What's behind the strategy of the best DE&I workplaces in the UK?

"We're not here to lobby and change things that might be out of our control"

What's behind the strategy of the best DE&I workplaces in the UK?

Diversity & Inclusion

By Mia Wallace

What does an effective diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) strategy look like in action? Insurance Business put this question to the insurance marketplace in its recent report into the Best Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Workplace in the UK‘.

IBUK’s ‘5-Star DE&I 2023’ report hailed organisations including Arch Insurance International and Flood Re for the efforts they have gone to create fully inclusive workplaces that empower employees to bring their whole selves to work.

See the full list of winners by reading the Best Insurance Companies to Work For in United Kingdom | Top Insurance Employers 2023 in IB's special report.

Experts from the Association of British Insurers (ABI) and Bain & Company lent their insights into the best practices of truly inclusive reforms, while Jenny Cooper, director of HR at 5-Star award winner Flood Re, highlighted how the company has implemented a successful DE&I scheme even though its employees have differing opinions and views. 

“You might be introducing something that is the right thing to do as the organisation,” she said. “Then you’ve got one group or one individual that absolutely thinks that’s great and you’ve got another that just can’t see that at all, and it’s at odds with a different belief or value that they hold.

“You can raise awareness, share information without imposing views in a way where people can be respected if they agree that they don’t agree. At the end of the day, we are here for a purpose – to deliver a reinsurance scheme. We’re not here to lobby and change things that might be out of our control.”

Liisa Antola, policy adviser, diversity, equity and inclusion at the ABI emphasised several core tenets underpinning the successful implementation of a DE&I policy including:

  • Making sure people aren’t offended, especially those from two or more protected groups
  • Listening to employees’ lived experiences and using them to inform policies
  • Looking at DE&I holistically and implementing it through one strategy
  • Using evidence – from feedback from staff, working groups, and networks and all levels of seniority – to identify and target barriers to implementation
  • Regularly reviewing and updating policies and procedures to tackle new challenges 

Maintaining a mindset that will create progressive outcomes is also important for Arch’s McLean.  “The industry is looking at how to have quantitative, measurable initiatives in place to actually move the dial and develop it from just being a conversation to being something practical that can lead to meaningful changes.”  

Addressing Arch Insurance International’s own DE&I structures, chief human resources officer Marcella McLean noted that the insurer is “fully focused” on DE&I targets, which are embedded into its strategy.

She highlighted some of the key fundamentals of Arch’s DE&I strategy including:

  • Committing time and managing the program over the long term
  • Leveraging executive-level resources to foster progress (top-down buy-in)
  • Accepting the need to hire people from other industries

“When I first joined, [CEO] Hugh Sturgess and I both agreed we were against tokenism,” she said. “We have found that by being meritocratic, objective and open in our hiring processes, we’ve achieved many of our diversity targets in advance of our target dates.”


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