While the recruitment and retention of ethnic minorities has always been an issue for the insurance sector, FloodFlash’s broker success manager hopes to demonstrate that the industry does, in fact, have a place for everyone
It was a university lifelong learning scholarship, targeted at mature students, that initially sparked Ola Jacob’s interest in the world of insurance. Now, after more than a decade of working in the industry, he hopes to be an example to other ethnic minority individuals considering their career options.
Jacob is Nigerian, but was born in the UK. After completing a bachelor’s degree in computer science and business at University College London, he spotted an opportunity to apply technology to some of the insurance sector’s outdated manual processes in renters’ insurance.
Fast forward a few years and Jacob has worked for the likes of Gallagher and Alesco Risk Management Services. His passion for technology and innovation, however, brought him to parametric commercial flood insurance specialist FloodFlash in 2019.
Now employed as the insurtech’s broker success manager, Jacob tells Insurance Times: “As a broker, I was almost at an advantage because I was an ethnic minority. Some people would gravitate towards me because I was different and I could get the job done.
“That’s where [ethnic minorities] can come in – fly the flag and make people feel comfortable to bring their whole selves to work. But it is a balancing act of what is an attack on culture versus something that is different, that does not make sense in the workplace.”
For Jacob, increasing diversity in insurance is the “real win” because it can boost a business’s creativity, revenue and impact through diversity of thought.
Diversity leads to innovation
For example, hiring managers often employ like-minded people to themselves - whether consciously or unconsciously. This “puts ethnic minorities at a disadvantage” and is where measures such as blind CVs, where a candidate’s name has been removed, can be useful.
Speaking about people not born in the UK working in insurance, Jacob adds: “It’s a tough environment as you have to stand up for yourself.”
He gives credit to networks like the African Caribbean Insurance Network (ACIN), the insurance Cultural Awareness Network (Ican) for seeking to improve diversity in insurance, as well as acknowledges support from Arthur J Gallagher’s Matthew Pike and Patrick Gallagher Jr, plus Aon’s Dominic Christian, who all helped him on his career journey.
Jacob says: “Raising the ceiling is one of the biggest things we can do for the ethnic minority community that are under-represented as it gives others hope that they can do it.”
He also recommends having a mentor in workplaces. Jacob is currently involved in the hiring process at FloodFlash, which he says is “unbiased” because the insurtech just wants the best person for the job.
“That is where things can be really powerful, when you are in a position to hire the best person for the job. To be innovative, you need a diverse group of people because they all bring different ideas to the table,” he adds.
Jacob also disagrees with ethnic minority quotas in the workplace because he believes companies should be focusing on appointing the best person for the job, rather than checking diversity tick boxes. He adds: “It shouldn’t matter what colour you are, people should be blind to colour.”
Jacob continues: “[Recruitment quotas put] a magnifying glass on ethnic minorities. You can use it for good or bad. BLM is a great cause, but the real issue that needs to be addressed within that is how we increase the economic power of ethnic minorities.”
Although he does not believe any of his employers have chosen him because of his colour, ”sometimes it’s the thing that makes you stand out because you’re the only person of a particular ethnicity in the room”, he adds.
Jacob says his biggest challenge is “always feeling like you must break down a barrier, when you want to be judged on ability and talent”.
Jacob emphasises that having more diverse individuals employed in insurance will help encourage a mix of younger people viewing the sector as a viable career option.
Jacob volunteers at The Wickers Charity, which supports young people in London.
Following a talk on job opportunities for eight to 18-year-olds, Jacob notes that because the youths ”didn’t see someone that looks like them in [insurance roles]”, it therefore ”didn’t resonate”.
He continues: “Those from poorer backgrounds don’t know about insurance to consider it as a career option. The only reason I knew about insurance was due to my [university] scholarship.”