The former Lloyd’s chief executive explains how the two Ds of diversity and digitalisation overlap

Digitalisation in insurance comes hand-in-hand with diversity and inclusion, but the sector still has more to offer in terms of innovation. 

This is according to former Lloyd’s of London chief executive Inga Beale, speaking exclusively with Insurance Times at the Earnix Excelerate Summit last week (20 September 2023) at London’s County Hall.

She says: “I don’t think we’re anything like being innovative enough, we still tend to sell traditional products. We’re hardly touching the data that’s out there that should be able to reinvent the world of insurance.”

She explains that one avenue of innovation for insurtechs was to clear up what policies actually covered. 

Beale notes that policyholders often find out whether their policies provide “good coverage” at the point of claim, rather than understanding what they have bought at the point of purchase.

“There’s always that fear and that to me is what we should be trying to take away, we should be selling certainty of protection – not uncertainty of protection,” she says.

However, Beale notes that insurtechs have a positive role to play here.

She adds: “This is why I like insurtechs – a lot of them are coming from personal experience, they have experienced something, or they have been shocked by how bad something was and they have said ‘I can do this better’.

“They have created something new because they are not held back by legacy systems and the way things are done by large incumbent companies – [insurtechs] bring freshness of approach.”

Looking back to when insurtechs first burst onto the scene as “disruptors” back in 2016, Beale acknowledges that this perception has now shifted and the sector is now mostly seen as “collaborators”.

Beale continues: “The [insurtechs] are not seen as a threat. A lot of the insurtechs are not carrying the risk, they are distributing it. They are pricing in a different way and are focused on customers a lot of the time.

“There is technology changing the delivery of insurance but, to my mind, unless people who are covering the risk – the carriers – actually change the profits, the innovation still isn’t there.”

Lover of change

Beale stepped down from her position as chief executive of Lloyd’s in 2018, but now occupies her time by serving on various boards, including WTW’s and Crawford and Co’s.

She is a self-branded lover of change and has continued to drive forward issues she sees as important in the market.

In her keynote speech at the Earnix event, she said: “I’m someone who loves change. I am so fixated on change. When I was working day in, day out in the City of London and having to commute to the office I couldn’t bear to even take the same train to work every day – every night I changed my alarm clock just slightly.

“That’s my need for change, it’s very strong.”

She explains: “I know I am an extreme personality when it comes to change and somehow, I have managed to stay in the world of insurance for 14 years. I look back and think the insurance market has hardly changed in all that time – how come I have stayed in it? It’s probably the magic of what we do.”

Beale explains that the varied work she undertook kept her interested in the sector – for example, one day she could be looking at a disaster in Mexico and the next exploring an earthquake in Japan.

She says: “Before I got into insurance, I used to see these terrible scenes – people losing their lives, their homes. Then I learned what insurance does – we put people’s lives back together.That was genuinely what kept me in the industry for 14 years.

“Added to that, every time something changes in the world, insurance has to respond. That need to change keeps me going and interested in it all the time.”

Digitalisation to takeover jobs?

Despite her profession of love for change in the sector, Beale says that digitalisation is both a risk and an opportunity.

Casting her mind back to change when she was the first female chief executive at Lloyd’s of London between January 2014 and December 2018, she says she had three Ds to think about – digitalisation, diversity and decarbonisation.

inga beale - insurance times

Inga Beale

She explains: “I had no idea it would be so difficult at Lloyds to get people engaged in digitalisation.

“When I was trying to get the market to embrace technology, I said ‘it’s inevitable, we’ve got to do it, we’ve got to get rid of this paper’.

”I spoke to the under 30s and thought they would be the most excited population in Lloyd’s, [that] they would really be behind me, because they live their lives on digital devices. But actually, they weren’t, and that was very interesting.”

Curious as to why young people steeped in technology were resistant to the idea of digitalisation, Beale asked and discovered that the under 30 contingent were terrified that digitalisation would take away their jobs as they had just started their careers.

She says: “Digitising at Lloyds was nothing to do with getting rid of jobs, it was actually to make the market super-efficient for customers and reduce the claims payment time dramatically – we got it down to 27 days from three.

“But importantly, [we pursued digitalisation] to free up people to focus on customers and to be innovative and creative.

”Once I understood that these young people were the most unwilling to embrace the technology just because they thought they were going to lose their job, I realised I had to give them a task.”

Beale asked the younger employees working group at Lloyd’s to define and design the jobs of the future and asked the under 30s to identify the skills needed to train and upskill people so new technology could be adopted.

“When you are going through change, digitalisation – don’t underestimate it, it is the most critical barrier of all,” she adds.

Diversity and digitalisation

Beale’s challenge to bring digitalisation to Lloyd’s also saw her tackle another one of the important Ds – diversity.

After speaking to various employees at Lloyd’s, she came to a realisation that no-one working there “was allowed to be different”.

Beale said: “So I realised that when you’ve got a great big homogeneous blob of people you don’t get the creativity, the innovation and the challenge that you need.”

With the history that Lloyd’s is steeped in, Beale says she also found that some people were resistant to change because they were “comfortable”.

Beale notes that she thought that, if a young person with fresh ideas did join Lloyd’s, they either ended up conforming and became part of the “homogeneous blob,” or left as they did not want to assimilate.

She adds: “When I went in to do digitalisation, I had no idea I would have to focus on diversity – it was one of those ’aha’ moments.

”If you don’t get those different voices surrounding you, you will not be able to be as creative and innovative as you want to be. So, this becomes just as important to business priority – the idea of having different people and including them.”

Beale’s move to make the market more inclusive of difference came to the fore with the birth of Lloyd’s Lab, as insurtech staff were “different” in the way they dressed.

There was resistance over letting people wearing more casual dress come into Lloyd’s and Beale says she was “letting the hoodies into the building”.

When speaking to people about previous attempts to enact change at Lloyd’s, Beale also realised that Lloyd’s staff were not included in decisions.

She notes one example of digtalisation that used a satellite to overhaul how marine underwriting worked by capturing data that could be fed into pricing.

“Then we started to change the way we approached everything, we had to include people in the market,” she adds.

But with the number of staff at Lloyd’s, which was 8,000 back in Beale’s day – this was no easy task.

Speaking to this, Beale says: “I want to give power to the people and I want them to design their own future.

”I want them to be more involved from the beginning. No more big bang programmes – everything was going to be bit by bit.”