Jun 2019

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Harnessing diversity

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Source: Asia Insurance Review | Dec 2018

With an increased focus on fairness, equality and diversity in the media, many industries around the world have taken note. Beyond just protecting their reputation, many shareholders and CEOs are recognising that a diverse talent pool leads to a stronger organisation. We talk with several insurers and find out how the industry is faring when it comes to diversity and inclusion
By Ahmad Zaki
By now, the world has been made aware of the unfortunate lack of diversity in the workplace, and how a more inclusive workforce can lead to greater profitability. The insurance industry, in particular, can benefit from diversity, as its global reach expands to take on more diverse risks. Having different perspectives on the new risks that insurers are taking on could aid in tackling emergent issues.
Allied World Asia Pacific president Michael Garrison spoke of the common challenges to implementing diversity and inclusion (D&I) practices in insurance. “I think the industry is only just beginning realise the commercial benefits of having a more diverse and inclusive work environment. I also suspect some may still think diversity and inclusion is about meeting quotas or ticking boxes, rather than what it has evolved into today – an open and candid conversation about leadership, culture and valuing what everyone can bring to the table.”
His advice is to not think of diversity and inclusion as being a separate campaign or agenda but to think of it as an integral part of an organisation’s culture and day to day operations. “For example, how you run your teams, how you manage and deliver on projects, how you hire your staff or how you interact with your clients. For diversity and inclusion to be successful it needs to be a thread that runs through many areas of your business.”
Developing a culture of diversity in a company is a continuous process, he said. “Of course, leadership behaviours are important, but everyone has to take ownership. Everyone has the opportunity to set an example, no matter what role you fulfil within a company.”
Leading by example
Lloyd’s Singapore CEO Angela Kelly echoed these sentiments. “I think it’s really important that the culture and the expectations are set at the top,” she said, “and that companies have a really fair and objective assessment of whether their processes and recruitment practices - and how they set up their project teams - are supporting their ambitions around diversity and inclusion. They are so many more things that can be done and there are a lot of resources out there to help companies that are starting out.”
Lloyd’s has been promoting diversity and inclusion through its Dive In festival for the past three years, and through her experiences talking with the industry during those events, Ms Kelly noted that most of them found that the biggest hurdle was time. “Time is the biggest barrier to creating or investing in initiatives that will foster diverse workplaces. Through Dive In we can create that time and platform to share experiences. I think it’s really important to listen to employees; have a baseline in mind of where you are on the scale of diversity and inclusion, and then you can start to think about strategies.”
What insurers are currently doing
Not all insurers are lagging behind when it comes to diversity practices, however. Prudential Corporation Asia senior managing director, group digital and chair of the diversity and inclusion council Michele Bang said, “At Prudential, diversity has long been part of our DNA. Our success is attributable to the diversity of skill sets, age, gender and cultural background of our staff which allow us to understand and develop solutions for our customers.
“We have created the diversity and inclusion programme called D&I Works based on the three pillars of bridging generations, harnessing workplace differences and fostering authenticity and openness. We recently launched PruCode to encourage learning about the impact of data analytics and allowing everyone a chance to learn to code. 
“We have also launched Courageous Conversations – small, informal and safe sessions for employees to meet and talk with senior executives about their workplace and life challenges. Our other initiatives include executive coaching and mentoring; unconscious bias training for managers; small-group sharing sessions with the leadership team; voluntary training programmes for our employees to learn new and relevant skills; and employee engagement events celebrating diversity days.”
Mr Garrison also noted Allied World’s own efforts. “The people running our teams are looking for diversity of values and thought leadership,” he said. “Throughout the hiring process we provide honest and open information on who we are and where we want to be as a business. We encourage the same level of openness from our potential hires, and anyone that applies has an equal opportunity to succeed. 
“We also ensure diversity in our succession planning. We look at what we need for future roles and what we have in our current talent pool. Through quarterly discussions we encourage our people to openly look for ways to grow their careers within Allied World. Wherever possible, we aim to accommodate our talent wherever they want to be, either in terms of lifestyle or role choices.” A 
What the insurance industry can do 
PwC laid out several measures insurers can take in order to improve diversity and inclusion in the workforce.
  • Work together to share experiences and lessons learned and use these to influence the actions the industry as a whole will take
  • Be more transparent about its journey towards becoming an inclusive workplace. Be as open as possible, even on its shortcomings
  • View diversity and inclusion as a strategic imperative and build it into firm’s risk registers. Progress should be tracked in the same way as other reputational risk
  • Firms should communicate and action their diversity and inclusion strategy clearly and regularly, to ensure current and potential employees mean what they say
  • Get the fundamentals right. Powerful support and tone from the top, policies and processes updated through a diversity lens – including recruitment and promotion processes, flexible working and pipeline talent identification
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