Insurance Census 2017: Diversity isn't coming quick enough

insurance-census-logo-2017

  • Insurers must become more reflective of society, from product development to claims processing
  • Insurance needs to encourage more people with disabilities, and different ethnic and sexual identities to join and stay in the profession
  • Apprentices should come from all parts of society, not just young school leavers

The Chartered Insurance Institute responds to the Insurance Census 2017. Research conducted by Post and published in the March issue showed a profession getting older, paying men more than women, with boardrooms remaining rather pale.

It has become fashionable to talk about diversity and then inclusion, and we all know fashion has a place in society and in the workplace. It brings people together; it enables individuals and organisations to remain agile and relevant while retaining their identity. If we overlay this with diversity and inclusion, imagine what wonderful things we can achieve in our profession, while we build public trust for our consumers.

If someone offered you the opportunity to hire from a wide pool that could be powering the innovation, collaboration and engagement of your organisation, wouldn’t you give it your full attention and focus and ensure it formed part of your strategic aims?

Catalyst for change

The findings of Post's recent Insurance Census should be the catalyst for change at a greater speed in the insurance profession. There have been some changes since the 2013 census, but they aren’t consistently positive, and certainly not keeping pace with the consumers we serve.

We know that insurance is not first on many school leavers' list of careers they are actively choosing, but that once picked, many are surprised at what a rewarding career it is. We are not encouraging enough people with disabilities, of different ethnic groups, with different sexual identities or even enough women to join and stay in our profession.

If insurance is to remain agile and relevant, then surely our workforce, colleagues and peers should reflect the society within which we live, where our product development is created by diverse thinking and also reflective of our society, with a claims processing function reflective of our consumers and so on.

We have all seen the data supporting that a diverse team brings new ideas, challenges more conventions and helps us think more like our customers and ultimately the wider consumer market.

The UK population is clearly ageing, but our profession is ageing faster. The average insurance employee is now 2.5 years older than the average employee two years ago.  That doesn’t just mean that we’ve all aged (sadly, we have), but that we're not bringing in enough younger talent to keep the average constant or even lower. And that’s not healthy or sustainable. The gap in our multigenerational society is increasing and we need to keep up.

 

Improving diversity

Apprenticeships provide a great opportunity to be spread among our ageing population. Encouragingly, the vast majority of firms now have an apprenticeship scheme in place, which should help with bridging the multigenerational gap, encouraging social mobility and, ultimately, improving overall diversity.

The apprenticeship levy is likely to drive even further uptake in apprenticeships. Apprentices don't have to be school leavers - so this could help retrain existing staff or bring in new talent from other sectors (the armed forces is a good example) or following career breaks - what a great way to support parents who have taken a break to raise their children or care for elderly relatives returning to work! One of the CII's initiatives precisely focuses on ways to support women returning to work.

It is encouraging that 87% of the census respondents feel that their firm does enough to encourage women to return to work after having children, but is it enough? Only around half of respondents felt flexible working policies really applied, so this remains a barrier – particularly in broking.

It’s perhaps unsurprising that insurance still lacks diversity in ethnicity and that men dominate senior management while women are more prevalent in claims and operations.

The insurance profession is 89% white against 86% for the UK population, but the largest growth is in Black, Asian and minority ethnic. As BAME students are more likely to reach further education than white students, if we are to access the best young talent, we need to reach out to our multicultural society.

We are not doing as well as other sectors at gaining BAME representation in senior management: 6.7% of all senior positions in UK are BAME, but in insurance it is only 3.6%.

Our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community could do with more support. The census data suggests there is significant disparity between the data provided by companies and the data provided by individual respondents on this, implying we don’t yet have a clear enough picture of the priorities, let alone what to do about them.

Might it be that organisations aren't clear themselves what data they can ask for and what they can do with the data once collected? In this instance, sexual orientation. As part of our role as a professional body, we are producing guidance. In June, several guides will be published including on how to collect data and what you can do with this data. In the meantime, people can consult our good practice guide that focuses on the protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010

Diversity will not happen overnight. But we do need to keep the pressure to make that change and to make it faster.

 

Strategic challenges

Getting the best talent is often cited as one of the biggest strategic challenges insurers and brokers have, along with obtaining the skills we believe we need to succeed as new competitive pressures and technological advances make old ways obsolete. 

So why wouldn’t we tap the widest pool available to get the best chance of finding and developing that talent, rather than restricting that pool to people who look like the person they’re sitting next to? Let’s celebrate and embrace similarities and differences while we build public trust for our consumers by working with our profession to make a difference and stand out as a profession of choice.

While our role as a professional body is about public trust for the good of our consumers, then surely the insurance and financial service sectors should now take note of these findings and ensure that diversity and inclusion form part of their strategic focus.

Wouldn’t it be unfortunate if, at the next Post Insurance Census in 2019, the dial had not moved more progressively because as a profession we had not prioritised this agenda?

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