Nov 18 (Reuters) - When Jerald Tillman and Mike James
started their careers more than 20 years ago, working in the
U.S. insurance industry was not on their radar, but programs to
attract Blacks and other minorities brought them into the fold.
Today, Tillman runs his own insurance agency in Ohio and is
the founder of the National African American Insurance
Association. James, who is also Black, heads the division in
charge of life insurance, long-term care, annuities and wealth
management at broker NFP in its Boston office.
They and other minority insurance leaders told Reuters that
despite years of recruitment and a strong pipeline of talent,
the industry has not changed enough where it matters most: at
"There are not enough people of color in executive
leadership in the insurance industry," James said in an
Three insurance industry leaders who spoke at the Future of
Insurance USA conference said during a panel hosted by Reuters
Events on Tuesday that they are working to fix what they
described as diversity shortcomings in the industry.
For example, only three of 168 senior executives of the top
10 U.S. insurers and brokers by market value are Black,
according to a Reuters review of their websites. Among 119 board
members at the same companies, 13 are Black.
"We must get white males involved with us in this leadership
effort," George Nichols III, president of the American College
of Financial Services and the first African-American insurance
commissioner in Kentucky, said during the panel discussion.
"They control the positions. They control the decision-making
Criticism of corporate America for a lack of diversity
intensified after a white Minneapolis police killed George
Floyd, a Black man, in May, setting off nationwide protests
against racial injustice and police brutality.
Insurance, though improving, remains a less diverse industry
than other financial services and U.S. employers as a whole,
research has shown.
Non-white employees, including Black, Asian and other racial
minorities, totaled 21.4% of the workforce at U.S. insurance
companies last year, up from 19.8% in 2018 and 15.3% in 2010,
according to S&P Global Market Intelligence.
That compares with 24.9% of employees who are non-white in
banking and related activities and 22.3% for the overall
workforce, it said.
DOOR 'BLOWN OPEN'
Police killings of Blacks and the resulting civil unrest
this year have sparked discussions "that we never used to have
before - the hard conversations about race," Lata Reddy, senior
vice president of Inclusive Solutions at Prudential Financial
Inc and chair of The Prudential Foundation, told the
"The opportunity to build right now on that is huge," said
Reddy, who identifies as Indian American. "A door has been blown
open and it's incumbent upon all of us to run through it."
Diversity programs work best when top leaders see the
benefits and give strong support, but awareness also is critical
throughout a company.
Research has shown direct managers have even more impact
than senior leaders on employees' experiences, Lauren Young,
director of diversity and inclusion at Zurich North America,
part of Zurich Insurance Group AG, said during the
"If they're not aware of their own unconscious bias, it's
very difficult for them to understand what role they play," said
Young, who is Black.
Zurich held a town hall in June to allow Black employees to
share stories about facing inequality. More than 3,000 people
attended what became a catalyst for more action, Young said.
"It was very raw, it was very honest, there was a lot of
emotion felt," she said.
ARE YOU HIRING?
When companies say they are committed to increasing the
number of minority employees they have, Nichols said he wonders
if they're hiring.
If not, "you've just created a dynamic in your organization
that may not be so great," he said. "Because in order for you to
bring these folks in, somebody may have to go if you're not
creating new jobs and new opportunities."
Reddy said research has shown racial diversity improves a
company's ability to innovate, reduce risk and bring different
perspectives to decisions.
"Without that (diversity) we're not going to be able to meet
the needs of an increasingly diverse customer base," Reddy said.
"Ultimately what we're doing is leaving money on the table."
(Reporting by Alwyn Scott
Additional reporting by Ross Kerber and Jessica DiNapoli
Editing by Lauren Tara LaCapra and Paul Simao)