How has COVID-19 affected insurers' people strategies?

How has COVID-19 affected insurers' people strategies? | Insurance Business New Zealand

How has COVID-19 affected insurers' people strategies?

Gender diversity in the insurance sector has made significant strides forward over the last decade, and some insurance companies now boast a strong gender ratio on their executive boards.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought diversity policies and equity into a new light, and insurance leaders say that there is still a lot of work to be done in ensuring that things like flexible working policies do not unfairly disadvantage anyone in their companies. They are also increasingly looking at diversity beyond simply a gender-focus.

AIA New Zealand chief people and culture officer Brynlea Hunter-Morpeth noted that AIA’s executive team gender ratio is extremely strong, and the goal for the company now is to look at accessibility, ethnic diversity, and maintaining a good gender balance.

“Diversity, inclusion and equity is a really important part of the people strategy for AIA, and it’s something that we take great pride in, and it really defines who we are,” Hunter-Morpeth said.

Read more: What will diversity and inclusion strategies look like post-COVID?

“I think that’s interwoven into the decisions that we’ve made around some of the targets that we’ve set at the executive level in terms of the male and female ratio, and we now have six women on the executive team, and two out of three of our independent directors are female.”

“When we think about diversity and inclusion, the next step for us as an organisation is really to broaden that out into other areas,” she explained.

“I’m really passionate about bringing Māori and Pasifika people into our organisation, and partnering with TupuToa to help facilitate that. I want to do more in the gender diversity space, and also in accessibility.”

“I find it a really exciting area to focus on, and I’m really fortunate that the executive team and the board of AIA are also as excited about these initiatives as I am, so we just need to get behind that and implement it,” she added.

“That’s a really nice space to be in, and I appreciate that not everybody has that luxury.”

Commenting on the diversity strategy at Resolution Life, chief claims officer Thérèse Singleton said that the most important step was to invest in the staff that come through your company.

She said this was the reason Resolution Life had emerged with an all-female board - by investing in a strong pipeline of talent, and ensuring that there are strong internal candidates for senior roles as they come up.

“As part of working with the regulators to set up the structure that they wanted in New Zealand from the Resolution Group, we worked a lot with our the board of directors, which is now the first all-female board in New Zealand,” Singleton said.

Read more: The financial impact of gender diversity

“I feel very privileged to be part of an organisation which is so broad-minded, but that’s because the history of AMP and the investment that it’s put into its people has meant that we’ve had the people within the organisation ready to take on those roles.

“I have a lot to say about the investment that companies need to make into that pipeline of people that comes up, and helping people up the ladder.”

Singleton said that COVID-19 had shaped the way the company thinks about its diversity strategy to a significant degree, and while some women had benefited hugely from the rise in flexible working, others had found it a challenge.

“One of the key things that is interesting me at the moment is the impact of COVID, and that’s really come with opportunities and challenges,” Singleton said.

“When you think about the situation worldwide, it is women who have suffered the most through COVID in terms of job losses in those primary sector industries. Also, working from home has meant women are taking on more childcare responsibilities, and it has its challenges in that regard.”

“On the flip side of the coin, senior women in those executive roles have certainly gained from flexible working arrangements and technology,” she added.

“We’ve always known that the answer is in technology, so my target now is around how we can use that technology to its greatest benefit for everybody in the company, and how we can ensure that the structures around those flexible working arrangements are fair, and don’t disadvantage anyone in our industry.”