From Problem to Progress

From Problem to Progress 150 150 Equity

A Look into Lloyd’s Market Policies & Practices Report and Inclusive Futures

In an era where diversity and inclusion are increasingly recognised as vital components of organisational success, Lloyd’s of London is spearheading the movement towards a more equitable future. Acknowledging its historical involvement with the slave trade, Lloyd’s recent initiatives to foster diversity not only underscore its dedication to societal advancement but also emphasise the urgent need for the broader insurance industry to embrace inclusivity.

The recent report, Lloyd’s fifth Market Policies and Practices (MP&P), sheds light on the statistical progress of our journey towards cultivating diversity and inclusion within the marketplace. With a concerted effort to enhance the representation of women and ethnically diverse individuals, Lloyd’s has made commendable progress in aligning its ethos with contemporary standards of equity and fairness.

One of the key highlights from the report is the notable progress made towards Lloyd’s ambitious 1 in 3 hiring target which aims for one third of all hires market-wide to come from ethnically diverse backgrounds. The data reveals that 21% of new hires in the past year hailed from ethnically diverse backgrounds, marking a commendable increase of +4 percentage points. Moreover, the report showcases that 27% of graduates and apprentices hired were from ethnically diverse backgrounds, indicating a promising trend in nurturing diverse talent from the ground up.

It is particularly encouraging to note that 32% of firms have now surpassed a hiring rate of 30% for ethnically diverse candidates, reflecting a concerted effort by organisations to prioritise inclusivity in their recruitment strategies. This positive momentum in hiring practices has contributed to a steady increase in ethnic minority representation within the insurance market workforce, which now stands at 13%, representing a commendable growth of +2 percentage points from the previous year and +4 percentage points over the span of two years.

A critical aspect requiring improvement is the representation of ethnic minorities in leadership roles. The report indicates that ethnic minority representation in leadership roles has remained steady at 9%, highlighting the need for continued efforts to develop a diverse talent pipeline, particularly for board-level positions. Addressing this gap will require a multifaceted approach, including targeted mentorship programs, leadership development initiatives, and inclusive hiring practices.

Although the data above indicates signs of progress, there remains significant work ahead to transform that progress into a source of pride. One initiative that promises to be a game-changer, led by Lloyd’s, marks a pivotal moment in the market’s history: the Inclusive Futures project. This market-wide program aims to support Black and ethnically diverse individuals in participating, progressing, and thriving from classrooms to boardrooms over the next decade. The program has already made impactful investments in key delivery partners, including Equity City, while also committing to recruitment targets, offering bursaries, organising events, and more.

Equity City takes pride in being a crucial delivery partner for Inclusive Futures. We have recently assembled a team of leading recruitment and D&I professionals to drive this project forward. This endeavour allows Equity to intensify its efforts in creating exclusive talent pools with the best diverse candidates, while also hosting flagship events for partners of Inclusive Futures.

In conclusion, Lloyd’s proactive stance towards diversity and inclusion sets a commendable precedent for the insurance industry and beyond. With initiatives like the Inclusive Futures project, Lloyd’s not only demonstrates a commitment to initiating restorative action for historical injustices but also to fostering a more equitable future for all. While strides have been made, particularly in hiring practices, the journey towards true diversity and inclusion is ongoing. As partners in this journey, organisations like Equity City play a crucial role in advancing these objectives, ensuring that progress translates into tangible outcomes and a source of pride for all stakeholders involved.

Junior Garba
CEO & Co-Founder

Let’s talk about race

Let’s talk about race 1920 1280 Equity

Peter Jajua’s journey to a career in Insurance

An internship in the summer of 2018 opened my eyes to the insurance sector and the opportunities within my reach, but also made me aware of the very evident lack of diversity.

I was born and raised in Hackney, East London, a diverse area where I attended a school with people of all cultures and backgrounds. However, it wasn’t until my time at university that I realized how privileged I was to have had such experiences. I noticed that many of my peers’ experiences with people of different cultures were limited. I picked up on this a lot whilst studying for my Law degree.

I had interned at a couple of the Magic Circle law firms and some of the top companies in the financial services industry both during and before my time at Law school, but my experience in the London Market was what led me into wanting to pursue a career in insurance. I remember my family’s surprise as they thought I was heading toward a career as a Litigation Lawyer, but my internships in insurance were a wake-up call. I found the work-life balance, social aspects, and challenges more suited to my attributes than law. However, I observed that there were very few people with similarities to my demographic and interests, making it difficult to find role models. This realization motivated me to address the issue of diversity in the industry. To some, this might have been disheartening and put them off a career in such a sector, but if we all had an attitude like that then change would never occur.

To put it quite simply, for a variety of reasons, not many people from my world went on to work in corporate insurance. But I believe it alone exposes one of the issues, and we should actively promote discussions about it. Without addressing the issue of market diversity, in my opinion, we’ll just stay stuck in a never-ending cycle of the same individuals getting the same opportunities. This is part of the reason I’ve developed such a close relationship with ACIN – we share the same concerns and are working to change the narrative. My discussions with Aaron, Junior, and Godwin constantly revolve around what it’s like being a minority in the market and how we can help. It’s something that’s always been important to me. From a young age, I saw the importance of D&I, but I think for most people, it didn’t resonate before the George Floyd incident. It’s great to see more people realising how crucial it is, but there’s also frustration affiliated with that emotion as I believe that the issue was just as relevant and important prior.

After a year in the job, I see it more clearly. Ours is not a diverse market, but it is diversifying. Sometimes I feel like people are scared to have conversations about these things, but it’s good to talk – we need to make the entire market a safe place to have these conversations to encourage progress. Conversations about this issue are essential, and it is reassuring that Brit encourages such discussions. I am a member of Brit’s Employee Resource Group, R.I.S.E (Race, Inclusion, Solidarity & Equality), where we have conversations that might otherwise be avoided in the office, to ensure voices are heard, and everyone is included.

At Brit, our head of D&I, Wayne Page, is passionate about hiring diverse talent of people from all religions, genders, sexual orientations, and races. If the rest of the market could mirror Brit’s attitude toward diversity and inclusion, we could see more progress than we have seen so far. It can be challenging for someone who looks like me to integrate into the London insurance market, but we must talk about cultural differences and actively work toward change. It’s easy to become accustomed to the feeling of being different, and I’ll admit I did for a while. But instead, we need to take action by having conversations and actively participating in efforts to bring about change. I believe it’s everyone’s responsibility to encourage that change.

Peter Jajua
Property treaty underwriting assistant
Brit Insurance

Being the Sulaiman I am

Being the Sulaiman I am 1920 1280 Equity

Being one of only a few people from an ethnic minority background is not indifferent to me. Originally from Harrow in North West London, I was around 11 years old when we moved up north to Doncaster. At the time a predominantly Caucasian town. One of my first memories of noticing a difference was my first day of school, walking into the assembly hall and feeling as though every single eye in the room was on me, being the only Black person in the entire school. From there I went to University in Middlesbrough, once again I was in a less diverse area for another 4 years.

During my Masters year I had a part-time job working for AXA within their inbound car sales team, which sparked my interest in a career working with policy wordings, risks, and underwriting. After university, I moved to Australia to travel and play football for a year with a team there, but insurance was following me around: by coincidence, the team owner worked for Chubb at the time.

I told him about my job during uni, and my interest in the sector as a career. He arranged a six-month contract job for me, working as an Operations Support Officer in Chubb’s local Financial Lines unit. I was hooked – I wanted to work in big finance, and I liked the idea of a wearing a suit in a fancy building. I was into the insurance industry.

Being in an even more foreign land than England I again found myself being one of very few Black people in the office. During my time in Australia, I met many people who had never met or even spoken to a Black person before. I almost felt I had to be the poster boy for Black people – a colleague and friend of mine from Singapore even took pictures or videos of me to show to her friends back home.

I felt like I had taken up this unofficial role to represent Black people to all those who’d had no experience of us, and felt an overwhelming responsibility to present Black people in contrast to what they may have seen on the television, news or social media. I did not want them to pre-judge me simply by the colour of my skin.

When I moved back home to England I got a job working for Azur High Net Worth (an MGA for AIG), again 1 of 3 Black people in the office at the time. After a year or so, I moved from Operations to Underwriting, and by this time I had spent so much time being a minority that going into the London Market was not a change in this respect.

It is natural for anyone to drift towards people who are visibly similar to them. I have always had a group of Black friends. I have a lot of White friends too, though, especially in football. In certain situations, I find that there is somewhat a shift, a code-switch, between groups of White and Black friends. The banter is different and the words/slang I would use varies between both groups. For example, there’s the football changing room banter, where certain comments or jokes are made (in the showers, for example). They are often light-hearted in nature and not meant with malicious intent, but these sort of things you just learn to tolerate and to be honest, I don’t know if that’s the right or wrong way of dealing with things. In the workplace, having an ethnic first and last name – it’s no surprise seeing your name misspelt in an email or mispronounced in conversation.

Having said all this, during my time working within insurance I’ve been fortunate enough to work alongside some brilliant colleagues from different backgrounds and walks of life, who have firstly never made me feel out of place or any different and taken the time and interest to learn and ask about my background and how to pronounce my name properly. Little things like this can make the biggest difference into creating a truly inclusive workforce.

I do believe the Market is becoming more diverse with companies now showing more initiative in pushing Inclusion & Diversity within their companies, such as Lloyd’s Race Action Through Leadership initiative. Here within Brit, we have a number of Employee Resource Groups, R.I.S.E (Race, Inclusion, Solidarity & Equality) being the relevant one for this blog have put together a number of workshops around race, Black History Month events and even brought in guest speakers to discuss their personal challenges. They also have a key partnership with ACIN (African Caribbean Insurance Network) to help push diversity within recruitment in the insurance industry. Through our Inclusion and Diversity Committee I’m enrolled on a Reverse Mentoring scheme where employees from an ethnic minority background are paired with a senior member of staff seeking to raise awareness around the cultures of diverse groups within the organisation and the barriers faced by such groups.

One of Brit’s cultural philosophies is to bring your whole self to work, which I strongly resonate with. With anything in life, nothing is perfect, but I believe Brit and many other companies are working hard to build a supportive culture in which everyone feels valued and appreciated.

Sulaiman Deeks Massaquoi
Private Client Assistant Underwriter
Brit Insurance

White, Black, Asian, Other

White, Black, Asian, Other 1920 1280 Equity

I was born in London, but I have always been other.

My parents are Iraqi Kurdish. They fled Kurdistan during the Gulf War and came to London in 1987 after spending a year in Iran. Stripped of the identities and privileges they’d had at home; they started their new lives from scratch. I was a refugee child, and I was Other.

I grew up in a predominantly white neighbourhood, but there were some ethnic minorities too. Back then, you were either white, black, or one of the few that were Asian. All these groups had an ethnic box to tick, a community to feel at home in. However, I was Other.

I had to find a place to fit in, so I gravitated to those that faced similar struggles. I was bullied a few times in school and endured racial slurs which were not meant for me. As strange as it may sound, I was more frustrated that the slurs did not apply to me – that they were simply generic slurs for non-whites and not accurate of my background. It was as if my race was such an insignificant and trivial thing – no one was bothered to find out about my heritage.

However, following 9/11 and the Iraq invasion in 2003, everything changed. Overnight, the world news swiftly brought Iraq into sharp focus and the Middle East was in the mouths of those with sharp tongues. I was called a ‘terrorist’, ‘Taliban supporter’ and jokes were made about being chemically gassed and whether Saddam was hiding in my house. Whilst of course these were and still are vile comments, in a strange way, my warped dream back then was fulfilled. It was the first time people started to take an interest in my background and correctly identified my heritage – but, sadly, I was associated with war, destruction and negativity. The pain this caused daily however, was not seen, it was not spoken about.

In the 1990s, I would come home and see my parents sobbing at the news: more war, more children dead, more bombings and more destruction in parts of the Middle East. I accepted this as a part of life – something which just happens. I’d go to school, and not discuss it, but it impacted me. I will always have that trauma buried deeply within me. So does, I think, every member of an underrepresented group from a traumatised diaspora.

Fast forward to 2020 and the murder of George Floyd, the working world changed. We were all encouraged to discuss what happened, to talk in meetings about how the tragic incident made everyone feel. However, this was not the first time the black community had experienced police violence and racism – it’s just that before now, society shied away from these issues when black people tried to raise them. Instead, they would have to bury their pain and collective suffering deep within them. Although what happened in the United States catapulted companies to create diversity programmes, provide unconscious bias training, attempt inclusive recruitment, and of course have jollof rice competitions – most of us are still asking is this enough? Are things really changing?

The storm has now passed, and the status quo remains/returns. We from underrepresented groups don’t always talk in meetings about what’s happening to our people here and/or ‘back home’. When everyone is silent, our trauma is repressed. We sink it deep down into our bodies and bury what’s happening to our people. We just ‘deal with it’ internally, rarely talking about it.

I don’t go around demanding that people know about Kurds. Still, almost every conversation I’ve had with people about my heritage between primary school and up until a few years ago – has been a lesson in history and geography. The internalised is complex to vocalise, but it has made me want to educate people. When I cannot talk about my background and Kurdistan, I have latched onto any topic involving diversity and inclusion. It’s a way to cope.

With any underrepresented group, I’ve absorbed their culture, made it my own in the best way I can. I’ve attached myself to their struggles – taken them out to try to make sense of it all on a wider scale. It’s why I’m so passionate about diversity and inclusion – it’s the reason, in my view, we should all be passionate about this area.

Diversity and inclusion strategies have become the heart of business culture – but much more still needs to be done: our journey is just beginning.

Delovan Ghafoor
Marketing, communications and inclusive diversity manager
Sompo Canopius

Opening Lloyd’s closed ecosystem

Opening Lloyd’s closed ecosystem 1920 1280 Equity

A discussion with Mark Lomas FCIPD, Head of Culture @ Lloyd’s

Lloyd’s has set an ambition to boost ethnic diversity in the world’s oldest insurance market. It wants at least one of every three hires to be individuals from an ethnic background. Godwin Sosi, Co-Founder of ACIN, spoke about Lloyd’s ethnicity challenges and solutions with Mark Lomas, Lloyd’s recently appointed Head of Culture.

Q: Why has the Lloyd’s market introduced central ambitions for ethnic hiring?

A: To understand that, you need to understand the history of Lloyd’s. It’s more than 300 years old, and on the risk front it has moved with the times. From its origins as a marine insurance market, Lloyd’s went on to be the first, or one of the first insurers of motor cars and airplanes, then satellites, cyber protection and driverless vehicles. But on the culture front – Lloyd’s wasn’t as fast at changing with the times. We didn’t have our first female broker until 1972.

In 2019, following on from the Me Too movement, Lloyd’s received some negative media coverage about the market’s culture of sexual harassment and alcohol consumption. Together with our market stakeholders, we realised we needed to set new expectations. Lloyd’s responded with a concerted push to improve gender diversity in leadership positions, and introduced a ‘speaking up’ campaign to drive action. Then in 2020, when the Black Lives Matter movement placed focus on Lloyd’s historical involvement in the Transatlantic slave economy (through marine insurance), we took the step of apologising for our role in slavery – one of the first UK organisations to do so – and committed to taking steps to improve racial equality and opportunity today.

To do that we needed to understand the lived experience of Black people in our market. Lloyd’s set out to measure its diversity and explore its history, to research, reflect, and respond. Lloyd’s has now made commitments ranging from charitable donations and leadership development programmes, to its ambitious one in three hiring ambition to draw people from diverse communities into jobs at Lloyd’s. We will measure progress against the one in three hiring ambition through our market-wide Policies and Practices return.

Q: Why is all that important?

A: We are a global market built on relationships, including (for the most part) in the employee selection process. But we cannot afford to be complacent about how and where we look for talent, because diversity in our workforce directly helps us understand the insurance solutions of the future. We need to stay ahead of the times.

And to do that we need the best people – fast. Lloyd’s has been like a tightknit community historically – which is positive in some settings, but in others means key roles like actuarial and underwriting don’t see enough of a diverse talent pipeline. So we have a skills gap ahead. Diversity improves the perception and understanding of our industry among a wider group of potential future employees, and we cannot afford to overlook that talent. It also gives us a more representative understanding of our customers, so we can innovate for them. It’s good business.

Finally, we have an obligation and a responsibility to respond to Lloyd’s past. Our focus on ethnic minority talent today is a vital way of ensuring we recognise and live up to that responsibility.

Q: So that has driven the one-in-three ambition?

A: Partly. Overall, the market’s workforce diversity is aroudn 9% ethnic minority. But it’s very much lower in some specific occupations, and in leadership. Targets that influence hiring methodologies are the best way to move the dial effectively in a short time, to get to ten or twelve percent representation soon – and open up the market’s ecosystem for recruitment.

It means we need the support of organisations like ACIN, because some companies don’t know how to look for talent beyond their immediate networks. And it’s important to say that some firms in the market already hire at one in three, proving it can be achieved. The Corporation of Lloyd’s is at 31%, but in the market as a whole we’re at about 15%.

Q: Are enough people available to meet that ambition?

A: Yes – quoting an inadequate supply of diverse talent is a convenient, but untrue excuse. Insurance requires all kinds of skills: IT, HR, marketing… even underwriting has specialisms. True, some technical areas are more challenging than others. Our data shows that a more diverse pipeline of actuaries is coming through at university level, for example, but we probably cannot place a number of Chief Underwriting Officers from diverse communities in the next six months. We can hire a more diverse cohort into the market as underwriting assistants, though, and watch them rise. The skills and potential are out there, but we have to apply new thinking to open the ecosystem and attract new people.

Q: Don’t quotas sometimes block the best talent?

A: Quotas are unlawful! Positive discrimination is illegal in the UK. So Lloyd’s has introduced a form of positive action, rather than a quota. It encourages employers to look at how they do things, and change them to benefit from an improved system of recruitment. Targets work! We’ve proved it by changing the gender balance at Lloyd’s.

But we have to overcome old habits and attitudes. The belief that we currently operate in a perfect meritocracy is flawed. The desire to hire the best people is genuine, but the criteria used to judge candidates is often less to do with skills, ability and objective criteria than it should be. To get where we want to be, we need to evaluate talent based on skill and potential, not networks or confidence. We need to recruit differently to ensure we consider the people with the best skillsets, not those most readily available, or those who would be the ‘best fit’.

Finally, it’s important that this is about talent, not just corporate box-ticking. Our market has an ageing technical workforce. A couple of generations of young talent don’t see the insurance sector as particularly attractive, even inside the ecosystem. We need to do something about it, and our hiring ambition is one way to try and prevent the skill shortages developing for us that are currently impacting sectors like engineering. It is also a way to address our legacy in a positive and proactive manner, by getting diversity into the pipeline.

Q: We can hire the right people, but how do we make them into the specialists and leaders of the future?

A: Companies in the Lloyd’s market need to be honest about the need for informal development and network opportunities for ethnic minorities and other diverse groups. Individuals need the opportunity to go to a conference with the boss, or to dinner. The boss needs to put people into their network. They need to be honest and deliberate with sponsorship, mentoring, and reverse mentoring, using all the levers available to create a critical mass of self-sustaining diversity.

Q: What’s the outlook?

A: I am super optimistic. Lloyd’s companies see the benefits of diverse cultures – and I believe many are up for the challenge.

Mark Lomas
Head of culture

Change the conversation

Change the conversation 1920 1280 Equity

By Angela Gordon, Company Secretary, Tokio Marine Kiln

I’m the parent of a 15 year old son. Being mum to a teenager is difficult enough; I don’t need the added torment of his being stopped and searched on his way to buy sweets. But I do need to tell you how that’s made me feel.

One very normal day when lockdown had first eased, I collected Marcel then 14 years old from school. He trotted off to the corner shop in our suburban Kent community. I had a call within ten minutes’ time to tell me that whilst making that short, incredibly normal journey he’d been stopped by a police officer, questioned, and patted down.

My dismay and anger at the decision to stop Marcel for no discernible reason other than the colour of his skin is strangely offset by an opposite, heartening behaviour. Whilst this authoritarian intervention in an ordinary boy’s daily routine was underway, a member of the public – a white man and a stranger – stepped in to tell the police officer that his decision to stop Marcel was an act of racial profiling.

Thankfully while this was going on Marcel called me and put the call on speaker. The tone of the conversation and the demeanour of the policeman changed when the conversation between two became one between four, my articulate son reported. But the indignity cannot be undone.

This is where I live, and we go through the things we must. Our little section of suburbia is predominantly white, though, and none of my friends or neighbours have experienced stop and search. Is it normal, I wonder, to impose an additional level of anxiety on someone because they are black? It is happening here, now.

The incident highlights the need for me as a parent to make my children aware of things in their lives that their friends and neighbours may not face… historical things they ought to think about, and current things like Black Lives Matter. I have to tell my son his worth, and remind him to be well-spoken, and highlight to him that when he is out with his friends, whether they are mixed race, black, or white, he WILL BE singled out. Fortunately he gets it, and it doesn’t get him down.

This isn’t a sob story. Marcel was shaken up by being stopped, to be sure, but he is fine. But I wonder: what does an entirely race-based stop-and-search do to a 14 year old mind? Marcel, like every other teenage boy, is on a journey. He is trying to figure out where he is in the world, to assemble and feel comfortable in a friendship group, to learn who he is and who he wants to be. How does active racial profiling influence his conclusions?

How can it be okay that Marcel or any other black 14 year-old facing normal teenager challenges is much more likely than anyone else to be the target of a stop and search? Home Office statistics released in November show black people are SEVEN TIMES more likely to be stopped than white people, and that more than one in five BAME teenagers has been stopped. How is it right that we can make an individual stand out for the colour of their skin, when that is the only thing that distinguishes them? How does being black pass the required test of ‘reasonable suspicion’? I’ve asked myself these questions, and now I ask you.

Perhaps most distressing of all is the familiarity of the anguished conversations I’ve been forced to have with Marcel about how he needs to act. My husband and I discussed and explored incidents

from our own childhoods, only to realise the conversations we had then with our parents are the same conversations we’re having now with our children.

Having conversations about these issues is the way to break the cycle. Allyship is really important. For Marcel, the racial profiling was called out in the moment, as it happened, but the incident was not without impact. It is repeated hundreds of times across the country without an ally to intervene and change the tone.

Parents and schools need to have conversations with people of all races and colours and genders, and young men in particular, about how such incidents make them feel. Then, when something doesn’t feel right, we need to call it out. If we all do that, Marcel may be able to have different conversations with his own children.

Unheard Conversations

Unheard Conversations 1920 1280 Equity

Carrie-Anne Adams, Head of Inclusion and Diversity, Tokio Marine Kiln

Despite the white skin I’ve always worn, I have experienced racial discrimination directed towards my family when I was growing up. I grew up in a multi-race family. We lived in Tower Hamlets, the borough of London right next to the City. For anyone who doesn’t know it, my home used to have a reputation. When Stephen Fry asked QI panellists to complete the slogan “Welcome to Tower Hamlets – Let’s make it…”, Alan Davies answered (to thunderous laughter): “…out alive.” However, things have changed quite a bit since then – there has been a lot of gentrification.

I had a proper East-End upbringing in an all-girls school that had a reputation for being a ‘bad ‘ school. My experience of this school was largely very positive – I did well there and I learned a lot from learning alongside and being friends with girls with a wide range of ethnicities – the student majority was Bangladeshi but it was generally very mixed.

About five girls from my year group including myself made it to university – I wasn’t friends with any of them though so I felt completely alone when I packed my bags and made my way to my new adventure. I knew how people from outside of the east-End lived because I had a part time job in a shoe shop on Oxford Street in which I made friends with a wide range of people from all walks of life – but it was only when I arrived in Cambridge that I realised how differently people behave in communities that are largely white and also privileged.

After living in Cambridge for university I then spent a year in Plymouth living with my boyfriend at the time who was at Uni there. In both Cambridge and Plymouth the unacknowledged casual racism in daily conversation continued to surprise me and this was largely the reason I decided to move back to London. As I packed my desk, my boss asked why I would return to a place with all those “dark people.” By then, though, I was not surprised.

In one of my previous jobs, I worked for a government department in which most of the people around the leadership table were white. And when I asked for diversity data in relation to this workforce, no one understood how they could have any relevance or add value to our work even though this department was responsible for equality and inclusion outcomes in east London boroughs. Luckily, I was in a position to shape change and set ethnicity targets for delivery partners who were working with this department and because the programme of work I led was so successful I later went on to influence large funding bodies who also started to gather ethnicity data and set goals.

For a time, I worked with a large US-based employer in I&D. When George Floyd was murdered, some of my Black colleagues reached out to me to say they’d faced silence from white co-workers, some shared that they were suffering emotionally and crying between meeting after meeting in which nobody mentioned George Floyd or the Black Lives Matter movement that was all over the press globally. On one occasion we held a virtual event in which we discussed the lived experiences of employees who had experienced racism and three colleagues, shared that they had been forced out of their cars at gunpoint by police, after having been stopped probably for no other reason than being Black and driving an expensive car.

It is often difficult and usually exhausting to be one of the people trying to change the status quo, but the work has to be done (not for ourselves, for everyone). The atrocity of George Floyd’s murder pushed racial equality action plans into high gear (how effective some of this activity will really be remains to be seen), raising up the corporate agenda to a position alongside gender equality. Yet still people ask if we really have a race problem.

The truth is that we live in a world of huge inequality and endless unheard stories. I have seen that truth from both sides, through the totality of my experiences, from Tower Hamlets to the towers of the City. All of it has helped me to understand my own privilege, and my power to influence others. It is the power of white privilege, a power my non-white colleagues do not have. Now I work to teach other white people that they have it too, and that they can use it day-to-day to turn the tide.

We were discussing cafeteria menus today. One colleague raised an employee request for Halal on the menu. A second declared that only about four people would want it. I was pleased when a third white colleague pushed back by pointing out that the objection was not relevant, that Halal is perfectly affordable, and that in any case, anyone who chooses to can enjoy Halal chicken. After a lifetime of unheard conversations, I felt the tide turn just a little.

A key to open doors

A key to open doors 1920 1280 Equity

Growing up in a council estate, you can often feel like you have limited options in life. There are thousands of young people in the UK full of potential and ingenuity, but currently facing family, financial or academic problems, navigating a locality filled with drug abuse and violence. Until I went to university and later came to the City, I had no idea how far removed my world was from others’ in my industry, or from how far behind everyone else we have to start the race. Now that I am here, I want to open doors for others from similar backgrounds, and show them that it’s possible to overcome the cycle.

My family come from Mogadishu, in Somalia. A civil war kicked off there in the early 90s, and they fled to Kenya, where I was born. We were lucky, in the circumstance: we came to the UK in 1994, when I was one. We knew nothing about how the system works, but eventually settled on a council estate in Harrow, just a five-minute drive from the enormous wealth on the Hill.

I am grateful for what we had, but it wasn’t much. We had to rely on state benefits, and as a rule my friends and I had few opportunities. I was lucky: my aptitudes opened academic doors that created chances to better myself and my position. I had to work at it, and make hard choices, but I saw a better future ahead.

Already at about 16, I saw many of the people I was growing up with, that were incredibly close to me, going down the wrong path and resorting to things they shouldn’t. They didn’t feel they had a choice, it’s hard to think about finally earning money after another five years of education when your mother is struggling to put food on the plate today.

Most young people from council estates believe they have two options to better their lives; footballer or drug dealer. It’s the lack of understanding about the options out there that continue the cycle of deprivation. Some of my childhood friends are in prison, some are suffering from serious mental health issues and some are homeless. I am grateful to be where I am today, but it deeply pains me to think about them.

There are many who pushed through and have become hugely successful in many different careers. In fact, there are a couple who actually did become professional footballers, but overall they are few and far between. Looking at it as an actuary, the outcomes are way too volatile, and the downside risk is much higher and more severe than the potentially good outcomes.

I was fortunate to see then that the choices most people around me were making weren’t the kind you could turn back from easily, and would have long-lasting influences on their lives.

I tried hard to see beyond the short-term, to have the foresight and stay focused on my education. From sixth-form I went off to university to study architecture, but after about six months I met an actuary at the mosque. I was 18, and I had never heard of the profession. He explained it, captured my interest, and I changed my course of study to actuarial science. That brought me to where I am today.

When I came to the City I found quite a number of people with family links to the insurance industry, which gave them knowledge and connections that helped them through the door. That realisation opened my eyes to an advantage that many have and take for granted, since it was all they had known, and possibly the norm. I think about what was normal for me and how different it is, and I think about some of my friends and their talents. I wonder what they could have achieved if they had the same opportunities, or guidance.

It has taken me some time to feel like I ‘belong’ or ‘fit in’. Early in my career at a previous employer, I overheard a receptionist in conversation with a visitor about a terrorist attack abroad. ‘All those Muslims are crazy,’ she said, and I just assumed this attitude might just be what I should come to expect here, what people really think.

Luckily my experience since then has been extremely positive, and I have been fortunate to work in diverse teams with open minded people. However, I am all too aware of what Black and Brown people face in the workplace everyday. The intersection of race, religion, gender and social class can create many obstacles in our careers, and it is all of our responsibility to force change in the industries we work in.

I believe it is my duty now to give back and help to open doors, or provide more options for young people from council estates and less affluent backgrounds who feel their options are limited, and do not have access to crucial life changing information or guidance. Those young people are therefore at risk of continuing the cycle they seem destined to fall into as a result of their social class – something entirely out of their control. Those young people are me, they are my friends, my family, and they are us. I want them to know that we will break the cycle.

By Ibrahim Hassan, Pricing Analyst at Tokio Marine Kiln

Five reasons to build diversity

Five reasons to build diversity 1920 1280 Equity

Maximum human diversity fosters multiple business benefits by creating an enriched organisational environment, so working towards it should be a no-brainier. We’re still at the beginning of the journey in London’s insurance market, where the importance of attracting and retaining diverse talent is not yet understood by everyone. To help, here are five reasons to build diversity into your firm:

1. Diversity in all its aspects including but not limited to – age, race, gender, disability, religion, sexual orientation and diversity of thought – improves business decisions, because people within organisations that have fostered a rich mix of diversity are more able to bring fresh thinking to the table. When a group of problem-solvers has a range of perspectives, the solutions reached are more considered, better informed, and analysed from many angles.

2. Diverse environments are better workplaces with richer cultures. Society still hasn’t shaken its stereotypes and biases, but they’re more likely to be challenged by individuals within diverse organisations. Understanding others first-hand pushes out old thinking, and opens the door to open dialogue. That in turn fosters greater cooperation at all levels, which improves outcomes by ensuring everyone is heard and respected. Multiple studies show that, in this way, diversity improves the bottom line.

3. People with diverse career backgrounds bring diverse skills. Any major business change is likely to require skillsets which are not learned through the market’s usual career path (graduate, join, progress, learn along the way, become the expert, impart your skills to new recruits, maybe get poached). For example, filling a data analysis role requires a different employment approach. Graduates with skills like coding, social media, and agile methodology now often teach their more experienced colleagues new and modern ways of working. It’s therefore crucial to look into different places, often outside financial services, for people with varied skillsets.

4. Diversity enables business resilience. Candidates from other countries tend to possess courage and resourcefulness. It takes great determination to leave your culture, your language, and your extended family behind to seek new opportunities. Characteristics such as bravery, ingenuity, resilience – are invaluable to any firm fortunate enough to find candidates who possess them, since they are qualities that underpin the longevity of an organisation.

5. Diverse firms attract great people. Today’s candidates are simply more savvy, and actively seek a diverse workplace culture. Many have studied and or worked in a multicultural post-secondary environment, and would see a move away from that melting pot as a step backwards. Candidates regularly ask about diversity, flexibility, work life balance and culture before they even come for an interview. It is commonplace for candidates to enquire about a company’s approach to ESG,CSR, and other current issues and the best will turn away from one-dimensional employers.

We cannot afford to be complacent. Those that have yet to bring diversity to their businesses are foregoing its multiple benefits, and as such may find they fall behind the competition. There is no downside to having a diverse workplace. That leaves only two questions: Is our organisation as diverse as it could be, and how do we make sure it is? The answers are easy, and the upside is huge.

Phillippa Lewis
HR Business Partner

The importance of mentorship in developing future leaders

The importance of mentorship in developing future leaders 1920 1280 Equity

From mentorship to leadership

Assimilation into British corporate culture was an uphill process for me, a Bermudian. Fortunately, I’d help from an informal mentor even before I switched to Greenwich Mean Time. I first discussed being a Black professional in a global network of well-kept secrets during a summer internship with HSBC Bermuda. My conversation with Patrick Tannock, now CEO – Insurance at XL Bermuda, ignited a spark in me to achieve as much as he had.

That spark dimmed as I worked part-time in London whilst completing my Masters degree, since the immense diversity at university was not reflected in the businesses we were all so eager to join. Very few people in the London insurance market share experiences similar to mine, but still I chose to stay. Partly I was intrigued by British culture, and partly I wanted to see if I could mentor the next group of diverse talent, just as I was mentored.

From dreams to goals

The spark began to reignite when I met Godwin Sosi at Dive In. Finally I had met a likeminded, young, ambitious Black insurance professional. Since then I’ve immersed myself in the work of the ACIN, and surrounded myself with such people to form a network of mutual mentors and motivators. It will have to be that way until we have the tenure and the leadership roles to serve as individual mentors for the Black talent of the future. That will happen: Black leadership in London was just a dream, but now it’s something more concrete: a goal. A dream becomes a goal when the steps to its realisation have been put in place, and our paths are clear.

It is essential that we get Black leaders to provide role models. I was enabled to envision myself in the place of Patrick Tannock, someone I looked up to, but unfortunately a lot of young Black talent in our industry never finds a mentor like him. The uninspiring retention level of young ethnic talent in insurance must be tied directly to the lack of representation at higher levels of the corporate hierarchy. There are far too few familiar faces – none in many firms – to prove that a dream can be an achievable goal.

Be your best

A piece of advice Mr. Tannock gave me has had resounding influence. He said that who you know gets you in the door, but what you know keeps you there. My parents emphasised work ethic from an early age, and pushed my brother and I to reach our full potential. Your network can open doors, but the proof of the pudding is in the eating. It’s the ingredients you take into yourself that make your career and your work much more meaningful.

Because of this simple truth, dedication to being amongst the best at your craft is even more important for younger Black professionals who may have much shallower networks than that of their non-black counterparts. You get there pursuing qualifications, attending webinars, staying informed by reading technical articles, and always digging deeper into the details. Continued emphasis on improving the origins of your ingredients and adding new ones will strengthen your place in any corporate environment, no matter how many people in the room look like you.

Dreams become goals through planning and action, which in turn are fuelled by the evidence that goals are achievable. The existence of similar, familiar faces in positions of seniority reinforces the sense of achievability. They and their mentorship will be critical to motivating the next generation of leaders by letting them in on the secrets of our business.

Keith Jernigan
Underwriting Assistant