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Diversity seen as key to reinsurers’ future

The reinsurance industry needs to play more than just lip service to diversity, a panel warned an industry conference yesterday.

And speakers said that the business needed to mobilise and motivate underrepresented groups to ensure it stays relevant and profitable.

Kathleen Faries, head of Bermuda's Tokio Millennium Re branch, added: “We really seem to be struggling with implementation and trying to figure out the kind of change we need to see in our industry.”

Ms Faries said that US figures showed that women made up 55 per cent of middle managers, but only 2 per cent of CEOs and board members.

She added: “Even though we talk about diversity being important, I still think we have a lot of work to do to get this embedded into our culture.”

Ms Faries admitted that, if everyone who worked for her looked like her and had similar life experiences, management would be easy.

But she said that companies stood to lose out in the long run unless they made a serious effort to broaden their employee base.

Ms Faries added: “We have to start a really honest discussion around how we make it happen.”

She was joined on the panel to discuss how the sector can harness diversity by Talia Lucas, manager of insurance and reinsurance and strategic leader of the gender diversity initiative at PwC Bermuda, Arthur Wightman, territory leader and regional insurance and markets leader for PwC on the island and moderator Leslie Fenton, managing director of corporate finance at PwC.

Ms Lucas said: “It's the time for us to be embedding diversity in our organisations and diversity is so much more than men and women.”

She explained that a range of ethnic backgrounds, age differences, and diversity in educational background were all needed to help companies keep up with a changing world environment.

Mr Wightman said it had been statistically proven that diversity was needed to ensure that companies continued to grow and remained profitable.

Ms Faries added: “If you're going to be diverse, you have to be diverse at the leadership level as well.”

And she said that statistics existed to show that women, minorities and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people were up to 25 per cent less likely to have their ideas listened to and supported.

Ms Faries added that companies needed to call out stereotyping and educate their staff on unconscious bias if they wanted to harness the widest possible range of opinion in their businesses.

She said that the millennial generation and their ideas also had to be brought on board.

Ms Faries added: “We do need younger people in the industry and we need these people throughout the organisation if we really are going to transform ourselves and avoid being disrupted from outside.

“We want to make sure and feel like diversity is embedded in the culture and that everyone's opinion counts and the organisation sees everyone's opinion as equal.”

But she said: “Even though we view ourselves as very diverse, to be honest and transparent, we have a lot of work to do.”

Ms Lucas, 25 and a representative of the millennial generation, said afterwards: “I would say that diversity strategies are moving from ‘something nice to have' to ‘something need to have'.

“Any business that's looking to to innovate, develop and be around a long time needs to be considering diversity and how they will manage their potential for leveraging diverse talent.

“There is a war for talent at the moment.”

She added that a “million-dollar cottage industry” had grown up around discussing millennials and the differences between them and older generations.

But Ms Lucas said: “If we are looking at well-executed research across the whole business, what millennials are looking for isn't that different.”

She added: “There is a new way of thinking — they are digital natives. There is a significant difference in the perspective of someone who is aged 20 and someone who is 40 — how they would look at and solve a problem is different from someone of a different age and education.”

Diverse viewpoint: the Bermuda Reinsurance conference panel on promoting diversity in the industry reatures: from left, moderator Leslie Fenton, Kathleen Faries, Talia Lucas and Arthur Wightman

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Published November 09, 2016 at 8:00 am (Updated November 08, 2016 at 7:26 pm)

Diversity seen as key to reinsurers’ future

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