Diversity and disruption in insurance

Ahead of Insurtech Insights Europe next month, Bradley Collins and Ellenie Chan call for a fresh approach to hiring and people management to supercharge disruptive growth in the insurance industry

Bradley Collins, chief commercial officer, Insurtech Insights

How many schoolchildren dream of working in insurance? I don’t claim to have the latest figures, but I would hazard a guess it’s not many.

Personally, my tennis abilities led me to believe I would one day go on to triumph at Wimbledon, but life took a different turn. The dreams and ambitions of young people are far-reaching and while we know a job in insurance can be stimulating and challenging, it’s unlikely to lead to personal fame and stardom.

But how many senior industry leaders can honestly say they have pulled out all the stops to make the sector an attractive prospect?

This is not a criticism of the sector. I believe the insurance industry makes a positive contribution every day to improve the lives of ordinary people.

There are a number of positives that should appeal to the modern sensibilities of the young jobseeker which we should promote, for instance a focus on mindfulness, health and wellbeing is high on their agenda. Providing peace of mind to help people enjoy their holidays or protect their family should be rewarding for people with this mindset.

The industry can do a far greater job at marketing itself to appeal to students and grads

With the huge demand for STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) talent in the industry, every insurer should be ploughing resources into a recruitment strategy. Currently, this talent is attracted by tech companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon and other prominent names in the technology sector. These companies promote an enjoyable culture and the opportunity to work on cutting-edge projects.

What does insurance offer young talent?

Why would this talent choose to enter the world of insurance? It should be a consideration because there is a diverse range of opportunities that fall under the insurtech umbrella and more created all the time as the industry undergoes serious disruption through innovation.

I think insurers can do much better in drawing on the emotive aspect of what they do to appeal to the millennial generation who deeply care about the world they live in. The 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer discovered that 92 per cent of employees expect their leaders to speak out on a range of well-meaning topics, two of which stand out for me: training for jobs of the future and ethical use of technology.

Insurtech investment has hit a record high and it’s safe to say that companies are genuinely offering jobs at the cutting edge of futuristic development. Also, if we boil down what insurance is, at its core essence it protects the world and the people within it. It gives people freedom. That’s a pretty ethical use of technology.

The industry can do a far greater job at marketing itself to appeal to students and grads, based on these two factors alone.

While large insurers and smaller insurtech startups might not immediately seem glamorous companies to work for, especially compared to the casual trainers and tees dress code and ping pong tables offered by big tech companies, let’s not undersell our great industry.

It’s an exciting time for the insurance sector. Leaders should be taking steps to supercharge growth by evolving culture and archaic traditions, while simultaneously promoting the ethics that already sit at the heart of the industry, to attract the finest talent out there.

Ellenie Chan, chief content officer, Insurtech Insights

As with wider financial services, the insurance industry doesn’t score well on diversity and inclusion (D&I). While the situation is improving at nearly all levels, the Association of British Insurers (ABI) recently revealed that female representation at board level has only increased by a negligible 1 per cent, with women still accounting for just one in five jobs.

Despite three quarters of organisations having a D&I strategy, representation from the BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) community dropped from 15 to 13 per cent.

However, this is not another polemic targeting industry leaders or resorting to stereotypes about old white men. At Insurtech Insights, we recognise the need for leaders to drive growth and growth comes from positive action.

Aside from the altruism of creating opportunities for those who may not have had them, there is a raft of business benefits arising from a diverse and inclusive workplace culture. These include increased productivity, creativity and innovation, which add up ultimately to profitability.

Higher representation of women in C-suite-level positions results in 34 per cent greater returns to shareholders; companies with above average diversity had 19 per cent higher innovation revenues; and racially diverse teams have been shown to outperform non-diverse teams by 35 per cent. Add to this the reputational benefit to your brand and the appeal to a wider pool of talent, and it all makes sense.

Shifting to reflect a diverse consumer-base

The consumer-base is becoming increasingly diverse and it takes a diverse management team to set clear strategic business goals to address a wider group of consumers. It takes an inclusive and empowered staff culture to execute high-valued, novel and personalised insurance products and services for this group of consumers.

Women control up to 80 per cent of all purchasing decisions and we’re excited to see women-led insurtechs disrupting the industry as they act as an inspiration. We’re excited to see and hear insurers speak more about D&I programmes to empower the workforce and executives.

The ABI research shows that 88 per cent of companies now have an executive sponsor for D&I and more than half have someone responsible for inclusion of LGBT+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender/transsexual plus other groups). That’s a good step and it’s heartening to witness the increase in awareness of the need for D&I initiatives and the detriment of a uniform workforce.

It takes an inclusive and empowered staff culture to execute high-valued, novel and personalised insurance

The world is changing and so is the insurance industry. If the incumbents don’t keep up with the pace of change, they run the risk of becoming irrelevant, losing market share to young, fast-paced, agile, digital-first insurers that really understand their customers. We have made it our mission to assist incumbents by bringing them together with their startup peers to share learnings and insight in March.

Europe’s largest gathering of insurance leaders and innovators returns to London at the Royal Lancaster, March 17-18, 2020

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