Insurance and diversity – how far along are we?

Leaders in NZ discuss promoting and sustaining change

Insurance and diversity – how far along are we?

Diversity & Inclusion

By Terry Gangcuangco

From left to right: AIG’s Tama Rawhiti, NM Insurance’s Lianne Waru, Zurich’s Brett Wainhouse, WTW’s Cedric Suifua, Marsh’s David Ntow, and Young Insurance Professionals’ Teri Scandrett (WTW).

“I’ve got a diverse team, and I love the fact that they all bring something different to the table.”

Those were the words of NM Insurance New Zealand manager Lianne Waru when she spoke as part of the “YIPs Auckland Presents: Cultural Diversity in the Insurance Industry” panel discussion organised by non-profit organisation Young Insurance Professionals and backed by event sponsor Zurich New Zealand.

Waru, who believes “we’re getting there” as far as diversity & inclusion is concerned in the insurance sector, said D&I is now very strong in the market.

“It’s now instilled in business practices to acknowledge that it’s there,” said Waru, who also went beyond the topic of cultural diversity to share her experience as a mother working in the industry. “Ten (10), 15 years ago, that was not on the list…

“I can speak from experience of being a young mum and trying to build my career through this industry – it was really hard. I look now at where things are going with the changes in the insurance market, and there have been huge changes.”

The changes, according to AIG NZ risk head Tama Rawhiti, are part of the evolution of businesses.

“I think societal expectations are changing,” said Rawhiti during the discussion, which was moderated by YIPs New Zealand president Teri Scandrett. “Our workforce is changing, our customers are changing, and I think we just have to evolve as a business as well.

“If you take climate change, for example, we’re now aware of the impacts of climate change, so we’re probably a little bit more conscious in what we purchase and whether that’s a sustainable product or not. The same applies to D&I. I think the more we know, the more we evolve as an organisation.”

For David Ntow, managing principal for alternative risk solutions at Marsh Advisory Pacific, change comes from thinking differently, which also applies to what insurance companies offer the market.

“I think what’s helping is it’s forcing some of us to start thinking differently,” he said. “It’s forcing us as risk advisers to think outside the box and figure out ways to provide tailor-made solutions which benefit all parties. It’s a really good drive. We need that to force us to act outside of our comfort zone.”

Learning from others and sustaining change

One of the key messages from the panel is the importance of having a mentor while also learning from peers.

Cedric Suifua, Pacific client director at WTW New Zealand, shared: “Fifteen (15) years ago when I started out of uni, a Samoan boy in insurance, I didn’t know what I was doing. I was lucky enough to have mentors who gave me some direction…

“Find someone that you like and that you want to emulate, and then reach out to them. Put yourself out there.”

For Waru, it’s about surrounding yourself with people who want to invest in you and help you grow. Additionally, she is of the belief that there are lessons to be learned from everyone you interact with in the industry, given the different backgrounds and perspectives.

“Every single one of them has taught me something about either the industry, or what we can do differently, or what we can change, or what they struggle with and what the barriers are within the industry,” she said. “And I think, as leaders, it’s our job to ensure that we are promoting change within our businesses. It’s our responsibility to make sure that that’s happening.

“If we want to cement a future for our young generation to come through and be successful insurance people, then we need to be leading by example. And it starts with us. It starts with leaders, and we need to funnel that down and we need to show that support.”

Based on her own journey, Waru is keen to keep the ball rolling on the D&I front.

She recalled: “I was a Māori girl back 20 years ago starting at an industry which was a white male-dominated industry. And especially in marine – you never saw a woman in marine… I was so scared of having a child, because I didn’t want to lose my place of how hard I worked in the industry.

“Now you can go away, come back, and pick up where you left off. You don’t have to worry about starting all over again and having to climb that ladder again… That’s probably one of my biggest drivers for change, is that what I experienced 10 years ago I’ll never let happen in our business.”

In Ntow’s view, what’s key is promoting equitable opportunities for everyone.

“As an organisation, promoting that essentially brings different ways of thinking and helps you put yourself in a place where you can actually respond to change much quicker,” he said.

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