In the African Caribbean Insurance Network’s recent webinar, an expert panel debated how the insurance industry could improve diversity and retention rates in the sector  

Increasing the diversity competence and awareness of hiring managers in insurance could help improve diversity in the sector.

Speaking on a panel of experts during an African Caribbean Insurance Network (ACIN) webinar last month, titled ’The Role Diversity and Inclusion Plays in the Future of the Insurance Industry’, Isla Baillie, head of inclusive diversity, employee value proposition (EVP) and human resources at Sompo International, said: “In order to be successful now and in the future, we need to make a real effort, but make that part of a larger commitment to inclusive diversity in general and not specifically improving representation of diverse talent at all levels of the organisation.

“To make sustainable change here, you have to focus on both behavioural and structural inclusion aspects.” 

By behavioural, Baillie means developing an inclusive mindset, which influences decisions and actions, as well as working towards cultural belonging, both on an individual employee basis and collectively in the company.

“This means increasing our diversity competence and awareness of our leaders and hiring managers and supporting them in the journey to openly seek diverse talent pools and helping them understand the common hiring biases that we see frequently today.”

Following the publication of Lloyd’s culture survey in February, the ACIN pointed out that the market should implement its racial inclusivity steps, which the network published in July 2020. 

Retention and recruitment

Retention of diverse candidates in the long-term has been a challenge in insurance.

Pauline Miller, head of culture at Lloyd’s of London, explained that Lloyd’s trains those involved in the hiring process around diversity as a mandatory requirement - an accredited individual is always involved, therefore, with recruitment.

Equally, during the recruitment process itself, Miller identified a diverse interview panel, the types of questions and scenarios discussed, job design and the wording used in job specifications as important too.

James Shepherd, head of HR at Tokio Marine Kiln, believes there is still a place for unconscious bias training. At Tokio Marine Kiln, unconscious biases are part of an open conversation at the beginning of the hiring process, to make sure those on interview panels are aware of any biases they may harbour.

Unconscious biases are the underlying attitudes and stereotypes that people unconsciously attribute to another person or group of people.

Meanwhile, at Sompo International, leaders go through an intensive leadership for development programme. Baillie said part of the aim of this training is to raise awareness levels and for people to be aware of biases in their own thinking.

As part of a wider review of all its talent management processes, Sompo International is also looking at its sourcing and selection, challenging the status quo and engaging with different demographics, to make sure it is evolving policies and procedures in recruitment in order to get where it wants to be as an organisation.

Exploring options

Attracting and retaining diverse talent in the insurance industry has been “crucial”, but sourcing methods have previously veered towards the traditional.

These include friends and family referrals and specific sources, such as targeting universities and recruitment agencies, which provide “cookie cutter candidates”.

Shepherd said that, unfortunately, the insurance sector “[does] not seem to be turning the dial significantly in the make-up of organisations”, despite the focus on diversity and inclusion (D&I) for some time now.

This focus became more apparent after the death of George Floyd and the initiation of the Black Lives Matter movement, which put D&I at the top of the agenda.

He suggested that companies consider hiring people that come from other industry sectors, where there is greater diversity of thought, gender, age and race.