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Reflections on the ABI's October 2020 Diversity Summit

Rose St LouisI was privileged to have been part of the ABI’s Diversity Summit – Time for Change, on 9 October 2020. It was great to hear from Gavin Lewis of Blackrock on the challenges he’s faced navigating his career in the city as a black man. It was also compelling to hear from Dawid Konotey-Ahulu, co-founder of Redington, who mentioned the ‘seven cards played’ ie excuses given by CEOs for not owning problems and solutions associated with race in the workplace.

These are issues close to my heart, and I offered my own thoughts on why our industry needs to talk more about race in the panel debate. Many still believe it’s too political to discuss diversity in the workplace – but, for me, I can’t leave my diversity at the door when I come to work. If people like me are in the workplace, diversity is – by default – a workplace issue.

I appreciate why conversations about race are challenging. But it’s a conversation that’s fundamentally anchored to organisations’ values and it’s one worth having. In the wake of George Floyd’s murder, we saw many organisations struggle to find their voice. The fear of backlash seems to paralyse us, giving little urgency to be the first mover and prompting us to look left and right before speaking out. I find that too often people don’t know what to say during conversations about race, but I promise you the more you practise the easier it becomes.

Though having the conversation is a great place to start – talking must lead to action. At KPMG, we are running a number of initiatives to demonstrate this. One that stands out to me is KPMG’s reverse mentoring programme, which is in its third year. The benefits of running programmes like this are experienced across the business, with those taking part applying the knowledge they gain from others to become better leaders, managers, colleagues and friends.

So, I’ll leave you with this. I’m extremely pleased to have seen so many insurers leaning into more uncomfortable conversations about diversity in recent months. I urge you to continue these conversations for the benefit of your existing colleagues, prospective talent and, of course, your customers. With social responsibility so ingrained on the agenda, believe me your customers will notice.

Last updated 19/10/2020