Festival Opening Event 2019

Published: 24 Sep 2019

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Alistair Swift opened the event for hosts and Gold Sponsor Willis Towers Watson, welcoming a packed auditorium, in defiance of the rain’s attempts to put a dampener on the start of the 5th year of the festival.

Taking up the theme of #inclusionimpact this year, he shared an anecdote reflecting how their diversity and inclusion practice has evolved with tangible actions including changes in flexible working which culturally, people take great pride in. He grounded his comments with the observation that Dive In’s pre- festival research among this year’s attendees indicated that 94% of people now believe that D&I is a client facing imperative.

Following his introduction and the festival’s upbeat ‘ident’ video, the event Chair, Sir Trevor MacDonald was first up among the speakers. He acknowledged the relevance of the Festival’s global footprint seen minutes earlier in the video, noting that his own themes always embrace globalisation because ‘we are all connected.’

He told stories of his early career at the BBC World Service radio – a workplace that was inherently diverse – moving to television and ITV news where he was the first black news reporter on national TV. His love of international politics ensured that he pushed for a posting to Northern Ireland during the troubles, resisting any temptation the network may have had to have him report on race riots from Brixton or other domestic immigration stories.

He shared amusing anecdotes including interviewing Colonel Gadaffi, side-stepping a conversation with him on colonialism and inclusion and the impact that Nelson Mandela made on him as a role model for inclusive leadership.

John Neal, Lloyd’s’ CEO was up next, discussing the results of the culture survey which was published earlier in the day. He remarked ‘We have a responsibility to set the tone to create the best culture for the brightest minds.’ He spoke about the survey of 6000 people as a ‘deep cross section’ of market respondents to help understand what further action has to be taken’, acknowledging that ‘it’s not easy to talk about the results’. He also explained that Lloyd’s is setting up an advisory group to set metrics and inform action plans led by Non-Executive Director and fellow panellist, Fiona Luck. ‘The advisory board will hold us to account, we will re-run the culture survey every year and publish a culture dashboard.’

Andrew Bailey, FCA Chief Executive followed with comments ‘As both the insurance industry regulator and as a CEO like John who faces the same issues.’ He explained to the audience why culture matters to the FCA, linking behaviour to integrity and the way firms go about doing business.

He made the observation that ‘It’s important for all of us that we reflect the markets we serve’ adding that people will ask themselves, ‘Is this an organisation in which people like me do well?’

His final point was that ‘We are all institutions serving society and society holds institutions to account, the fact that the survey has been done reflects that. It’s sensible and good practice. In the past behaviours would have gone unchallenged. As a regulator, we will be supporting and following very closely.’

Sir Trevor returned to the stage to invite John Neal and Andrew Bailey back up to sit on a panel alongside Fiona Luck and Karen White, the CEO of RMS. He invited Karen to open with her remarks which she based on her experience of coming to the UK insurance market from Silicon Valley. She spoke about the ‘massive change’ she saw coming ‘As incumbents you are at terrible risk of disruption – diversity of thought is at the fulcrum of all of that. She referenced the ‘constant catastrophe’ due to climate change tempering her remarks in the context of D&I saying that the only way to meet this challenge is through innovation.

Fiona Luck the Lloyd’s Non-executive Director for talent and culture and chair of the new advisory board gave her thoughts on sanctions, remembering how she ran a cultural campaign 20 years ago to help smooth integration after the company she worked for had gone on an M&A spree. She spoke about providing coaching for two rainmakers whose behaviour was undesirable which ultimately led to one of them leaving. “The departure of that person made the biggest difference as it demonstrated that leadership had drawn a line and made the friction in the organisation go away for everyone else.” She concluded her comments on the Culture Survey and summed up the mood of the morning, saying “This is our moment to make a difference, if we don’t seize it, shame on us.”