African-Caribbean Insurance Network co-founder emphasised that ‘diversity without inclusion is just box-ticking, but companies that are both diverse and inclusive achieve appreciably better bottom line results’

The London and wider UK insurance market has been called upon to urgently address the ethnic imbalance within the industry to avoid “creating a mental health time-bomb” for ethnic minority staff.

After the recent Lloyd’s culture survey highlighted the need for the market to address the numbers of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) staff it employs, as well as their wellbeing.

In July 2020, the African-Caribbean Insurance Network (ACIN) issued its six-step plan to address the diversity imbalance. The ACIN said it is now imperative for London’s insurance risk carriers, brokers and service providers to implement the recommendations within its Six Steps to Racial Inclusivity report.

This view is shared by Inyang Udosen, a technical manager at broker Miller and an ACIN member, who believes that failing to tackle cultural diversity within the London market could lead to “a mental health time-bomb”.

He explained: “Ethnic minority employees are bottling up race-related issues and grievances which they do not feel comfortable discussing with line managers or HR departments, potentially creating a mental health time-bomb.

“The London market needs to create an outlet for people with these concerns, who feel unsupported by the existing processes and protocols.”

The Lloyd’s 2020 culture survey found that only 46% of black people working in London believe senior leaders create opportunities for everyone, compared to 74% of all respondents.

Furthermore, nearly a third of black employees have seen people turn a blind eye to inappropriate behaviour, compared to just 15% of all respondents.

Despite applauding Lloyd’s improvements around gender equality, ACIN co-founder Junior Garba added that “the starkly different survey findings for black people working in the Lloyd’s market [versus all respondents] shows the urgent need for market leaders to take action to create racial inclusivity within organisations”.

He continued: “Diversity without inclusion is just box-ticking, but companies that are both diverse and inclusive achieve appreciably better bottom line results.”

Building blocks

ACIN’s Six Steps to Racial Inclusivity report has been created with input from 50 black professionals spanning 20 London market companies.

Garba said that some Lloyd’s companies have already begun to implement the six steps by:

  • Implementing three-pillar ethnic diversity strategies covering learning and development, recruitment and culture.
  • Launching employee resource groups for black and minority ethnic employees.
  • Engaging diverse recruiters, including ACIN Recruit, the network’s talent acquisition arm.
  • Reviewing preferred recruitment suppliers to drop those which fail to meet diversity standards.

“All progress is encouraging,” added ACIN co-founder Godwin Sosi. “We are very pleased that Lloyd’s has said it will work at ‘improving the experience of black and minority ethnic talent as a top priority’, but there’s a long way still to travel.”

This point is emphasised within the report. It reads: “Just 2% of the UK insurance workforce come from black backgrounds, which is highly disproportionate to the number of black people in the UK.

“This demonstrates that ethnic diversity has not been prioritised and existing efforts are yet to penetrate the mainstream London insurance market.

“Yesterday was the best time for change. The second-best time is now. Now is the right moment for corporate executives to agree that if our talent base is to be as skilled and rich as possible, we must make our market’s culture welcoming to people from non-white backgrounds.

“Now is the time to realise that, for our businesses to achieve the greatest possible success, we must improve ethnic membership at all levels within our ranks.”

Urgent responsibility for action

ACIN added that, working with Lloyd’s, it is conducting the first comprehensive study of ethnic minority employment in the market – this will result in ACIN and Lloyd’s collaborating to launch the first market-wide development programme for future leaders from ethnic minority backgrounds.

The move has been welcomed by leading figures in the sector.

“Lloyd’s wholeheartedly supports the work of the African-Caribbean Insurance Network, which aims to increase the representation of African-Caribbean professionals in the London insurance market,” said Lloyd’s chief executive John Neal.

“Now, more than ever, we all share an urgent responsibility to understand what we can do to improve the experience and representation of black talent in the London market and, most importantly, take measurable action to drive lasting change.”

Brad Irick, chief executive of Tokio Marine Kiln, which co-sponsored the report alongside Lloyd’s added: “We are focused on promoting a work environment where these discussions are valued as a means of improving the opportunities for our black and ethnic minority employees while creating a better, more inclusive environment for all.

“To that end, we are engaging with our black and ethnic minority employees to reflect on what is happening, to understand the changes they would like to see and to inform our ongoing activity in the short, medium and long-term.”