How the Black Insurance Industry Collective Aims to Open More Doors to Executive Suites
By now, the insurance industry understands that its future and longevity depend upon a steady flow of new talent. And not just at the entry level. In the U.S.; greater attention is being placed on who makes up the executive ranks among insurers.
“If you just use strictly the U.S. population, and how people of color are represented in our industry, [they are] underrepresented in almost every category. And that’s not good for several reasons,” said Peter Miller, CPCU, president and CEO of The Institutes.
“I mean, it’s just not right … but also the industry doesn’t represent the people that [it] serves,” he said. “And I don’t think you get a diversity of opinion if you don’t have a diversity of backgrounds.”
Through its new affiliation with The Institutes, the Black Insurance Industry Collective (BIIC) is aiming to open pathways for more tenured Black insurance professionals to secure senior leadership opportunities.
Considering Miller’s point around the composition of the U.S. population, an analysis by the Pew Research Center showed that the Black population in the U.S. is growing — having increased by 29% over the past 20 years.
A venture many years in the making, BIIC has been designed with three main areas of focus to impact the growth and advancement of Black talent within the insurance industry. Tony Steadman a managing director in Accenture’s Insurance Industry group and member of BIIC’s leadership council shared the main focus points:
- Provide a tailored leadership program for rising leaders.
- Sponsorship and mentoring programs.
- A host of educational webinars to build broad awareness and understanding.
Miller also acknowledged that getting more Black insurance professionals into senior leadership will come down to awareness and opportunity.
“And then people’s natural ability will shine,” he said.
How Is BIIC Different from NAAIA?
BIIC is not the only insurance industry organization on a mission to support Black insurance professionals.
Founded in 1997, the National African-American Insurance Association (NAAIA) also aims to empower Black professionals working in insurance and attract new talent to the industry.
At face value, BIIC and NAAIA may appear to be similar organizations, leaving some to wonder why the collective was launched. The key distinction, Steadman shared, is that NAAIA is an individual membership organization that also includes chapters across the U.S.
The New York chapter of 2021 At Large Power Broker Lael Chappell is one such example.
“BIIC is a trade association supported by funding organizations and does not offer individual memberships or chapters,” Steadman said. The Institutes being among the entities financially vested in BIIC’s programming.
“NAAIA supports the development and attraction of black talent in the industry and also focuses on the broader insurance industry including the concerns of insurance carriers, agencies, and issues affecting the industry,” he continued.
“BIIC is singularly focused on the development and retention of Black professionals in the insurance industry.”
Although workplace research on race shows people of color lagging their peers regardless of role and job level, “these adverse trends are even more pronounced for Black insurance professionals,” Steadman shared, citing a 2018 study conducted by Marsh with the participation of NAAIA.
“While starting with Black talent, the maturation of this work will include all people of color,” Steadman said.
Advancing Beyond the Mid-Point
A lack of corporate commitment and investment in professional development opportunities, is one of the factors that prompt many Black professionals to leave the insurance industry all together and seek alternative career opportunities after they plateau in mid-level positions.
Through its relationship with The Institutes, BIIC could play a pivotal role in shifting that paradigm.
“An affiliation allows us to more quickly devote resources and time, and it also represents an ongoing commitment,” Miller said.
“In this structure, we can be sure that we focus on it, that it gets into our work plans, and that we can put the resources on it for the long term, which I think will make it more successful.”
Risk & Insurance® is also an affiliate of The Institutes.
Among its inaugural endeavors, BIIC will host an executive education program for Black professionals in collaboration with Darden Executive Education & Lifelong Learning provided by the Darden School Foundation.
“We chose to partner with Darden Executive Education & Lifelong Learning based on its strong reputation, its commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, as well as its extensive research and faculty experts focused on topics aligned with BIIC’s mission,” Steadman said. “They also have a track record of success with executive development programs and a long-standing relationship with The Institutes.”
Looking toward future programs, Steadman said BIIC is committed to establishing and building a range of partnerships to foster a spirit of collaboration and to gain synergies with other existing efforts.
BIIC will also seek to “learn from other industries to ensure effective best practices within our programs,” Steadman added.
Indicators of Success
Tangibly improving the representation of Black insurance industry talent at senior and executive levels is a core element of BIIC’s mission.
When asked about how the collective will measure its success, Steadman shared that programmatic measures will be tracked both quantitatively and qualitatively from Black talent participating from sponsoring companies and other organizations.
“Our initial focus was to launch an insurance industry leadership development program to cultivate the skills and capabilities to advance Black leaders into senior leadership roles. Our milestones and initial success criteria were geared towards that successful launch, and we’re now working to define the specific indicators of success,” Steadman shared.
For Miller, increasing the number of African Americans present, available, visible and in senior leadership positions, is the most meaningful metric.
“I think the industry does awesome things. And what’s really encouraging to me is that people see that and are taking steps to try to make it fair and more just. And I think that’s a great thing.” &