Embedded Insurance #11: Diversity in Insurance and Innovation

Sibylle Fischer
November 25, 2020
Innovation, Startups
The insurance industry is working hard to meet its short-term diversity and inclusion goals, but creating meaningful change will require a sustained investment in the equity needs of all customers and employees.

We now know without question that diverse teams are stronger, more resilient, and get higher marks in everything from productivity to customer satisfaction. For the last decade, the insurance industry has been working to bring balance to its ranks, introducing diversity and inclusion strategies both at the cultural and institutional level. Today there are industry-wide and company-specific initiatives dedicated to promoting and advancing diversity in virtually every sector of financial services, all with the goal of helping create more equitable workplaces. But in an industry once dominated by white men, especially in upper levels of management, will these measures be enough to sustain meaningful change for the long haul?

A more representative workforce

Diversity in insurance means valuing individuals of all backgrounds and giving them equal opportunity (and equal compensation) within an organization. As a whole, the insurance industry has begun to recognize the value of a diverse workforce that’s more representative of the general population. Industry studies have demonstrated routinely that diverse workplaces outperform homogenous ones. From expanding the talent pool to improving customer service to introducing new technologies -- different perspectives bring immense value to teams. 

But diversity in this context also means recognizing that not all professionals have had the same access to mentorship, training, and educational opportunities. For the industry, recognizing this difference has helped open up new and improved avenues of advancement to a broader talent pool. 

For women in insurance, closing the gender pay gap remains an issue of paramount importance. A recent analysis revealed that women in insurance are making, on average, 62 cents on the dollar when compared to men. At Baloise, we understand that for companies to truly embrace the values of inclusion and diversity, those ideals must be applied at every level of business, and especially at the leadership level. Because of that, gender diversity in management remains one of our strategic goals

Today’s customers are more demanding than ever before, expecting real-time, personalized multi- and cross-channel experiences.

Sibylle Fischer, Strategic Venturing & Startup Scouting

Underrepresentation in FinTech

Studies have found that women are statistically underrepresented in the FinTech industry, with a glaring shortage of female founders, female senior team members, and even a female user base. To address this persistent underrepresentation, FinTech investors, including incumbents, have begun thinking about diversity as part of their vetting process, looking more closely at investments in new companies and technologies and asking questions like: who are we building these financial services and products for? How will women benefit from and access such services? At the same time, there are a growing number of companies within the FinTech space helping to make change in an industry that badly needs it and, in some cases, taking chances on innovation for underserved segments. 

Unconscious bias and technology

The coronavirus pandemic turned a bright light on inequities across global communities, in everything from the ability for remote work and high-speed internet availability to reliable access to healthcare. As an industry dedicated to assessing and managing risk, Covid-19 has made the case to insurers that while all of us may be impacted by the pandemic, we are not all equally impacted, nor equally at risk. 

Diversity-minded insurers are looking to find ways to continuously monitor and evaluate their risk assessment tools and technologies, making sure there are no unconscious biases adopted by these underwriting models. Technologies like facial recognition must also be used judiciously, as this technology has the potential to exhibit bias against minority customers. By that same token, all data analytics should be carefully monitored in the event that bias from pre-existing datasets should appear.

Test and learn for a more diverse future

The industry is at an important inflection point, recognizing both its own shortcomings and the need for substantive change in addressing its inequities. From anti-racism training to mentorship programs, as executive and leadership teams look to continue to broaden diversity within their organizations, workplaces truly committed to diversity and inclusion must also have a system in place for evaluating the effectiveness of such initiatives. Diversity goals, like business goals, must be continuously monitored and measured to determine success. Substantive change will come over the long-term, as we test and learn and make meaningful adjustments to our people, protocol and processes.