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Companies need to look more to internal pipeline to promote D&I: Axis’s Maner

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Cristi Carrington, Bryan Clark, Erin Dolan and Carlton Maner

Too often, companies that are looking to fill senior posts recruit outside their organizations, when existing staff with diverse backgrounds within the company could just as easily be promoted, according to the CEO of Axis Capital’s US division.

Speaking on the executive leadership panel hosted by the Wholesale & Specialty Insurance Association Under 40s group, Carlton Maner said that “there is a pool of employees internally with diverse backgrounds, but for some reason, they get overlooked”.

The executive strongly urged industry colleagues to take a closer look at promoting staff internally during the organization’s conference in San Diego last week.

“In our industry [we have colleagues] that have college degrees and master’s degrees and have worked in the industry for 20 years or more, and [yet] when we look to hire people, we go outside,” Maner said.

“We haven’t looked at that internal pipeline that's already there,” he added.

According to Maner, when Axis launched its training program years ago, the company put an emphasis on recruiting one-third of its talent from recent college graduates, another third from among experienced professionals looking to change industries, and a third through internal promotions.

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“We've done that, and it's worked very well for us,” he said. “I think that's what more companies in and outside our business should do.”

Maner also emphasized the vital benefits diversity brings to a business.

“Diversity is bringing you more growth,” he explained. “There is proven data out there that shows [diversity] increases productivity at your company.”

More companies in the past year and a half have stepped up their efforts to promote diversity and inclusion (D&I) in the industry. In June, Marsh McLennan launched an MBA fellowship program in partnership with Fisk University, a historically black university, to offer participants a hybrid curriculum covering business knowledge and social justice issues.

Inclusion in the boardroom

Companies have also taken steps to promote broader representation at the board level and among the executive ranks. Analysis by sister publication Insurance Insider showed that female board representation has doubled in the past decade.

Fellow panelist Erin Dolan, senior vice president of analytics and communications at specialty carrier RSUI, said the best thing individuals at companies can do to promote diversity and inclusion is to “slow down” their decision-making processes.

“We talk a lot about the unintentional bias that comes into all the decisions that we make,” Dolan said, “and I think that's going to be most prevalent when we're going fast.”

She recognized many companies are eager to making hiring decisions quickly, but argued that it is “most important to slow down, be very intentional about what you do [and] think through what you're doing.”

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According to Bryan Clark, another panel participant who serves as president of wholesale intermediary Gorst and Compass, emphasizing D&I represents an opportunity to educate and establish a better-informed work culture.

“We’re evolving as a society and we need to look at the world differently,” he said. “We're here as a leader to show them that it’s a big world out there, and there are some amazingly talented people.”

“If we can as an industry get more diversity, we are going to get more talented people.”

Cristi Carrington, who serves as a senior vice president and director of underwriting at wholesale broker Brown & Riding, expressed appreciation for the level of diversity at her company and spoke about how it helped Brown & Riding perform better.

“It's a challenge, because when you workshop a problem, not everyone thinks like you and that is kind of a reward because you’re able to learn [from] them and their experience.”

“In that process, my horizons have been broadened and then I have the ability to learn from all of my colleagues and their perspective,” she added.

“It’s welcome. It’s both a challenge and a reward,” she concluded.

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