'WHY DO I need insurance?' is a question many people no doubt ask themselves as they are being hounded by an insurance agent across a shopping mall floor. Insurance is something that often doesn't seem to generate any immediate tangible benefit. However, the concept of insurance - the transference of risk - is nothing new. The Romans had burial clubs in which members paid an 'insurance premium' to cover their funeral expenses, relieving their families of a financial burden at a difficult time. The need for insurance was recognised by traders in China as early as 5000BC. As their businesses grew, they used insurance to offset the risks of goods being lost or damaged. Today, China's insurance market is rapidly expanding for a number of different reasons. 'China's move towards a free-market economy has increased the wealth of many people, and as they become wealthier they have more to protect,' said David Greenfield, a senior client partner specialising in insurance at executive search company Korn/Ferry International. A rapidly growing economy and the state's gradual pullout from many people's lives has led to a growing need for the private insurance industry to play a more active role in providing cover for personal property, housing, all aspects of commerce, personal pensions and medical needs. Mr Greenfield said the growth in accident and health insurance would benefit both individuals and government. 'Private health insurance means that individuals can obtain higher standards of care and the government has to spend less in this area,' he said. China's insurance industry is relatively young and needs to respond to the large increases in demand placed upon it. 'The insurance industry in China needs people with 10 years' experience, even though the industry to any meaningful degree is only four years old,' Mr Greenfield said. 'The fact is there just hasn't been enough time post-WTO for workers to gain international exposure or the very specific skills and expertise required. Some of the biggest problems facing the industry are [a lack of] compliance due to inexperience, lack of training and greed for commissions.' To address these problems and help develop trust and confidence in the industry, China's insurance authority, the China Insurance Regulatory Commission, launched a campaign at the start of the year to look at ways to help companies adopt better internal control systems and compensate policyholders if an insurer fails in some way. The present state of the insurance market - rapidly expanding and lacking people with the necessary skills - translates into good career opportunities for anyone with the right background. 'Headhunters in insurance today have a responsibility to raise the profile of the industry within the financial services sector. It is becoming more common for candidates to be sourced from outside the industry, with talent from banking seeing the chance of an alternative career path by transferring their managerial skills over to roles in insurance companies.'