Every year, insurers pledge their commitments to the drive towards diversity in the annual Dive In Festival. But is this empty talk?
Now in its third year, the Dive In Festival brings to the fore the challenges faced by those from minority groups trying to find their place in financial service industry. Equally as important, board level figures of insurance are told of the opportunities that diversifying their workforce can bring.
But how much of that message trickles down to staff? What concrete steps have firms made toward the stated goals of the festival?
According to Lloyd’s recent Holding up the Mirror report, the number of Lloyd’s firms with diversity and inclusion committees or councils has gone up by 17.5% since 2016. The research revealed that 71% of firms have training or development in place to support diversity within their business. Since 2016, the number of firms with a formal diversity and inclusion policy has risen to 53% from 35%.
However, Ashwin Mistry, chairman of Brokerbility, believes diversity isn’t high on the agendas of major companies wrestling with financial challenges from Brexit or regulatory challenges.
“There is so much economic uncertainty that has been brought around by Brexit that insurers are busy working on how to make sure they survive in the current climate. For this reason, diversity probably isn’t high on their agendas,” said Mistry.
“Businesses are more concerned at present about how they can survive amid changes like Brexit and regulatory changes such as General Data Protection Regulation. A lot of the time, trying to increase diversity gets lost in translation and implementation when it reaches middle management level. So firms might have all these ideas about what they can do for inclusion, but it ends up not happening or being watered down.”
However, Bertrand Poupart-Lafarge, group chief financial officer at Axa, said it makes commercial sense for all firms to be behind inclusion, particularly when it comes to attracting and retaining talent.
According to Lloyd’s recent Holding up the Mirror report, the number of Lloyd’s firms with diversity and inclusion committees or councils has gone up by 17.5% since 2016.
The same report indicates that 71% of firms have training or development in place to support diversity within their business. (Lloyd’s)
Since 2016, the number of firms with a formal diversity and inclusion policy has risen to 53% from 35% during the previous year, when the festival had its debut. (Lloyd’s)
“For Axa, it is categorically not a box ticking exercise. Creating a diverse and inclusive environment where everyone is comfortable bringing themselves to work is of course the right thing to do, and also makes obvious commercial sense,” he said.
“Any company worth their salt should be looking at quality employees, whatever their background.”
He for She
Dive In is not the only diversity initiative in the industry. In preparation for the festival, the Chartered Insurance Institute put an insurance spin on the United Nations’ He for She initiative, with the Insuring Women’s Futures campaign.
The body lobbied insurers to make their own pledges for how they would aim to increase gender diversity in their own firms. The campaign was put together to ensure that firms followed through on their promises rather than showing up and leaving without any future plans. So far, the campaign has gained 538 commitments from the insurance industry, including Aviva, RSA and NFU Mutual. The CII has said that it checks up on the companies that have made pledges but refuses to publicly shame those that haven’t kept their promises.
Ian Simons, director of marketing at the CII, said that diversity and inclusion should be seen as a business opportunity that should be bolstered by initiatives.
“There are some meaningful debates that happen during the festival and there is some follow through. Years ago, if you asked someone in insurance what diversity was, they wouldn’t have a clue. The way people talk about diversity has changed too,” said Simons.
“We specifically put together our He for She campaign with an intent to make an impact going forward from the festival. It’s all well and good turning up and talking about diversity, but we wanted firms to actually pledge to change things within their business. Following on from people signing up, we check up on them to remind them that they are publically expected to follow through on their pledge.
“It’s better if more people think of this as a business opportunity and not just something that they need to attend every year. If a firm doesn’t have anyone in charge of diversity within their company, it should be seen as a talent issue that they need to address through diversity and social mobility initiatives.”
Dive In 2017
Dive In grows bigger every year, with organisers looking to build on the 5000 attendees last year. This year will see last year’s locations of London, New York City, Zurich and Bermuda, as well as new cities including Beijing, Perth, Melbourne, Leeds and Mumbai.
Since it launched, the Chartered Insurance Institute‘s Insuring Women’s Futures campaign has received 538 pledges from the insurance industry.
Axa, Direct Line, Covéa and The Association of British Insurers are just some of the insurance industry signatories of the Women In Finance Charter.
This year’s Dive In festival has 36 sponsors in total.
Organisers say this year’s Dive In festival is aiming to bring about a more intersectional approach. Rather than having events catered to a specific group of people, there will be a host of seminars and sessions that target a range of groups at once.
Amanda Lucas, learning and development manager, at Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty, said: “This cross-industry cooperation happens at all levels because we all understand that it is in our interests to increase the breadth and diversity of talent within our industry. And it is not just about attracting people either – it is also about supporting people to stay and build their careers in insurance.
“The festival has a fair representation of all groups but there is also an overlapping of themes between different groups which is important. Furthermore, discussions on managing wellbeing in an ageing workforce, helpful tips for new parents when working in demanding environments and understanding what skills are needed in 21st century create a broad appeal for the festival.”
However, Mistry said that the festival fails at representing all groups fairly. “The festival tries to do too much for everyone at the one time and it isn’t possible to represent everyone fairly. It does a good job at bringing up discussions on discrimination, but it’s difficult to address every single issue in the one week,” Mistry explained.
Arguably, the festival can only do so much – the responsibility ultimately lies with the attendees. However, Pauline Miller, head of diversity and inclusion at Lloyd’s, has seen companies making a difference internally since the launch of the event.
Likewise the festival itself has gained significant traction over the years. Miller said financial sponsorship has increased, but declined to give numbers.
“The 2017 festival has seen a larger number of sponsors step forward and seek out opportunities to get involved. That is largely to do with the reach of the event itself and the changes in attitude within the industry,” added Miller.
“The big insurers have been on board for a long time since the festival launched in 2015. What we have seen is a growth in commitment and that includes having dedicated resources in place or having dedicated committees that lead the conversation on diversity within their own organisations.
“Because of the festival, we’re seeing insurers examining what needs to be done within their own organisations and setting their own goals, rather than trying to hit the standard requirement for diversity.”
Dive In not only prompts insurers to look at their own businesses, it also works as a reminder of the challenge ahead; while the industry is making some tracks towards being more inclusive, there’s still a long way to go. Poupart-Lafarge admitted that the festival does not fairly represent all groups – that in itself is a reminder of the ongoing issues.
“Any event that aims to tackle diversity and inclusion has to make sure that it does not become a talking shop,” said Poupart-Lafarge.
“It is important that the industry as a whole, as well as individual companies, are working hard to actually making a difference. If we are not taking steps to move forward on the back of the increased awareness of diversity and inclusion related issues, we are definitely missing a trick.
“For a long time the insurance industry has an issue with diversity and inclusion and, except for the odd discussion about how we can change, there has been little effort to work together to tackle the issue. The Dive In festival continues to stress the importance of having a more diverse workforce and for that, it should be applauded.”
Each year, Dive In brings to the fore a fresh new challenge for insurers to tackle head on – drawing attention to important initiatives that could help solve problems. Last year’s festival had a strong focus on generating gender equality in insurance and helped to draw in more signatories for the Women in Finance Charter. The Association of British Insurers, Axa, Covea and Direct Line were just some of the businesses to sign up following Dive In.
Arguably the event drew attention to the importance of the charter and persuaded firms to make a commitment to establishing equality at board level. This year’s festival will kick off with a focus on mental health, so perhaps the industry will be forced to make pledges to another demographic.
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