Director of Content’s Comment: Are beards a threat to insurtech?

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I recently sat down with the ‘poster girl for diversity’ Inga Beale for this month’s cover interview. The Lloyd’s CEO covered a lot of ground, including the topic for which she has become a figurehead, as well as the modernisation of Lloyd’s – two subjects that might seem poles apart but are now intrinsically linked.

However, I wonder if the insurance industry’s drive for diversity – while improving the demographic makeup within traditional functions such as underwriting and claims – might be missing a trick elsewhere. Namely, encouraging fairer representation in an area that is often painted as the potential saviour of the wider market: digitalisation and insurtech.

Because, while the British Insurance Awards has seen the number of penguin suits fall as an overall ratio of those in attendance, and Lloyd’s is no longer monopolised by men in pinstripes, a walk around the streets of Hoxton and Shoreditch – the heartland in London of all things ‘fintechie’ – and it is skinny jeans and beards that dominate.

The concern women are being potentially sidelined in the insurtech boom is shared. Friendsurance head of corporate communication Eva Genzmer recently published an infographic that claimed of the 535 insurtech companies worldwide, 20 were founded by women – just 4%. Significantly less than the number of female managers in insurance companies. A look at the Ins Tech London Power 100 also reveals women to be in a significant minority.

So, while Beale and others are doing a great job in encouraging women to look at insurance as a career and making the market more appealing to digital experts, I wonder if that by recruiting more of the latter, they are actually reducing the diversity within their organisations, given the dominance of male insurtech recruits?

Of course, this is early days. And in the same way Beale told Kirsty Young during her Desert Island Discs broadcast there were no senior women in insurance for her to look up to when she was starting out, the same could be said for budding insurtech entrepreneurs.

Except that is not the case. From Jamie Swindle heading up the e-trading function at NIG to Phoebe Hugh launching Brolly, there are female role models – both part of Post’s Digital Insurance Collective’s activist board. While the diversification of insurance has been a slow burn over hundreds of years, let’s hope by its fast–evolving nature that in insurtech the beard and moustache mafia do not have it all their own way for too long. Then, Beale can pass on that diversity baton to a whole host of different poster stars with both traditional and non-traditional insurance skill sets – without a whisker in sight.

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