Diary of an Insurer: Allianz’s Felix Wong

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Felix Wong, diversity and inclusion consultant at Allianz, draws parallels between Disney Plus’s ‘The Bear’ and the insurance industry as he works to make the sector more inclusive for colleagues and customers.

Felix Wong DEI Consultant at Allianz UK

Monday

My Garmin tells me it’s time for a “long easy run”, which more than an hour later I discover was not easy and more of a shuffle than a run. It energises me for the day ahead though.

My colleague Hannah and I deliver a presentation on neuro-inclusive meetings for our internal audit team. I was happy to research and deliver the content but what was even better was receiving direct input from neurodivergent colleagues before we presented. 

The audit team recognised their work is well suited to people with certain forms of neurodivergence, so we recently collaborated with them on a neuroinclusive recruitment pilot. 

This put into practice a series of recommendations made by our volunteer neurodiversity working group. The pilot received brilliant feedback from all candidates, illustrating an important and often-misunderstood aspect of diversity and inclusion – so much of our work improves things for many people, not just an underrepresented minority. It’s a concept best summed up by the phrase ‘a rising tide raises all boats.’

Tuesday

Diversity and inclusion

Setting off from Bedfordshire at 5.45am to beat traffic, I arrive at Guildford for a series of meetings. The early start means I can breakfast with a colleague from my previous business area, and after catching up on gossip and bumping into my former manager, I meet a new colleague face-to-face.

Afterwards, I reflect on her comment that banking, which she came from, is considerably more diverse than her experience of insurance so far. Our industry must get better at promoting to a diverse job market the benefits of an insurance career – the opportunities, breadth of roles and salaries – but often with a much better work-life fit.

Canteen lunch is ramen. The boiling stock and noodle basket reminds me of hawker centres in Asia, and the chef is thrilled when I tell him his new dish is very tasty.

Later that evening I meet with the Insurance Cultural Awareness Network (iCAN) steering committee. 

Last year, I set up iCan’s East and South-East Asian heritage group, and I’ve been working on our Lunar New Year event in London. 

Unfortunately, I’ll miss the event I’m helping to put together, but for the very happy reason that I’ll be in Singapore reuniting with extended family.

iCan played a huge role in my career move into D&I and keeps me connected to key diversity and inclusion specialists right across the industry. While we protect employer sensitivities, D&I is a field characterised by high levels of collaboration and trust between professionals in our sector, which is particularly refreshing.

Wednesday

sign-language

I meet with our multicultural network, One, to deep dive into our inclusive recruitment action plan. Working with our employee-led networks is fantastic – they are passionate people committed to change and deep dives like this are valuable. 

We discuss and evaluate the positives and the network leads constructively challenge me on progress of a couple of key measures. They scrutinise me carefully when I explain the complexity of the work needed to achieve one of the ambitions.

My role requires careful balancing of impassioned interests with the allocation and prioritisation of resources, time, and energy. 

Not every inclusion initiative can be introduced all at once – that’s why I advocate an evidence-based approach, following research and data. Sometimes, the evidence runs counter to intuition. Walking that tightrope can be challenging but is ultimately part of the thrill.

It’s obvious how employee networks improve organisational culture, through celebration events, mentoring and support groups, but good networks also play a role as a critical friend to the business. 

Our networks have driven key improvements, introducing sign language at Townhalls, transitioning at work policies, menopause, and race inclusion training programmes, and reviewing pre-retirement journeys. 

At the same time, our network chairs grow skills, confidence, and personal effectiveness, which creates new career opportunities for them. 

Thursday

queen rock montreal live imax

I’m working on a report for our board on customer inclusion. Over a number of years, a lot of work has gone into making Allianz an inclusive place to work, and this work – a logical extension of Consumer Duty – identifies the opportunities to ensure our customers feel fully included in our products and services. 

It’s great to see so many examples of inclusive customer processes and experiences fed into the paper by my colleagues in commercial, personal and our specialty lines and it shows D&I is a business imperative, not just an HR one. 

That evening, I go to see the 1981 live show of Queen Rock Montreal at Imax. It’s an incredible film, shot on high quality cameras – very forward thinking of the band. I count myself a Queen fan (News of the World and Queen II are my favourite albums) and for someone that never saw the original line-up, the sight of a 40-foot Freddie strutting the stage at the peak of his powers is a real treat.

Friday

Scene from The Bear on Disney+

It’s time for one of our regular updates to the executive committee. Our head of diversity and inclusion has a direct reporting line into our CEO, underlining how important D&I is to our executive committee. 

Having previously worked for our chief operating officer, I can attest that D&I receives no less rigour or scrutiny as any topic. 

Timescales, priorities, risks, and potential costs are discussed robustly. The executive committee receives challenge back too, utilising the data we have to report on gender pay gaps, levels of representation and the demographics in our organisation. 

In this mode we’re a conduit between our people and the executive committee, in an almost unique role, and that’s one of the most satisfying aspects for me.

I’m streaming Disney Plus’s The Bear. The intensity of service, the arguments and relationship building dialogue gives me food for thought on how things work in a large corporation as opposed to a (fictitious) Chicago sandwich shop: some same, some different. Mostly though it gives me thought for food, so it’s time to hit the kitchen.

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