With diversity and inclusion being hot on the agenda following the death of George Floyd in the US and the subsequent Black Lives Matters protests, Dominic Christian at Aon UK explains why ethnic minorities are so important to the insurance industry

There is an inherent lack of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) workers in the insurance industry, an issue brought into the spotlight by the recent Black Lives Matter protests.

But the sector has had an ongoing issue in both attracting and retaining BAME talent.

For example, 16% of university graduates in London came from a BAME background in 2017, according to a UK Universities study, yet the City’s workers do not reflect this.

This is the view of Dominic Christian, global chairman at Aon Reinsurance Solutions. He tells Insurance Times: “I felt that there was this whole area of talent that we were not attracting to Aon, also that the insurance industry was not attracting, so if we could [attract this demographic] we had a commercial advantage.”

Christian has been interested in improving diversity in the insurance sector for the length of his career after having previously lived in Yemen and Kenya, as his father was in the Royal Airforce.

Two years ago, after Christian’s mother died, he was contacted by a long-lost second cousin, Tom Ilube, who has Nigerian heritage. Ilube has worked with the BBC and owns an IT company. Christian says this situation was a “strange coincidence” after being so heavily involved in the BAME world for years.

In February 2020, he was appointed as deputy chairman at Lloyd’s, which he performs alongside his role at Aon.

He has also been listed for the last two years on global network and consultancy INvolve’s EMpower Top 20 Advocate Executive Role Models 2020 list, an achievement of which he is extremely proud of. He has been listed on INvolve’s lists for a total of four years. 

With 40% of Aon’s staff joining the insurer because of the diversity programmes he has led, Christian hopes that Aon will become known as the “employer of choice” for BAME talent.

Getting it right

In 2014, when he was chief executive at Aon UK, Christian founded Dive In with Dame Inga Beale, the former chief executive at Lloyd’s.

Dive In is a festival of awareness for diversity and inclusion in insurance, which began in 2015. From a small beginning in London, with more than 1,200 attendees, it has since expanded to 32 countries with 133 events worldwide and 10,296 attendees.

Speaking about the first Dive In festival, Christian said: “It gave women the chance to express themselves more and at the same time it gave men the chance to say that they care, it was very much about gender then.” 

He added: “Young people have an innate familiarity about personal choice, gender and multiculturism. To attract young people to insurance, we must get BAME right, and inclusion right.

“Diversity in corporate culture produces higher engagement and productivity. Serving clients well in insurance is very much a team-based game, so you need diversity and inclusion.”

Citing that 85% of the London insurance market’s clients do not come from the UK, he said that anything that “eases that contact” with that client base is good.

Christian also runs a week-long workshop called Aon Insights that gives people from an Afro-Caribbean background the opportunity to see what Aon does.

The programme was developed by Mary Alade, Aon’s chief strategy officer who also named on the 2020 EMpower list for the Top Ethnic Minority Future Leaders.

The success of this programme resulted in the creation of BAME Future Leaders – a fast-track initiative onto Aon’s BAME graduate programme. Around 40% of Aon’s staff are BAME because of these programmes.

Constantly aware

Christian stresses that there are two elements which must be right within diversity and inclusion if firms want to retain staff.

The first is culture and the second is leadership and champions. If staff can see role models like themselves, they are more likely to feel part of something, Christian said.

An aspect of this is ensuring BAME candidates can progress in the business.

“But you also have to examine your language. Some people find the term BAME offensive,” he added.

Six years ago, as Aon’s chief executive, Christian set up eight diversity networks – one of which was multicultural and the others LGBTQ, gender, parents, carers, millennium, young people and social mobility. Its multicultural network is now 400 people strong. 

He also mentors 12 people – 10 of which are at Aon, six are BAME and 11 are female.