After one Lloyd’s syndicate might be adopting such a strategy, Insurance Times examines whether the Rooney Rule might solve the ongoing recruitment and retention issues of black, Asian and minority ethnics in the insurance industry

The recruitment and retention of ethnic minority staff in the insurance industry has been an ongoing issue – and one that was reawakened after protests by the Black Lives Matter movement.

Although some firms such as Aon have put schemes in place to help, the African Caribbean Insurance Network (ACIN) was asked during a webinar whether a strategy like the Rooney Rule could further improve matters.

The Rooney Rule is a national football league (NFL) policy that requires league teams to interview ethnic minority candidates for head coaching and senior football operation jobs.

In a webinar back in July the two co-founders at ACIN Godwin Sosi and Junior Garba said that although there had been an improvement in getting black, Asian, and monority ethnic (BAME) into the insurance market, the problem remains in retaining them.

One Lloyd’s syndicate mentioned on the webinar it could be adopting the Rooney Rule shortly, but what if this strategy was applied to the insurance sector?

Opening the gate

Garba and Sosi agreed that it could potentially have a positive impact on the insurance sector especially in ensuring that there were diverse candidates across the panel for key positions.

Garba said: “Diversity and inclusion is not about lowering the bar it’s about opening the gate. It’s about equal opportunities.”

The Insurance Cultural Awareness Network (iCAN) told Insurance Times that although the insurance industry at large recognises there is a problem with the under-representation of BAME individuals, many companies in our sector have been spurred into some action by the Black Lives Matter movement.

For example, Marsh’s chief executive John Doyle, announced the firm’s plan to redress the balance of BAME.

Addressing intersectionality?

In a joint statement, Kishan Mangat, iCAN co-chair and senior associate at DWF Law; and Nick Borzenko, iCAN treasury and senior internal auditor at Markel UK addressed the strategy. 

Mangat and Borzenko said: “The Rooney Rule initially yielded great results, with the number of BAME individuals in head coach and other senior football operation jobs rising from 6% in 2002 to 22% in 2006.

“However, after the initial success story, the numbers trended back down over the years, culminating in there being just three non-white head coaches in the NFL in 2020.”

They pointed out that this was the same number as 2003 when the Rooney Rule was initially introduced.

Mangat and Borzenko suggest that while the Rooney Rule seeks to remove some of the obstacles that BAME individuals have in being considered for roles, implementing such a rule in the UK insurance market will bring with it quite a few challenges.

These includes how it might seek to address intersectionality?

Intersectionality is a theoretical framework for understanding how aspects of a person’s social and political identities combines to create unique modes of discrimination and privilege – this include race, ethnicity and gender among other factors.

“How could a company implement a rule such as the Rooney Rule for ethnic diversity, when women are also facing similar obstacles in the corporate workplace? What are the repercussions for companies who implement the rule but do not adhere to do it themselves?

“Will financial penalties be imposed for companies who treat it as yet another tick box exercise? Keeping the momentum going would be another. As the NFL experience has shown us, it can be difficult to stop people ‘reverting to type’, Mangat and Borzenko continued.

“Whilst iCAN understands that increasing BAME representation in senior positions in the market is a difficult task, that does not mean companies in our sector should be frozen in fear. Whether it’s the Rooney Rule, an approximation of it or another initiative, taking immediate action for increasing ethnic minority representation should be a priority for all in the market.”

No such thing as a silver bullet

On a similar note, Jordan Barry, chief people officer at the Motor Insurers’ Bureau told Insurance Times that: “Personally, whilst the introduction of the Rooney Rule to the recruitment strategies of insurance companies might prove a ‘bold first step’, unless organisations are committed to performing an independent and objective review of how each stage of their employee lifecycle is actually ‘lived and breathed’ by their BAME and LGBTQ+ [lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender and questioning/queer] talent, I think success would be limited.”

He explained this was because although its introduction would absolutely ensure that organisations are conscious and committed to delivering diverse short lists from the offset.

Barry added: “Unless their culture, infrastructure and leadership truly understand the barriers that BAME and LGBTQ+ employees often experience once ‘in the system’, the Rooney Rule, if applied in isolation only, would fail to deliver the level of change required.

“It’s a bit like when organisations started to offer graduate development programmes – until line managers were equipped to develop, support and coach high potential talent, many programmes failed.

“For me, there is a much greater need for the Insurance Market to review its whole ecosystem, because like most things, there is no such thing a single silver bullet. In any event would not that let leaders and organisations off the hook from truly understanding the level of change required to make under-representation of BAME and LGBTQ+  talent a thing of the past?”


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Read more…Aon’s Dominic Christian on bringing diversity to the insurance industry

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Dominic Christian 2020