Insurance Careers Month might be behind us, but that doesn’t mean Canadian insurance companies are putting a stop to initiatives focused on bringing new talent into the industry. In fact, this time of year has also marked the kick-off to a new program aimed at bringing female university students into insurance.
In collaboration with employers like Aon, Aviva, Travelers, Manulife, RBC Insurance, and Sun Life Financial, and in partnership with ASPIRE, a talent initiative led by Toronto Finance International, Swiss Re is offering internship opportunities for students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) programs who are considering a career in the field of insurance. Each candidate that takes part will have a minimum of two, four- to eight-month internships or co-op placements at two of the employers taking part.
“Part of this is to bring people into industry, but then to give them different experiences and exposure to multiple positions at multiple companies,” said Monica Ningen (pictured), president and CEO of Swiss Re Canada and English Caribbean, adding that the participating students will have a mentor assigned to them for the duration of the program.
Besides its involvement in the Women in Insurance STEM (WiISTEM) program and being one of the driving forces behind getting it off the ground, Swiss Re in Canada brings the principles of diversity and inclusion into the workplace 365 days of the year, even before candidates get an official offer from the company.
“First of all, when we look at applicants, we want a diverse applicant slate for all of our positions,” explained Ningen, adding that the interviewers likewise have to be diverse. “[We want] to be able to find the best talent, and that is driven through the belief that if you don’t have diversity on both sides of that, you end up with an unconscious bias in your hiring practices. You’re more likely to see people hired similar to the person who’s hiring.”
Swiss Re also has a review process for its job descriptions to ensure that there’s not unconscious bias in how responsibilities of the job and key qualities of candidates are framed. Once a candidate is onboard, the company also looks at equality in its bonus and salary decisions.
“After all of our bonus and salary planning is done, there is a review behind the scenes by HR to make sure that there’s not any bias in our compensation practices. Once again, that goes back to ensuring that we have pay equality for genders across bands,” said Ningen.
To bring transparency to these practices, Swiss Re takes part in Bloomberg’s Gender-Equality Index, which equips companies with an international standardized disclosure method to measure and report gender data across a variety of areas, including compensation, policies and benefits, and career development. And, with International Women’s Day around the corner on March 08, Swiss Re will hold training sessions on topics related to diversity, such as gender intelligence, while more broadly focusing on creating an environment where diversity of thought can be heard.
“You want people to feel like they can share their idea and it’s heard,” said Ningen, “and if they felt heard, the next time they show up with an idea, they will share it again.”
As the insurance industry battles for millennial talent, getting a diverse talent pool in the door is top of mind for Swiss Re.
“We can attract talent as an industry,” said Ningen, “but we’re looking for a wider variety of talent than what we’ve ever sourced before. That’s where the challenge comes in – we still want the people that came from either a finance program or an insurance program or a risk management program. In addition to that, we want data scientists and there are other skills that we source, and so that’s where it’s a little bit harder to pull in because you’re competing with a lot of other tech giants that want those people as well, so that’s where it’s important to make sure that your policies and standards are up to par when it comes to the industry.”
Whether it’s through implementing specific policies around work-life balance, phased in retiring, or flexible parental leave for new parents, Swiss Re is committed to helping its employees succeed at work as well as in their lives outside of the office.
“When you show up at work, we know that we get some really important hours in the middle of the day, but there’s so much to people beyond just the time that they spend here,” Ningen told Insurance Business. “That’s an important part of the culture, and it’s an important part of the policies that we create.”