Diversity and Inclusion in Insurance Award winner: Emerald Life's Heidi McCormack

D&I Heidi McCormack
Heidi MCormack, CEO at Emerald Life, centre, collected the award from Post editor Stephanie Denton and Insurance Age editor Sian Barton

Following last month's Diversity and Inclusion in Insurance Awards we caught up with all the winners. Today we feature the D&III Leader Award winner Emerald Life CEO and founder Heidi McCormack

Can you explain the thinking behind the setting up of Emerald Life?

Insurance is behind the times. While we’ve seen great strides in other services like banking to keep up with modern technology and attitudes, insurance has remained outdated despite being an essential product for millions of consumers in the UK.

One of the simplest observations we made was that insurance is still largely the field of the hetero, white, middle class man. Based on our research and government data we found that the traditional ‘nuclear family’ model was only relevant to 20% of the insurable population. In other words, the mythical, aspirational ‘2.2’ (2.2 kids, 2.2 cars, 2.2 pets) is a minority – and there are major communities in the market (80% of the market) that we target and design products for who are vastly underinsured. This majority need to see themselves and their needs being met.

The 80% consists of: women, single-parent families, LGBT+ and single people.

Big firms are not able to change easily or quickly. We realised we needed to start an insurance company to directly compete with them in order to raise awareness of these issues at both a corporate and consumer level. We began with LGBT+ as a clear segment with distinct needs – call centres that don’t make assumptions about lifestyles forcing customers to have to “come out” regularly or brand imagery that never ventures beyond straight families. We quickly realised that many of these issues translated directly to other groups, the largest of which was women.

What has the response/impact been?

We’ve had a huge amount of feedback starting from our core product research groups through to our feedback from customers on Feefo. We always knew that we had significant impact on the LGBT+ community and knew a lot of our customers personally, but we’ve now started gaining momentum with allies – people who might not directly identify with an under-represented group but who respect the need for change and believe in what we are doing – likeminded people – and there’s also a cross-over with women who are under-represented across the board in financial services.

How would you describe the Emerald Life culture?

We’re a growing team representing a broad swathe of society. My co-founder and I came from corporate careers in Moscow and decades of LGBT+ activism while one of our more recent staff members had only just left university and is an active part of London’s goth and alternative scene. As for our brand Emerald Life represents disruption in a deliberate and considered way. We truly embody our values and are growing our business with customers who do the same.

Do you think the acceptance of D&I as an issue has changed within insurance since you set up Emerald Life?  

There is beginning to be an acknowledgement of the need for a fundamental shift to really embrace D&I as a core principle. It is early days and much of what is happening is still lip-service. Frankly, the degree of change needed is expressed in what and who we see around us. Are we seeing ethnically diverse, gender balanced workforces? That’s the real score card.

Who is your own diversity and inclusion hero and why?

Johnny Timpson [financial protection technical and industry affairs manager, Scottish Widows] – without a doubt – is a force of nature and works tirelessly on behalf of D&I and disability and access. He is an example and hero to us all, showing how much impact one individual can have.

What was it like being a winner at the inaugural Diversity and Inclusion in Insurance Awards?

I was very honoured and proud (and surprised) to receive the D&III Leader Award. The Award was really for everyone in the room, all the amazing nominees during the evening and people spearheading D&I in the insurance sector. There are some great initiatives in the D&I space, but much more remains to be done. Receiving recognition like this award motivates me to continue to drive change.

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