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World view, agility needed to remain relevant


VENICE, Italy – An integrated approach to diversity by insurers should help them respond to challenges and offer relevant coverages for their buyers' risks.

So say experts at the three-day Federation of European Risk Management Associations' Risk Management Forum 2015 in Venice, Italy, this week.

To be relevant to customers, insurance companies need to “have a view informed by people from around the world,” said Giles Ward, regional president for Eurasia and Africa at Ace Ltd.

He said that Ace, for one, has made efforts to foster this communication by setting up a network by which employees across the world communicate and form interest groups around topics as diverse as women's issues; lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues; dog walking; and rock 'n' roll.

This, he said, has helped colleagues worldwide share information and ask questions to come up with innovative insurance coverage ideas for buyers.

While the insurance industry has made great strides in attracting women, many still leave in their 30s and 40s, said Ailsa King, managing director of Willis Risk Solutions, a unit of London-based brokerage Willis Group Holdings P.L.C.

Often these women set up their own businesses, which shows that the insurance industry is losing entrepreneurial talent, she said.

To stem this, insurers need to become better at adapting to the demands of family life and letting employees to work flexibly, she said.

The insurance industry also needs to better serve the buying and working habits of millennials, “the future workforce and future customers,” said Romaney O'Malley, general manager for American International Group Inc. in Belgium and Luxembourg.

“The millennial generation is born connected,” she said, and insurers need to improve connectedness between the workforce and customers to remain relevant, she said.

More flexible ways of working also are important to young people, an area in which the insurance industry needs radical change. Ms. O'Malley said.

For example, she said, insurers should look to crowd sourcing techniques used in the technology sector to attract talent, create new ideas and work more efficiently.

The insurance industry needs to become more nimble in its approach and become better at sharing information, said Paul Jardine, chief experience officer at XL Catlin Group Ltd. in London.

He cited large pharmaceutical companies that work in partnership with much smaller companies to harness expertise to create new products.

He pointed out that some smartphone companies also interact with clients many times an hour, while insurers — in the absence of a claim — likely will have contact with corporate buyers maybe once or twice per year.

He said that to offer buyers the coverages they “crave,” insurers must embrace diversity of colleagues, of thought and of product.

This diversity program needs a “buy-in” from top management, said Ms. King.

And such programs must be fully integrated into every area of the company, said Mr. Jardine.

Insurers must “put everything through the diversity lens,” he said.

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