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Black Lives Matter a ‘huge awakening’ on the need for change in EC3

London market executives agree that far more action is needed to address the underrepresentation of black professionals in EC3

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In a recent roundtable event, hosted in partnership with EY, London market executives agreed that far more action was needed to address the underrepresentation of black professionals in EC3.

David Flint, head of broking and capacity distribution at Newpoint Insurance Brokers and the first black broker to work in Lloyd’s, commented that it was tough in the 1980s and 1990s, although he benefited from individuals who were strong enough to employ and promote a black person.

He acknowledged that diversity within the Lloyd’s and London Market has come a long way since then, but can still improve, noting: “My achievements first and foremost have come from being good at my job, although there has been a need to exceed the performance of my peers.”

CNA Hardy’s head of IT and operations Ingrid Woodward said she had been “struck by the silence in some organisations” as well as the work that had gone on “behind the scenes” to get others to make a statement.

“When I started [in work], I remember my first boss said to me, 'There are three things working against you: you're black, you're young and you're female.' And I see that the industry has moved on but there is a hell of a long way to go.

“Someone very senior in one organisation told me they have a son in their 20s, and they walk out every day knowing that [their son] will be profiled. That's a thing that struck me; that colour is something that you can't switch off.

“No matter how many dashboards and no matter how much we talk about inclusivity, [it’s only] when we start to have practical insights and practical activities and hear from people, and learn from the experience and also role model it, that's when we really start to make a difference.”

Belinda Schofield, CEO of the Association of Lloyd’s Members and a non-executive director of Tysers, expressed her frustration with the pace of change, saying: “I still sigh with regret when I look across any large group of the insurance market and I see predominantly pale and male.”

Shaun Scantlebury, director at EY, spoke about the “backlash” some companies in the (re)insurance market faced after they proffered blanket statements against the mistreatment of black people but failed to develop that sentiment into a plan of action.

“Too many organisations weren't ready to respond to something as significant as this. We had a range of organisations which came out very strongly and publicly, with the blackout Tuesday social media campaigns etc – I think it was always with an intention to show support, to if anything, fuel the conversation.

“Unfortunately for some organisations, that resulted in a backlash because what had not been thought through was a full narrative which took into consideration the history of organisations. And I think that's really because people hadn't thought that this movement would turn such a strong focus on history and track record.”

Scantlebury also noted that recent events highlighted the lack of internal dialogue at companies between executives and their black employees. “I had one exec say to me that the thing that she was most hurt by was that issues were aired outside of the organisation by employees rather than discussed internally,” he explained.

Dominick Hoare, group chief underwriting officer at Munich Re Syndicate, argued that leadership teams needed to continue to “agitate this issue” if we were to see sustainable change.

“I witness a lot of unconscious arrogance about D&I amongst management. I think people can be very easily led into a docile environment where they have their dashboard or they have their priorities, they tick a box and they move on.

“We've got to continue to agitate these issues – we've got to talk about them and also have the humility to learn from others.”

Aon’s global chairman for reinsurance solutions Dominic Christian agreed. He noted that despite being involved with diversity and inclusion initiatives for several years, he had recently realised “I don't know much about it and I need to learn more”.

He went on to ask how companies could find, attract and retain black talent at the middle management levels, as he was keen to ensure there was more representation at board level in the future.

Flint was among those to note that this market tends to place too much emphasis on direct industry experience, and that firms should consider looking outside of their normal recruitment grounds and bringing in diversity specialists to assist.

“At the end of the day, you want your best people to run our business and make money for you… So looking at external sources in order to provide that solution may be one of the things that you might want to consider.”

This article was first published on the Insurance Insider website on 24 September 2020

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