Far left: Wendy Davis Johnson; Middle left: Fiona Luck; Middle right: Peter Wilson
21 November 2019

Bermuda must push for board-level diversity in re/insurance: PWC Insurance Summit

Bermuda must do more to ensure the senior management at its insurance companies better reflect the diversity of its population, according to Wendy Davis Johnson, chief communications and culture officer at Hamilton Insurance Group.

Speaking at the PwC Insurance Summit in Bermuda, Davis Johnson said: “There needs to be a recalibration of our mindset. We need to improve diversity and not just in entry level positions. Diversity decreases the higher up you go in organisations, and boards are very homogenous.”

One advantage Bermuda has in tackling an issue that can be seen across the global insurance industry is the accessibility of senior management on the island, said Fiona Luck, non executive director on the Lloyd’s of London Franchise Board.

Luck pointed to the frequency of industry gatherings in Bermuda, where people get a regular opportunity to speak to senior management, as an advantage in driving cultural change and increased diversity in the industry. “Never underestimate the value of leadership reinforcing this message,” she said.

Luck admitted Lloyd’s had a greater challenge than any single institution tackling its cultural problems, but insisted it must show leadership to the rest of the industry.

Peter Wilson, CEO of Axis Insurance, said the key to driving cultural change is treating it like any other strategic goal of senior management. Senior executives should identify what they want the culture to be, what they like about their existing culture as well as what they don’t like, and what they wanted the company to achieve. Having identified these factors it is easier to identify drivers to get the company there, he added.

All departments should be treated equally, with departments like underwriting not treated as superior to others, such as human resources, added Davis Johnson.

Wilson warned that culture has a way of reinforcing itself - for better or worse - as those that like a company’s culture tend to stay and those who don’t leave. This can create groupthink, he said.

“We need to be aware of this if organisations are pushing out people who don’t share a common view,” Wilson said.

The panelists agreed the industry has a long way to go in improving its record in diversity, with Luck bemoaning the fact that in 30 years, senior positions in the insurance industry are still 95 percent white men. Senior-level remuneration should be tied to success at driving increasing diversity, she suggested.

“Our clients are so much more diverse than we are,” added Luck. If re/insurers don’t do more to look like their clients they will ultimately lose business, she warned.