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Business Insurance Q&A: Inga Beale

Posted On: Mar. 22, 2019 2:12 PM CST

Inga Beale

Inga Beale stepped down as CEO of Lloyd’s of London last year after leading the market since 2014. The first woman to head Lloyd’s, in addition to focusing on the business of Lloyd’s, she placed a particular focus on broadening diversity and inclusion in the London market. One of the driving forces behind the Dive In festival, a worldwide event that celebrates diversity and inclusion in the insurance sector, she has been an outspoken advocate supporting gender, LGBT and ethnic diversity in the world of business. Earlier this month, she was recognized as the Trailblazer of the Year for 2019 by the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation. Recently, Ms. Beale spoke with Business Insurance Editor Gavin Souter about D&I efforts in the insurance sector and her plans for the future. Edited excerpts follow.

Q: What have you been doing since you left Lloyd’s?

A: I’m on garden leave and still duty bound to Lloyd’s until July, which means I’m somewhat limited in what I can do. But I’ve been doing some pro bono work and doing a bit of traveling. I’m doing some charitable work, and with my experience in governance and regulation, I’ve been helping a charity to put together a proper governance structure. I’ve a few speeches arranged, some on diversity and inclusion, some on risk management.

Q: From a D&I perspective, what were the high points in your time at Lloyd’s?

A: There were a few things. The first year I was there, we launched Inclusion@Lloyds. We had lots of great support, but the catalyst for a lot of action was the Dive In festival, which is a celebration of diversity and inclusion.

We covered the Lloyd’s building with brightly colored banners, and it really made the place look very different. I can remember feeling quite nervous, wondering how these three days of celebration of diversity and inclusion would go down in the market, but that did not last very long because I realized that people wanted to talk about these topics. They wanted to be able to address the treatment of people from ethnic minorities. They wanted to address people from the LGBT community. They wanted to talk about things like the gender pay gap. They wanted to talk about mental health issues in the workplace and how it was so taboo to talk about that.

That turned into a huge call from the market to do more and more in the D&I space. We could hardly keep up with demands from people. We issued toolboxes, we provided training sessions, we talked about unconscious bias, we got people from the market to record videos about things people would never have openly talked about before, and started portraying things in a positive way — in other words, everybody can be valued with respect to their work.

Then we moved on to metrics and introducing scorecards. We set in place targets and spoke about whether we were delivering on those targets.

The necessity to talk about the business impact of D&I a lot of the time has gone away because people know that if you want to go in to new markets, if you want to be innovative, how important it is to have that — diverse thoughts around the table.

Q: One of the metrics used in D&I in the U.K. is official gender pay gap reporting, where the commercial insurance market didn’t fare very well. Is that something that people are really willing to fix?

A: We are still going through this process of trying to understand why women perhaps don’t stay in the workplace longer, what happens to promotion decisions, what unconscious biases affect decisions, what behavioral things to understand to enable the promotion.

At Lloyd’s, I decided to go for something I felt was balanced, so I said at least 40% men, at least 40% women in the workplace, because I want to try and avoid talking about women versus men.

We managed achieve 37% women and the 40% target is for 2021.

But we need other things, we need role models, we need leadership from the top, we need grassroots action, we need people to talk about it, to understand other people’s viewpoints. I’m not the D&I expert, but I know how I felt as a women, so I can share my experiences with other women because I think there are some gender differences we can’t shy away from — they’re there, they exist, we shouldn’t try and pretend they don’t.

Q: At D&I events, you see a lot of people who are interested in D&I. But how do you get line managers to buy into it as well?

A: This is why we engage with CEOs and say to them, “You’ve got to be there, you’ve got to present, you’ve got to bring other people with you,” and that has definitely worked. We had many, many CEOs coming out, recording videos, giving their own personal commitments and time to say, “We’re not going to tolerate imperfect behavior anymore.”

I know there’s a challenge, but we mustn’t give up, we just have to keep pushing and try other ways. It’s all about bring someone with you – bring a cynic along with you.

Q: In the insurance market for several years, there has been a focus on gender diversity, but are you seeing changes in issues such as LGBT, racial and ethnic diversity?

A: I think gender diversity has been discussed much longer and people have the data on the gender.

The big move in the U.K. is to start reporting on the ethnicity pay gap, and that’s an initiative that is again a government-led thing, and we will see that here in the U.K. before too long.

LGBT is a challenge, and I don’t know how we’re going to crack that one because people still don’t have to check that box in if they don’t want to so, the data is a bit weak.

Q: Despite the lack of data, have you seen much progress in LGBT and ethnic diversity?

A: In the London market we launched Link, which is the LGBT insurance network, some years ago, and that’s gone from strength to strength. There is at least much more visibility; we had some CEOs coming out and talking openly about it. There are still some that don’t want to come out, but there seems to be progress there.

In terms of ethnicity, we need some more role models. I can’t tell you what a difference it makes when you have senior people from ethnic groups. People look around the office and see more and more people from different ethnic groups join in.

I remember that we had a Muslim guy who blogged about Ramadan, and he got the biggest number of likes of anyone blogging at Lloyd’s then. I went to see him and said, “This is fantastic and congratulations, it was so interesting.” And he said, “At my previous employer, I wasn’t allowed to talk about my religion or my religious differences.” I was completely taken aback, because I couldn’t imagine that you could work somewhere where people discouraged you or maybe told you not to talk openly about things like that.

We’ve got to get these topics out there, we’ve got to start talking about these things. Maybe some people are a bit squirmy about it, but if you don’t start talking about it, you won’t engage people of a different background in a conversation.

Q: Do you have an idea about what you’re going to be doing next?

A: No, I don’t. I’m likely to pursue a varied career and get involved in some sort of nonexecutive capacity. But you never know what opportunities come along in life, and I’ve always been very open to new ideas. So I’m never closed to anything, but probably I’ll be doing a mixture of roles.