality of life. We are very lucky to be here and we know it!

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