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Diversity seen as key for insurers’ future

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Company directors would be better positioned to make decisions in a fast-changing world if they consult with an “under-25 mentor”.

That is the view of Charlotte Valeur, a corporate governance adviser, who believes that understanding how young people live is an important attribute for boards leading companies in a fast-changing world.

Ms Valeur was one of the of the panel members discussing talent and diversity at the EY Global (Re)insurance Outlook conference at the Hamilton Princess.

“All board members should have an under-25 mentor,” Ms Valeur told delegates. “You have to know how they live and what they want.”

The conversation was being held against the backdrop of a potential hiring crisis in the insurance industry. As “baby boomers” retire, around 400,000 people will exit the industry over the next five years. And the industry faces a challenge attracting talented young people.

Surveys suggest that most of the “millennial” generation does not view insurance as an attractive industry in which to work.

Jeff Stier, a New York-based EY partner, told the conference that purpose was key to attracting millennials.

“Millennials don't buy into what we do — they buy into why we do it,” Mr Stier said.

Purpose was a human factor, rather than a business, and purpose was “why employees work so hard to deliver profit”, he added.

Cultivating purpose in a business was difficult, because purpose was an esoteric term, he said.

“Purpose is all about what behaviours you want your employees to have,” Mr Stier said. “Purposeful transformation is nothing more than behavioural change.”

Kathleen Reardon, chief executive officer of Hamilton Re, said that more than 250 firms from the industry would be taking part in a career month initiative in February. Hiring young talent was essential for the industry in order to innovate for the modern world, she added.

“Millennials working in those companies will go onto college campuses to try to attract other millennials,” she said.

“We may not be as exciting to work for as Google, but if we don't innovate then the Googles will do it for us.”

Eileen Whelley, XL Catlin's chief human resources officer, said: “Insurance is older than many other industries. We have many baby boomers who know that 60 is the new 40.

“I want what millennials want. I don't want to go and knit scarves. I want to work for a purposeful organisation and have a flexible schedule.”

Ms Valeur agreed: “What millennials want is nothing new — it's what women in the workforce have wanted for 50 years. But it was just coming from one gender. The difference with millennials is that it's what both genders want.”

Diversity was a key aspect for a firm looking to be purpose driven, Mr Stier said. And surveys showed that those companies with diverse leadership could boost profitability by 20 to 30 per cent.

Ms Valeur said: “If diversity is a business value, you have to show it from the top. You can't say the organisation is all about diversity and have all white males on the board.”

Ms Whelley said there was a clear link between diversity in an organisation and its ability to innovate. The insurance industry had much room for improvement in diversity, she added. Only 12 per cent of insurance companies had a board that could be described as diverse and only 6 per cent had a diverse senior management.

The future: the insurance and reinsurance industry need to attract more talented young people, who represent a diversity of backgrounds, in the coming years. It is anticipated that around 400,000 ‘baby boomers' will retire from the sector during the next five years
Diversity is key: Charlotte Valeur, founder and chairwoman of Board Apprentice Ltd

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Published December 29, 2015 at 8:00 am (Updated December 28, 2015 at 7:33 pm)

Diversity seen as key for insurers’ future

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