Intact financial corporation’s neurodiversity ambassador is working to dispel myths and ‘change the tide’ in insurance 

“How can this be for the greater good?”is the question police officer Nicholas Angel asks in comedy hit movie Hot Fuzz, as he brings justice to Sandford’s neighbourhood watch over its draconian enforcement of overzealous small-town values. 

The much-loved cult film depicts the invocation of the greater good as a danger, but there is no such threat from RSA’s Emily Fraser.

According to her, one unquestionable move towards “the greater good” in the insurance sector is to improve neurodiversity among the sector’s workforce – a goal that she is first pursuing at RSA and its parent company Intact Group.

In addition to serving as RSA’s underwriting excellence and strategy director, Fraser was selected as Intact Financial Coporation’s inaugural neurodiversity ambassador in December 2022.

She also sits on the insurer’s diversity and inclusion (D&I) council and is an executive sponsor of employee resource group RSA Ability, which was launched in December 2021 to support employees with seen and unseen disabilities.

Speaking exclusively to Insurance Times, Fraser, who is at the forefront of a reinvigorated focus on D&I at Intact, says the company’s aim is to become a “structurally neuroinclusive organisation” and employer of choice in this area.

Driving her passion to achieve this shared goal is her personal experience of mental health, as well as her sister’s dyslexia and dyscalculia.

In the past, Fraser – whose “superpowers” include dyslexia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) – says that she “struggled with stereotypes [and] conventional education” because of a lack of societal awareness around neurodivergence, the distribution of false information and available support. She was also undiagnosed.

Her sister, meanwhile, was “totally written off” at school.

As a result of being repeatedly told that she had “potential” but “wasn’t living up to it” and having grown up in a “world designed for [the] neurotypical”, Fraser says that she developed a “very fragile self-belief”.

“As a child, that’s quite hard and that’s not untypical of many neurodiverse people’s experiences. I was really lucky because I had a very supportive mum, but lots of people don’t have that,” she says.

Fraser further explains that there is “still so much stigma” and “ignorance” around what it means to be neurodiverse – however, this is improving and “work was actually where I found my place”, she adds.

While “rising up the ranks” – from her first role as sales and service consultant at insurer Zurich during university to now – Fraser says that she “felt a tremendous responsibility” to be a role a model for others by talking about neurodivergence “out loud and proud”, as well as use her position to dispel myths and “change the tide around some of those preconceptions”.

Talent gap 

To enact initial change at RSA and Intact, Fraser’s first “big ticket item” centres around offering speech-to-text software on a corporate license, so that all employees  – diagnosis of a neurodivergent condition or not  – can benefit from the technology.

This first project is on the “cusp of completion”, she says.

In addition to enabling her sister to achieve a masters in history at the University of St Andrews, Fraser believes speech-to-text software is a “huge game-changer” for neurodivese inclusion.

Following its implementatio, the firm then hopes to expand its access to employee’s family members, since “neurodiversity is often hereditary”.

In terms of D&I data, which is a currently key focus for the FCA, the insurer launched Count Me In at the start of 2023. This is a voluntary collection of data on various diversity attributes including gender, ethnicity, neurodiversity, wider disabilities, social mobility and caring responsibilities.

“It’s still relatively new, so as with anything it takes a little of time to get people to fully understand and buy in”, says Fraser.

However, it “enables us to underpin initiatives with data, [whereas] currently its actually quite hard to measure”.

The group is also working to make its job opportunities more accessible for neurodiverse applicants, particularly those who are autistic – people with this condition are among those recognised as having the lowest rates of employment.

As part of this focus, RSA is signing up to a three-year membership with the Group for Autism, Insurance, Investment and Neurodiversity (Gain).

Gain, according to its website, aims to “spark an industry-owned and industry-led radical improvement in the employment prospects of neurodivergent people in insurance, investment and related areas of financial services”.

Fraser says: “The [traditional] interview process is very structured around extroverted people – quite often that means we are not necessarily getting the best candidates for the role or tapping into the biggest talent pool.

“The typical areas that we have real shortages in finding talent – like cybersecurity, data analytics, quality assurance – the skill set of people with autism hugely match to that.

“We want to increase work experience, internships and even development programs that are specifically targeted at different neurodiverse conditions.”

Fraser further noted that employees’ email signatures now include pronouns as well as information on neurodivergence – she hopes this will act as a “small visual cue to make sure people feel safe to disclose” and create awareness that RSA and the wider Intact Group “want to be better”.