Discussing his DE&I journey to date in an interview with Insurance Business, Mark Lomas (pictured), head of culture at Lloyd’s, revealed his somewhat unusual route into the sector. All his education and professional experience had been in music up until the point where his daughter was born. The musicians he was working with were going off on tour but, for him, he said, it was important to be with his partner and their child.
“To keep busy, I took a role with a disability charity,” he said. “I had no idea of business etiquette and I was probably a bit of a pain in backside! One day the regional manager said I should share my observations on their ways of working at the National E&D Committee. It sounded like a free train trip, sandwich and some tea – so I said ‘yes’. That was the critical moment that started my career in DE&I. One manager thought there was something interesting about the way I saw things and offered me an opportunity.”
Lomas’ 20-year-strong DE&I story is infused with standout achievements and learning moments and he paid special credit to the fantastic colleagues he’s had the opportunity to work with along the way.
“One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that in a role like mine – where you’re tasked with creating more inclusive cultures for everyone – you need to be able to answer the question from anyone in the organization, ‘What have you done for me lately?’.
“This was the question I was asked at my first all-staff event as I proudly talked about making it into the Top 100 of the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index – but not how that translated to real difference on the ground for people,” he said. “I’ve never forgotten that moment and it reminds me every day that to do a great job as a diversity, equity & inclusion (DE&I) professional, you need to represent everyone. At its best, DE&I is about change.”
Another major milestone was the first DE&I Award he won while at the Law Society, Lomas said, which really gave him confidence in his approach to managing DE&I and delivering it as a change process. His role as head of DE&I at HS2 gave him the opportunity to shape a system and an organization, and discharge that through procurement and contract management processes.
“We achieved a lot as an HR team at HS2 and it was rewarding to see the progress of our strategy across the industry,” he said. “And now on to Lloyd’s! It’s a fantastic opportunity with some real challenges. Eighteen (18) months in I’m pleased with our progress, both the corporation and the market – but there is much more to do.”
Touching on how he came to join the insurance profession, he noted that he first experienced Lloyd’s in 2014, when as a consultant he was involved in working on an inclusive recruitment review. That gave him an appreciation of the market, its complexities and the cultural challenges it has faced.
“When I felt that we had successfully delivered the strategy at HS2, I began to explore new opportunities that could affect positive change – so when the Lloyd’s head of culture role came up, I was very keen to throw my name in,” he said. “Insurance, especially the Lloyd’s Market is a fascinating place from a culture perspective. There’s nearly 400 years of history – which we should respect and celebrate, while also being transparent about it.
“That’s the approach we’ve taken with our work on Lloyd’s role in the Transatlantic slave economy, where the research outputs and response will be launched in November. Beyond that, there’s the modern history and the changes we need to make to ensure the market can digitalize to become smarter, faster and cheaper – alongside the broader need to ensure the market embraces diversity, new thinking, new skills and innovation to meet the changing expectations of talent.”
The market is definitely making progress, he said - it’s very close to reaching its 35% women in leadership target, and it’s seeing increased diversity across many characteristics at all levels, including leadership. But even though it’s catching up, it does remain behind. Insurance lags behind other financial services when it comes to the diversity of its workforce, and behind many other industries in terms of perceptions of new talent.
“In a 2022 Cybil study, insurance was ranked 10th out of 16 in terms of most attractive industries to talent – and probably only placed that well because it was part of broader financial services,” he said. “It’s true insurance is probably five-to-seven years behind leading industries on DE&I, but I firmly believe we will catch up in the next few years.
“I see evidence of improvements in our Markets, Policies & Practices (MP&P) return and in our annual culture survey. So I’m very positive about the future for the Lloyd’s Market.”
Looking at what Lloyd’s ‘Culture Strategy’ has achieved, Lomas highlighted the key to implementing a successful strategy: a good strategy has to set a clear aim and aspiration, he said. Introducing targets can feel artificial – and it’s the action behind them that matters – but they do help define what ‘good’ looks like.
“So, it also needs to set out how you will achieve the aspirations over time and how progress will be measured,” he said. “Critically, the expectation of higher standards, better practices and improved culture need to be built into performance and the organization’s broader objectives. We all win if we collectively shift the dial on culture. Better availability and access to talent means better performing teams, more product innovation from diverse perspectives, and ultimately a market where people want to come and work.”
Also critical to moving the dial on DE&I are industry-wide events such as the Dive In Festival, which Lomas described as the “Glastonbury for DE&I”.
“It’s a superb insurance industry initiative which started in London in 2015 and has grown into a global phenomenon in nearly 40 countries, with 35,000 participants and participants tuning in from 97 countries,” he said. “The reach of Dive In is truly amazing. Collaboration is what makes Dive In a profound initiative: it’s a huge feat that takes a ton of organization and willing volunteers across the globe.”
This year’s Dive In theme is ‘Unlocking Innovation: The Power of Inclusion’. Lomas noted that this translates to the need for business leaders to understand the importance of diversity in creating innovation and commercial success. As with all things, he said, there is also a need for evolution.
“In the Lloyd’s strategy, we talk about making the market a destination for global talent,” he said. “As part of this year’s Dive In, we will be running ‘Dive In to Reverse Mentoring’, a program showing the opportunity for leaders to be paired with talent across the globe to foster better understanding, new perspectives and more effective ideas.
“Dive In has been wonderful in supporting education around DE&I and ensuring that learning is delivered in an impactful manner. The next step for Dive In is to take that impact throughout the year – so over the next two years, we will evolve Dive In by adding new elements without losing the core festival feel. Exciting times!”
Interested in diversity, equity and inclusion topics? Click here to catch up on any Dive In 2022 events you missed