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Zurich's Oltmanns: DEI Is a Growing Risk for Companies

Companies that fail to properly manage their diversity, equity and inclusion may face litigation and regulatory risk, said Julia Oltmanns, director of DEI Services for Zurich North America.

Can you tell us about your role at Zurich?

Our Zurich Resilience Solutions unit launched a new service. It's workplace DEI [Diversity, Equity and Inclusion] services for our customers. It could be an assessment, DEI assessment, consulting, training, anything our customers need in order to mitigate risk related to DEI.

Why did you launch this?

We really in conversations over the last couple of years heard from our customers, that DEI is a growing risk, right?

It is one of the things that's really weighing on their minds. They were really looking for Zurich to provide them with services similar to our risk engineering services and other services we provide that are proactive to help our customers prevent risk and mitigate risk. This was one of the things that was weighing on their minds that they were looking for help with.

How does DEI relate to ESG?

DEI is one of the very important pieces of the ‘s’ — the social impact side of ESG. We're seeing more and more federal government disclosures regarding ESG. I think the DEI requirements for disclosure and on that social impact aspect are going to be increasing. And that's going to be the next thing that customers have to consider and be ready to provide those kinds of disclosures.

What happens if a company gets it wrong?

There's there's potential liability on several different fronts, right? There's increased litigation risk, there are shareholder derivative lawsuits that are increasing that directors and officers and board members are facing that risk.

There's regulatory impact, as I mentioned, from the federal government, also from state regulators, and then from customers — customers are asking their vendors and suppliers for information on their DEI practices, DEI data. And so you could actually lose business from your customers if you're not prepared to respond to those requests.

Is there insurance to cover this?

So today, there's not insurance that's specific to DEI and what we've been talking about primarily are the proactive steps that you can take in advance to reduce your risk profile. But there are definitely connections to the D&O liability from the board member side of things as the shareholder derivative lawsuits are increasing.

There's connections to employment practices liability insurance. So this really these kinds of services DEI related services can help an organization have a better risk profile so that their D&O and EPLI coverages are improved, their risk profile is improved in those areas.