As we head into the Dive In Festival for Diversity and Inclusion could we please spare a thought for a minority group whose plight is often overlooked and until recently not properly represented - the London market insurance innovator.
I am not seeking to undermine the much more serious issues that Dive In seeks to address, but it did occur to me earlier in the week that in some respects the innovatively inclined in the London market and the minority interest groups that Dive In does such a good job of representing have much in common.
To illustrate the point, I was speaking at the Global Re Breakfast Briefing last week and the subject was Innovation in the London Market - After quickly establishing that there wasn't much innovation to talk about we concentrated on why this was and what could be done to stimulate it - http://www.globalreinsurance.com/london-market-lacks-curiosity-and-is-slow-to-change-finds-gr-briefing/1419796.article
I took a question late in the proceedings from a guy who worked at an insurer who asked what advice I could give to an aspiring innovator working at a syndicate which had no interest in innovation, no one responsible for it and no budget allocated to it. Who could he talk to? Where could he bring his ideas?
The rather timid and furtive way in which the question was asked spoke of someone frightened that he might be "outed" as a closet innovator. Akin to having to admit in public that you bought an Olly Murs album or read Grazia.It was a plaintiff cry from someone for who was prepared to accept some public embarrassment in return for guidance - is there a group who can counsel and support me if I come out and declare myself in favour of innovation?
Well the good news for closet innovators is that we don't need to create Innovators Anonymous - there are already support groups to turn to both to meet up with kindred spirits and to share experiences and discuss opportunities.
The TOM Innovation Exchange is working hard on engaging with the markets' young insurance professionals because more of them get the need to innovate and, to be blunt, they have the greatest vested interest making it happen. We atInsTech London now have nearly 1200 members and are growing fast propelled by those who are prepared to come out and join the revolution. The SpeedTech Data event held last night was a joint InsTech/TOM Innovation Exchange initiative and saw nearly 200 London marketeers turn to learn about a broad range on data innovations designed to create awareness of the opportunities and potential applications in the insurance data space.
Enough of the tongue in cheek stuff and back to the serious business of the Dive In Festival. I live in London for one reason and one reason only - because it's the coolest city on earth. But it wasn't always thus. For the first half of my life here is was much less enjoyable - all pubs, crap food, undrinkable coffee, high costs, a culture of exclusion and much less choice.
The vibrancy of today has been created in large part by the multicultural nature of the current city. The food, coffee, art, music, markets and vibe has been transformed by diversity and inclusion - from being tolerant, welcoming and curious and by doing it together and making a success of it.
The insurance market in London needs the same dynamic. It's understandable that a market might lack diversity if the city it operates in has limited diversity, but there's no such excuse for London. It's time we stopped coveting conformity, implicitly encouraging those drawn to "the social side" of our market, imposing ancient dress codes and generally failing to appreciate that the world is changing all around us and we're not keeping up.
There is a very close link between diversity and innovation. By adopting the attitudes and culture we need to encourage diversity we will also create an environment that encourages and fosters innovation. In the meantime, all you closet innovators out there should feel free to come out - you are not as small a minority as you think and there's strength in numbers.
On the heels of a successful inaugural Dive In Festival for Diversity & Inclusion in Insurance held in London in 2015, the global insurance community has come together to bring Dive In to 16 cities across Australia, Bermuda, Canada, China, France, Ireland, Singapore, Switzerland, as well as multiple cities in the UK and the US from 27th to 29th September 2016. The festival’s core message is that diversity and inclusion are good for business with the title Risk & Opportunity: Don’t get left behind! stressing the fact that global competitiveness is at stake as insurance sets out its stall to attract and retain top talent.