The recent dismissal of the Gallagher suit against Ardonagh Group has been instrumental in highlighting the subject of racism within the insurance industry and in creating a dialogue around this sensitive subject. The Insurance Cultural Awareness Network (iCAN) has been at the forefront of addressing the topic and several of its figureheads spoke to Insurance Business about the issue.
“We certainly were appalled, certainly shocked and felt that there wasn’t a place for that sort of behaviour or language in the industry,” said Maxine Goddard (pictured above), head of sales operations and planning at Zurich Insurance UK, speaking on the comments made by a Gallagher employee that emerged in the case.
“We felt that it brought to the surface, something that was present for some time within the industry and also more broadly,” she stated, “and that we absolutely should not ignore that the problem exists.”
Heather Armond (pictured), head of internal communications at Allianz Global Corporate & Speciality identified that “perhaps because of the shocked nature of people’s responses, it will enable us to face the issue more head-on and really build on the issues that it’s raised.”
Goddard identified the universal nature of the problem and how racism is not unique to insurance but indicative of a wider societal issue.
“In terms of insurance,” she said, “we need to address that it’s not part of our profession and be very clear in all our messaging, both top-down and bottom-up that it’s not acceptable behaviour.”
Major companies need to lead the way when it comes to promoting this messaging, Goddard said, while detailing how every individual company and its employees must take responsibility and be accountable for their actions.
“In this particular case with Ardonagh/Gallagher,” she said, “we would expect to see more accountability within the organisation.”
Looking at the insurance sector, she stated the industry is moving the dial when it comes to diversity, with the ABI recording a figure of 16% BAME representation. Companies, whatever their recruitment policies, are addressing the issue, she said, but still need to do more.
“There are tonnes of resources available,” said Goddard, “whether it’s through iCAN, BIBA, ABI etc. there’s almost a movement of efforts to make sure that we’re being more inclusive in our language and in our behaviour.”
“With over 300,000 people now working in the industry, we need to make sure that the message is getting out to as many of these as possible,” Armond said, “and this, of course, takes time.”
Change, she detailed, can start very simply and emanates from being conscious in the actions you take regarding recruiting, staff development and learning, and promotions. An instrumental part of such change, she said, is having an inclusive mindset at every level of an organisation. This can be developed through mentoring, reverse mentoring, sponsorship and training.
Brokers looking to create more inclusive workplaces should heed the same advice, Goddard said, as she would give to any sector of the insurance industry. They must lead by example not only at a senior management level but also at the middle manager level and they must give everybody within their organisation the tools to make inclusive behaviour possible.
From cultural sensitivity and awareness training to unconscious bias training, Goddard stated, support must be given to generate understanding of this subject. Linking appropriate behaviour to business objectives and financial reward can also drive this awareness, she said, and performance management needs to be linked to inclusivity objectives.
Armond highlighted that iCAN focuses on practical and achievable goals as a strong foundation and minimum standard for organisations to use to grow in the right direction.
“We are always very happy to have conversations with people to help them set up an employee resource group, or just to have an open conversation with leaders or managers,” she said. “If people would like to get involved with iCAN, we’d be really happy to answer any questions that they have.”