As protests for Black Lives Matter break out across the UK and globally following George Floyd’s death, the incident has opened up a dialogue in the insurance industry about the low levels of Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) representation
The retention of Black Asian and minority ethnic people (BAME) in the insurance industry is poor and the turnover is high.
And recent world incidents like the case of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who was allegedly murdered by a white police officer who knelt on his neck for nine minutes while the victim was faced down and the subsequent Black Lives Matters protests that followed this has reawakened debates in the industry.
Maxine Goddard, head of external partnerships at the Insurance Cultural Awareness Network (iCAN) told Insurance Times that the incident could be a trigger for positive change.
The BAME community often feel that they are like “fish out of water” coming into the insurance industry, and for that reason they need support, Goddard said.
Although the insurance sector has seen some improvement in attracting BAME candidates to jobs, these candidates have very high turnover rates. This is despite 2017’s data from the Association of British Insurers (ABI) indicating that 16% of the insurance workforce were BAME.
“Diversity has certainly increased across the industry; we are certainly seeing more BAME. We also see the need to support them and their career development. This is why iCAN is here to say, ‘insurance is a great place to work,” Goddard said.
It follows the release of iCAN’s publication ‘Multicultural and International Role Models in Insurance’ last year in May in collaboration with the Chartered Insurance Institute (CII), it featured a series of thirty five ethnically diverse industry role models.
Not allowed to dance
Meanwhile, Elisha St Hilaire, head of events at iCAN said: “I don’t feel like we have enough senior BAME role models as yet, but I feel like we are helping build that pipeline of talent.”
“You have heard that saying, ‘you are welcome to the party but are not allowed to dance’ it’s similar to that – [BAME people] come into the industry but feel like an outsider and therefore leave,” Goddard added.
She said that to remedy this, it is important for BAME people to have self-confidence through a role model or a mentor and career progression to allow them to know that its okay to be different.
Sian Fisher, chief executive at CII told Insurance Times: “Senior leaders are committed to understanding the blockages that prevent talented staff, of all backgrounds, from entering the profession and climbing the career ladder.
“Until we reach a day when all BAME staff feel they operate on a ‘level playing field’ as white, male counterparts, then all senior managers in the insurance profession must recognise that more work is needed.”
For example, when hiring the CII keep CVs anonymous to remove unconscious biases.
”It also has an employee-led BAME group, which gives employees a safe place to raise concerns and suggest improvements outside of HR and line managers. It supports events that promote diversity like Gay Pride, Black History, and International Women’s Day.
Direct Line Group has reiterated to its colleagues that there is “more to do,” said Vicky Wallis chief people officer.
On the other hand insurer, Andrew Horton chief executive at Beazley told Insurance Times: ”The magnitude of this event has only strengthened our resolve to call out and drive out inequality.
”In collaboration with our employee network ’RACE@Beazley’ we are exploring how else we can support our colleagues internally and also contribute to the broader fight to eradicate racism from the communities we work in.
”We must use this as an opportunity to increase our dialogue about race and ethnicity at Beazley and accelerate our work in this regard. Stay safe and keep looking out for each other’s well-being.”
Although Goddard, added: “We now have more individuals and seniors who are not BAME coming out and supporting the black community. This is encouraging.”
Legacy of past
Former people engagement director at the CII, Tali Shlomo told Insurance Times: “We are still living with the legacy and biases of the past, and black lives matter and we are all appalled by what has taken place and we are all seeking equality and justice for everyone.
“We all need to work harder and collaboratively to work together to address these biases and create an inclusive workplace. It is time for the profession to come together to attract, retain and promote BAME colleagues to the insurance sector.”
Shlomo was previously at the CII for over 12 years, with the most recent role being global people engagement director, she also played a big part in launching the role models publication.
A spokesperson for the Association of British Insurers (ABI), said: “Racism has no place in society. The Black Lives Matter movement poses important questions for all professional services, including insurance.
”There is much more we can all do to promote and foster BAME inclusion in our sector and to ensure that different lived experiences are listened to and help drive change.”
Bringing more to the table
BAME colleagues can bring value to the sector, St Hilaire told Insurance Times: “I feel BAME talent have a lot more to bring to the table in terms of lived experiences, the socio-economic part of where we come from.
”Thinking outside the box, you can be a little bit more innovate when you don’t have resources and money at your disposal that’s what is lacking in the industry.”
Goddard added that diversity offers different opinions, thoughts and experiences which would in turn brings rich results to the industry.
And up to five years ago the industry was not really modern “we need to accept that and reverse it, and that means bringing the BAME community with us,” Goddard added.
Opening a dialogue
Since Floyd’s death, Goddard said that there is more empathy in the BAME community
“I feel like people feel the pain more than they did before. People are more willing to speak up and reach out both privately and publicly – it has opened a dialogue. People are asking – are you okay? How can I help? It’s something.”
St Hilaire echoed this, she also had an overwhelming number of colleagues and friends reaching out, “it’s important to know that others feel the same”.
iCAN does a lot of outreach work to make sure that various organisations, students, and graduates know that insurance is a great place to work but both Goddard and St Hilaire agree that there is more to do.
However, it is also about companies putting face value on diversity and inclusion pledges, many companies publish these on their websites.
Goddard said: “It needs to be true to self, [BAME people] easily sniff that out, so you need a pledge that is a real D&I pledge, with actions in place to support individuals.”
The ABI revealed that 78% of firms in the industry had a diversity and inclusion strategy.
“It’s also about investment, initiatives need allies to help people thrive in the organisation and to realise their return on investment,” St Hilaire added.