This article was originally published in The ESG Insurer
As macroeconomic and geopolitical uncertainty persists, the insurance industry has the opportunity to embrace innovation and adaptation through diversity and inclusion (D&I) initiatives to ensure the sector has the best talent to weather these pressures, according to Sompo’s Isla Baillie.
Baillie, who has served as executive vice president and global head of talent and inclusion at Sompo since July 2021, explained to ESG Insurer that diverse thinking is key to ensuring that the industry remains relevant during this period of volatility. “To do this, we need to attract, develop and retain the best talent at all levels – talent that better reflects the diverse world we look to insure, to better understand the challenges our clients face, and to bring better and more relevant products and services to market,” she
Baillie added that studies by the likes of Forbes and McKinsey have found that firms with more diverse and inclusive teams are statistically more likely to demonstrate a positive performance differential in terms of results, innovation and decision-making.
“Unlocking the innovative power of inclusive diversity builds upon our overall resilience as an industry and helps make us fit for the marketplace we are today and, importantly, the marketplace we will be tomorrow,” said Baillie.
The market is not immune to external cultural factors, with both sides of the political spectrum criticizing the wider ESG movement – either as virtue signaling and corporate greenwashing, or as a ‘woke’ agenda working against the interests of business. “Unfortunately, it seems that the term ‘woke’ has become increasingly contentious, evoking very strong feelings on what has become a very polarised argument,” said Baillie.
“Improving D&I is a long-term project that requires brave, sustained, meaningful and broad organisational and market-wide change. Any easing off runs the risk of sliding backwards, undoing the progress that we have worked so hard for.”
To this end, Sompo is among a long list of industry sponsors of this year’s Dive In Festival. Now in its ninth year, the 2023 festival will take place between 26 and 28 September.
From an event that began in London with around 2,000 attendees, Baillie noted that Dive In has grown into a global movement, with last year’s festival hosting around 40,500 attendees in 41 countries across 150 events.
Baillie noted that Dive In has looked to ramp up its activity in between festivals by offering more opportunities and engagement throughout the year, such as the introduction of “reverse mentoring” in which more junior employees share their expertise and experience, whether technological, cultural or social.
In addition, the Dive In to Insurance outreach programme is scheduled to launch in the UK later this year before expanding globally, with the aim to encourage applications to early career opportunities.
This year’s headline three-day event will take place under the theme of “Unlocking innovation: the power of inclusion”.
“Over the nine years Dive In has evolved its remit and intention – going from awareness-raising to taking action,” said Baillie.
“Creating an inclusive culture that values and harnesses diverse perspectives is essential for driving innovation in the insurance industry. Dive In 2023 is calling for collective action to create inclusive cultures that will move the industry forward and drive innovation to help solve some of the world’s biggest challenges.”
Baillie added that the 2023 theme also highlights the belief that “unlocking innovation” requires a culture in which diverse perspectives and insights are not just valued and respected, but also used as a competitive advantage.
Looking to how the insurance industry can secure future relevance and competitiveness within financial services and the wider economy, Baillie noted that events such as Dive In will be critical in providing practical ideas and inspiration for bringing about positive change, as well as a legitimate business case.
“I hope people will more fully understand the power of inclusion and how critical a business imperative it is in our industry,” Baillie concluded.
“Each one of us has a role to play in fostering and exemplifying the behaviours that will lead to a truly inclusive industry that allows each individual to be their best and help our industry thrive in these most uncertain times.”