A junior broker at Aon, Priscilla Osibona, said that she belongs firmly in the category of people who ‘fell’ into insurance. A strong believer that everything happens for a reason, it was her being drawn to the bright lights of the city that led to her taking the role of team secretary within the financial lines group at JLT Speciality, the beginning of an insurance journey which has led to her current role.
“Though I was not in a broking capacity when I started,” Osibona said, “I soon realised that I had the skills I needed to be a broker, through a combination of my time at JLT Specialty, my personality and the skills I acquired while studying law.”
The ability to build relationships is what initially interested Osibona about the insurance sector and she identified this capacity as the key to succeeding in the London market. Speaking on the central difficulties facing young brokers today, she identified the issue of technological development eroding the need for face-to-face meetings and personable relationship development between brokers and underwriters.
“I believe that hinders you as a broker,” she said, “because you’re not able to look them in the eye and negotiate better.” It is, however, the responsibility of younger brokers, she identified, to lead that relationship-building with underwriters.
Diversity is another challenge facing the insurance sector and should be addressed across a broad spectrum, Osibona believes, as it is not simply a question of race and gender but also religion, disability, sexual orientation and social background.
“I believe it’s key for colleagues to feel welcomed and represented, in order to reach their full potential,” she said.
On this subject, Osibona is speaking from direct experience as she addressed being the only black woman in a previous role for a number of years and how, when the workforce finally diversified, she felt more comfortable in her work environment.
“As the team became more diverse, this helped me grow, made me more comfortable to speak my truth and develop into the person I am today,” she said. “I’m a strong believer in inclusion because I went through it, and I know how it feels.”
Osibona’s commitment to diversity has led to her role on the executive committee of the Afro-Caribbean Insurance Association (ACIA), an organisation which launched in March of this year. Initially created to highlight the representation of black people within the insurance industry, the remit of the association has expanded to include all ethnic representation.
Going out to career fairs between September and October, the ACIA found over 500 students of ethnic backgrounds who were interested in joining the insurance industry.
“Not many people study insurance,” she said, “like me, they stumble into it and then realise what a great market it is and what a great career it is to have.”
The ACIA is committed to educating ethnic students about the insurance sector, and will be hosting ‘Insight Into Insurance’ events where students will have a chance to hear from and network with insurance professionals from a BAME background.
In association with iCAN, the ACIA ran an event at the 2019 Dive In festival about enabling confident conversations in the workplace for which Osibona was the event organiser. After a last-minute cancellation, Osibona was invited to speak on her experiences and the challenges she faced when making the transition from secretary to broker.
“I didn’t realise how many people I connected with while I was speaking,” she said.
In Osibona’s opinion there is an increased level of conversation about diversity in the insurance sector. This is especially true in terms of gender diversity, she said, and she outlined how the positive representation of women being promoted to higher positions will inspire future generations to aim ever higher in their careers. She highlighted awards ceremonies celebrating female achievement, such as the ‘Insurance Business Women in Insurance Awards’, as examples of the industry making positive changes.
Despite the value of diversity and inclusion events, however, Osibona stated that conversations around these subjects must be embraced by the people who can make core changes in their corporate culture and policies and recruitment.
Organisations are starting to notice that people are aware of a lag in diversity and inclusivity in the insurance industry, she said. As such, since she began her own career she has noticed increased diversity in meetings and in the general office floor space. These changes are being heralded by Osibona who stated that, “this is what I am destined to do. This is where I am supposed to be.”