Lloyd's leader John Neal on putting culture at the heart of insurance

He reveals why "there is much more to do"

Lloyd's leader John Neal on putting culture at the heart of insurance

Diversity & Inclusion

By Mia Wallace

As with any journey worth taking, the road to comprehensive diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) begins with a single step – and is made possible by individuals and businesses being willing to take those incremental steps as many times as necessary.

Touching on some of the standout moments that define the ongoing DE&I journey of Lloyd’s of London, CEO John Neal (pictured) noted that a number of significant events – three in three years – have made a huge difference to how culture is approached within the world’s oldest insurance marketplace.

“In 2019 we had a very worrying investigation by Bloomberg into some of the behaviours in the Lloyd’s market,” he said. “I think when that came out, it really shone a light on how much culture work we needed to do. We introduced a Culture Survey – to find out first-hand, experiences of and attitudes to various different aspects of culture – alongside a series of targets to promote diversity in our market.”

Then in 2020, in the wake of activism against racial inequality following the murder of George Floyd, Lloyd’s apologised for its role in Trans-Atlantic slavery and committed to several actions to improve ethnic diversity, development and representation.

Neal said he is proud of how Lloyd’s has handled this sensitive work, forming independent academic partnerships with Black Beyond Data from Johns Hopkins University, re-curating historical displays in the Lloyd’s building and providing in-depth information on its website. He highlighted that all of these initiatives will go towards helping Lloyd’s in delivering against its ethnicity ambitions.

“In 2021, the global pandemic hit all businesses and we’ve been working through the balance of flexibility, agile and remote working that enables our market to function effectively, given it is a market built on relationships,” he said. “We recruited a head of culture in 2022, and have launched our Culture Strategy against which we are making good progress.

“Lloyd’s has achieved Gold level Clear Assured status for our inclusive practices and has risen from 75th to 45th on the Social Mobility Foundation’s, Social Mobility Employer’s Index, but there is much more to do.”

Amid these milestones, Neal has seen how the outlook towards DE&I in the Lloyd’s market is changing. The Culture Survey results reveal that the market is a more inclusive place than it has been before, he said, and this is in part due to attitudes shifting. It’s important to say that one of the true differentiators of the insurance marketplace has been its ability to attract talent, he said – therefore, it’s hugely important, through both design and intent, that the market is inclusive if it wants to represent the very best in the insurance industry.

“We are very aware that there is a need for more education and more leadership capability around diversity and inclusion to ensure we meet our D&I and culture goals,” he said. “Leadership accountability for change is an important part of shifting attitudes.

“Does it feel different on the ground, or in the room? I’m not sure it does yet – but that’s hopefully the step that follows a mindset shift. Every year for the last eight years, the insurance industry globally has hosted Dive In which is all about DE&I. This year there were over 25,000 attendees to events from 98 countries. This is absolutely showing that attitudes are shifting but we need to work out how to turn this into action.”

There are several key areas where more work needs to be done around DE&I – as revealed by Lloyd’s ‘Market Policies and Practices and Culture Survey’ results. These results show slow but steady progress year on year, he said, but reveal that more leadership accountability is needed to move the dial on DE&I.

The market is now at 30% women in leadership, he said, so achieving parity in that respect needs to remain one of Lloyd’s priorities. The organisation has also set a one-in-three hiring ambition for ethnic minority talent and the market is achieving approximately a 15% hiring rate, so again, there is more to do. 

Neal noted that Lloyd’s set out a number of ethnicity commitments in 2020 and that he is proud to say the team has delivered on many of them. 

    • Charitable funding, 
    • Sponsoring Race Equality initiatives
    • The one-in-three hiring ambition, mandating the collection of ethnicity data, publishing ethnicity pay gap information
    • Accelerate programme for ethnic minority talent 

“Areas like disability and accessibility need more focus and we need more data on social mobility,” he said. “We are active in this space through many of our partnerships such as our partnership with SEO London, but we’re still not where we want to be.”

A common challenge around DE&I is how to convert thoughts and ideas into actions, and Neal highlighted that talk without action isn’t enough, especially for the next generation of talent.

There is a pressing need to look closely at transparency, he said, and publishing data and being deliberate in the drive to improve diversity, inclusion and culture is now an understandable, expectation. Similarly to the expectations of the next generation of talent around sustainability and climate, these aren’t ‘nice to do's’ anymore - and, “they never should have been if we’re honest with ourselves.”

“I think we’ve been pretty robust at Lloyd’s in putting concrete steps in place – and not just nice-sounding initiatives,” he said. “We’ve factored culture and inclusion into our performance process, making culture a critical performance factor in how we assess the market’s annual plans. We take the culture of the market very seriously and take action where standards are not upheld. It’s important that we don’t just say we care about it, we have to act where there are those who do not live up to the standards expected.”

Examining how leaders can become more accountable and empower their own people, Neal highlighted that the good news is that the market now has a clear view as to what a good organisation looks and feels like. And for many people, he said, who you work for and who you work with is as important as how much you get paid. No one in 2022 can underestimate the importance of setting the right cultural framework for a business or an organisation to succeed.

“I actually think we need to treat diversity like insurance,” he said. “Gather the data to identify risk areas, put in place activities to mitigate the risks to your talent pool, set targets for diversity like you would for combined ratio outcomes and hold your leaders to account for performance. If we do that we will shift the dial. 

“I also think we can give them direct access to leaders to make sure their voices are heard and they feel they can drive action forward – as we’ve sought to do with our Employee Change Forums, which the chairman and I meet with regularly.”

His time in the insurance market has enabled Neal to see first-hand the ins and outs of what it takes to lay the secure foundations on which a healthy culture might flourish. He emphasised that setting the tone for culture and inclusion needs the same level of commitment as the ambition to deliver good performance or have the right technology. 

“At Lloyd’s, our Advance and Accelerate programmes for female and ethnic minority talent have been very successful in developing cohorts of future leaders,” he said. “Dive In is also a huge success, with 150 + events in over 40 countries this year. Increases in women in leadership and the increase in ethnic minority representation are also progressing – with 18 firms now meeting the 35% women in leadership target and 11 firms meeting the one-in-three hiring ambition. 

“Embedding culture as part of our oversight process has also been a big step forward. I think we can point to a number of successes but there remains much to do.”

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