Blog: If the market is serious about stamping out harassment it cannot reward bad behaviour

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For a market suffering from serious reputation issues when will insurance learn it must start making serious changes?

Guy Carpenter’s former vice-president of energy and marine, James Conmy, was fired not too long ago after sending a sexually suggestive “glazed ring” email to his entire division, naming a female member of staff.

He has now reappeared, just a couple of months after news of his exit from Guy Carp, at Tysers as a director of reinsurance.

Conmy made national headlines after Post broke the story of his unfortunate email, bringing the industry into further disrepute at a time that Lloyd’s was cracking down on a sexual harassment scandal.

I’ve heard conflicting views of Conmy’s conduct and punishment – some feel that he was rightly canned, while others feel he may have got the long end of the stick.

It was just “banter”, some said.

Post content director Jonathan Swift penned a blog around the time, looking not just at Conmy, but at other uncomfortable incidents in the market that could also be mislabelled as banter, including an unfortunate quiz evening that puts Conmy’s act to shame.

His actions certainly are not on the level of the groping and stalking allegations levelled at two Tokio Marine Kiln executives who have resigned, but they were ill-timed and misjudged.

Conmy would never work in the market again, some said.

Apparently, they were wrong; Conmy has quickly jumped into a senior position elsewhere.

And as Lloyd’s pledges to stamp down on harassment and promises potential lifetime bans for perpetrators, Conmy’s hiring begs the question: where is the accountability in the market?

It would be unfair to single out Conmy.

You only have to look over at Gallagher to see that its CEO, Simon Matson, is still in post despite having admitted to referring to outgoing employee Nawaf Hasan as a “complicated fat Arab” and repeated unchallenged use of the word “c*nt” by Matson and his senior team.

Matson has apologised, and held onto his job despite revealing an unpleasant and unprofessional side – that has been called racist – in a court case against Ardonagh that Gallagher lost, bar one aspect of its claim.

Insurance companies have a habit of giving another chance to those who have made mistakes that seem unforgivable to some, according to industry insiders.

Lloyd’s CEO John Neal himself, who said he found the results of Lloyd’s culture survey appalling and promised a crackdown, cannot exactly sit atop a pedestal after failing to disclose a relationship with his assistant to then-employer QBE.

If the market is serious about addressing cultural issues and bringing inclusivity to the forefront, surely it should be thinking twice before rewarding those who have made others feel unwelcome through their unacceptable conduct. Especially those in positions of power.

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