Analysis: Diversity and Inclusion: A marked shift in commitment

Diversity and inclusion: a marked 625x350


  • Nearly eight out of 10 Association of British Insurers members now have a diversity and inclusion strategy
  • Dive In 2018 had events in 27 countries and 9000 people registered
  • Women now make up 27% of executive teams compared with 22% last year
  • 61% of firms have a mentoring programme for underrepresented workers

Diversity and inclusion have moved from buzzwords to being embraced by the insurance industry for all the right reasons but is it doing enough?

Nearly eight out of 10 Association of British Insurers members now have a diversity and inclusion strategy, reflecting a marked shift in commitment at the highest levels of the insurance industry to increasing diversity in the workplace. D&I has become a strategic board-level issue as companies recognise that as well as the ethical issues it makes good business sense and enhances a company’s reputation.

Tali Shlomo, global people engagement director at the Chartered Insurance Institute, says: “We have started to see changes in behaviours, in the dialogue and in actions. We are all exploring what works well. Some initiatives will work better than others, and some will be more relevant to certain organisations than to others.”

Increasingly, organisations are signing up to government-led initiatives including the Disability Confident Scheme, Women in Finance Charter and Race at Work Charter. The results of January’s government consultation on ethnicity pay reporting are awaited and the government has also said it will address the disability pay gap.

Industry initiatives

Back in 2013, Inclusion@Lloyd’s was established as a cross-market D&I committee. It has implemented some game-changing initiatives, including the global Dive In Festival and the Partner Networks. While over 60 global insurance firms have now signed up to Inclusion@Lloyd’s Diversity & Inclusion Charter, a six-point commitment to promote D&I across the marketplace.

Last year, Lloyd’s, alongside 49 other insurance firms and trade bodies signed the Inclusive Behaviours Pledge, an industry-wide initiative to demonstrate commitment to change. This May, Lloyd’s also commissioned the Banking Standards Board to conduct an independent, market-wide culture survey on its behalf – the largest ever conducted by the insurance sector – to help understand working cultures and inform on further action.

Meanwhile, the British Insurance Brokers’ Association is looking to share case studies of its members with successful D&I programmes. Currently, it is devising a new ‘responsibility’ part of its website to provide practice points on attracting a diverse workforce and developing an inclusive culture.


Dive In has grown each year since its inception in 2015. This year’s festival, which takes place 24 to 26 September, should be the biggest yet.

“Last year we had events in 27 countries and 9000 people registered. In Riyadh you heard how women could take leadership roles in Saudi Arabia’s insurance market, in Dubai what it meant to be a carer, and in Sydney the intersection between lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender and mental health,” says Jason Groves, chair of Dive In’s steering committee.

The Partner Networks emerged out of the various groups presenting at the first Dive In. Lloyd’s supported employee resource groups now include the LGBT Insurance Network, Insurance Cultural Awareness Network, Gender Inclusion Network, Insurance Families Network and Insurance Disability, Ability & Wellbeing Network.

Many believe there is now genuine collaboration among ERGs through cross-industry diversity network groups and with peers from outside the industry, which helps break down barriers and amplify key messages.

Julie Humphreys, head of D&I for Europe, the Middle East and Africa at AIG, explains: “ERGs are a key element of creating a culture of belonging, bringing people together based on shared characteristics or life experiences. ERGs focus on providing support, enhancing career development, and contributing to personal development. Although the idea of ERGs has been around for a while, we have seen their role transformed, from event facilitators to agents of change, empowered to alter behaviour and perceptions.”

“At AIG, in the last 12 months, there’s been a 70% increase in number of ERGs across EMEA, and, in the UK, 29% of employees are members of at least one ERG.”

At Zurich, head of corporate affairs, Sophie Timms, adds: “Much of the impetus [for D&I] was driven by our ERGs as they help raise what we need to tackle, and initiatives have sprung from there. There’s that ground-up support and also top down from the leadership teams and the people who are personally accountable for progress.”

In numbers

Nearly 80% of Association of British Insurers members now have a diversity and inclusion strategy

88% of firms have an executive sponsor for Diversity & Inclusion, up from 74% last year

A drop in Black, Asian and Minority Ethnics representation, from 15% to 13%

61% of firms have an of firms have a mentoring programme for underrepresented workers

The proportion of firms using diverse interview panels up sharply from 67% to 78%

Reflecting the customer

For insurance firms being able to reflect the customer in their workforce will help ensure the products being supplied match the needs Groves explains: “We need people from a wider background to bring innovative ideas into a rapidly changing global risk landscape. For instance, to address the protection gap that still exists in many third-world countries, we need people who understand those societies’ backgrounds.” 

But Mitra Janes, group head of D&I at RSA Group, argues its not just about swapping staff between companies: “We are all fishing in the same pond. If one company’s percentage of senior females goes up, another goes down. We need to focus on the pipeline and why women are not making it to the most senior positions.”

“It isn’t just hiring or promoting another couple of women here or there. It’s thinking about your promotion process. How able are people to think about commitments outside work, whether that’s family or other interests. How open are organisations to flexible working?”

Timms explains recruitment practices can have a big impact: “We did some employee analysis with the government’s Behavioural Insights Team to understand what might be driving our gender balance problem and come up with ways to reduce the gender pay gap. We looked particularly at the impact of our processes on part-time workers, which will feed into our returners program so they’ve got the support they need career-wise and to ensure career aspirations don’t fall off a cliff.”

According to Miranda Cochrane, who leads on diversity at the ABI, what is exciting is the shift in firms using more inclusive recruitment practices, including blind cvs, gender balance shortlists and interview panels. “We know this really makes a difference. Changes focused on recruitment will impact your talent pipeline and leaders of the future.”

Zurich is now advertising all its vacancies as part-time, job-share or full-time. Early indications show a huge positive on female application rates, says Timms. It has also introduced flex work. “What’s been remarkable about flex work is the rich variety of people who’ve taken it up, which builds a much more inclusive culture and progressive mindset.”

The ABI runs a Future Leaders Program and insists on a gender balance so all firms putting through a male candidate must also provide a female. “This year we have 29 women and 24 men on the program,” states Cochrane.

Allianz Insurance has launched Returners@Allianz, recruiting people who have taken a career break into a six-month paid placement. “This aims to find long-term talent, and has been created for people who have been out of work for at least two years,” explains Carolyn Rich, Allianz’s senior brand marketing manager.

Lucinda Charles-Jones, group HR director for Axa UK and Ireland, says programmes shouldn’t be all about graduates: “We’ve been working on broadening our talent pool by scrapping our graduate schemes – except for actuaries – in favour of our apprenticeship programme. We are looking beyond the narrow group of university graduates and recruiting school leavers and people who’ve had a career break or are willing to change jobs.”

To this end the CII has volunteers visiting schools to encourage the next generation to consider insurance as a career, and Biba’s Young Broker Ambassadors are working on promoting broking in schools, colleges and communities beyond the traditional university ‘milk round’. 

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Progress so far

The ABI introduced diversity data collection in 2018 to track progress and successes in the industry. Cochrane says: “Unconscious bias training has clearly made a lot of money for the trainers but hasn’t really shifted the dial. What our research shows is that D&I is not just about training or promotional initiatives, but about fundamental organisational redesign.”

Among ABI’s members, women now make up 27% of executive teams compared with 22% last year, according to its second annual talent and diversity survey.  At management level, women account for 39% of workers, up from 36%. More women than men continue to join the industry at entry level. Progress at board level remains slow, however, with a negligible 1% increase and women still only accounting for one in five jobs.

Janes agrees that board buy-in is essential: “Our journey started with ensuring we had really clear policies and set up appropriate governance structures, specifically D&I councils for each region, but also at group level. And that there were clear communication and accountability with the board and executives. The next stage will be around longer-term initiatives and thinking what changes are needed to our processes to really drive progress from a D&I perspective.”

Shlomo adds: “If we fixate on the numbers, the intention and authenticity of our actions won’t have longevity. All these challenges have been created over time. Therefore, many of these actions and initiatives will take a long time to embed and to produce positive outcomes.”

Suzanne Deery, group HR director at Charles Taylor, echoes this: “The insurance industry has been guilty of looking like an old boys club at times. I remember how I felt as I started my career in the insurance industry as only one of two female graduates to join that year and experiencing the assumptions and different rules that were being applied to me. We have made a lot of progress since then – unfortunately some areas of the city have not made as much progress as others, and we can all benefit by working together to share best practice and provide challenge.”

Becky Brooks, the Employers Network for Equality and Inclusion’s UK membership director, adds looking from other perspectives can help: “It will take budget, time and understanding from the top that they have an issue with D&I because one tends to see things from one’s own perspective. So, if you are a privileged white person at the top end of an organisation, you are unlikely to see there is a diversity issue.

“Some places are really getting it, those joining ENEI are. Those trying to do it without any support are struggling – these are complicated areas and we have the solutions in tools, events, employer guides, case studies, information and expertise.”

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Business case

But the reputational risk of not being proactive along with changing investor expectations and increasing regulator and government interest in companies diversity might push those who are not ready into action. 

A PwC report revealed 86% of millennial women and 74% of millennial men said they consider an employer’s policies on equality, diversity and inclusion when deciding which company to work for.

Deery adds: “We should seek to raise the bar or we will struggle as an industry to recruit and retain talent in the future. This is a business imperative and it is not about political correctness or being seen to be nice to people – this is something we can’t afford not to do.”

Janes echoes this: “D&I enables greater innovation and thinking about how we relate to and service our existing and new customer groups. And on an individual basis people perform better when they can be themselves.”

While Timms says: “Inclusion should begin almost before the diversity journey because you achieve nothing if you bring more people in and don’t have the right culture to make them feel welcome and want to stay.”

Erik Johnson, leader of Inclusion@Lloyd’s Partner Network Initiative, concludes: “The bigger challenge is societal – respecting difference, having empathy for other people, and changing the hearts and minds of employees and employers. This won’t be driven by legislation, but people meeting other people and recognising that while we are different, we have a lot in common. This is why the Partner Networks is so powerful – you are getting people from different backgrounds and life experiences talking and getting familiar with each other.”

Post and Insurance Age have teamed up to launch the first Diversity and Inclusion in Insurance Awards. To celebrate individuals who work in the insurance sector who have done the most to champion D&I awareness and issues within their organisation and wider afield in areas such as LGBT+ rights; mental health; disability rights; gender and race equality.  There are also organisational awards to celebrate the businesses that have made notable strides to empower staff to tackle D&I issues; carry out a progressive recruitment strategy; and to become a more flexible employer. For more information click here.

Valerie Hart











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