Monday 23 September 2019 12:01 am

Insurance industry wrestles with diversity deficit

It is fair to say the insurance industry has not had the best year reputation-wise.

In March an explosive Bloomberg story lifted the lid on a culture of drinking and sexual harassment at Lloyd’s of London – the beating heart of the UK’s insurance industry.

Tomorrow, Lloyd’s chief executive John Neal will unveil a report into the culture at Lloyd’s having told the BBC last week that the revelations in the Bloomberg piece were “devastating”.

Neal is speaking at the start of a three-day diversity and inclusion event for the insurance sector – the Dive In Festival – which is now in its fifth year.

Read more: Lloyd’s of London bosses speak out on sexual misconduct claims

Founded by Neal’s predecessor at Lloyd’s, Inga Beale, its organisers say it shows that the industry is – if perhaps belatedly – embracing change.

The festival has now grown to 60 cities across 33 countries world-wide, with first-time events this year in Nigeria, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia.

Jason Groves, communications head at Marsh and chair of the festival, says that when the festival started five years ago, the response in the industry was mixed.

“I was handing out to people who work in the market stickers they could wear to show they were allies to their LGBT colleagues. The reaction to that was very mixed, some people were responsive, some pretended not to see it and some were downright hostile,” he says.

Tali Shlomo, people engagement director at the Chartered Insurance Institute, says the festival has helped foster a more open culture.

Read more: Lloyd’s of London brings in Banking Standards Board to conduct independent review

“People are starting to feel more comfortable talking about diversity and inclusion, and are more comfortable recognising the actions and initiatives we all need to take,” she says.

According to a survey commissioned by the festival’s organisers, 54 per cent of respondents cited gender equality as an issue that the industry had to focus on, with 47 per cent mentioning mental health and 38 per cent culture and ethnicity.

Jim Bichard, head of insurance at PwC, says: “Frankly, insurance is not where it needs to be from a diversity perspective, if you just look at gender it’s easy to see that.”

Last year, the sector’s mean gender pay gap was 27.7 per cent compared to a national average of 17.9 per cent.

Read more: The City ‘must change everything’ to improve gender diversity

Shlomo says gender pay gap reporting has helped crystallise the problem and firms are introducing initiatives to support women in the workplace.

Pauline Miller, head of talent development and inclusion at Lloyd’s says: “D&I is not just a ‘nice to have’ but a commercial imperative”.

With the eyes of the City on EC3 this week, it is clear more needs to be done to deliver long-term change.

Greg Collins, chief executive of Miller, says: “We still have a number of people who work in the London market whose behaviour remains
unacceptable and we want to root those people out.”