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The actuarial market: re-dressing the balance

Written by: Paul Fox
Published on: 26 Mar 2018

Climbing the ladder - HFG

At HFG we have noticed that the increased awareness highlighted by International Women’s Day (IWD) is no longer limited to the day itself – or even the week of the campaign.

With many events occurring in the press of late, including the mandatory gender pay gap reporting (for companies with over 250 employees) coming into effect by May 2018; it is evident that firms are finally being coerced to make changes with regards to their staffing decisions.

HFG have been active in the actuarial market for 15 years, and particularly as a regular attendee of GIRO, it is clear that the gender balance is improving year-on-year – especially amongst the junior cohort. However, as you reach the senior ranks the numbers start to skew, and with approximately 40% of the world’s insurance professionals due to retire in five years* – time is of the essence to re-dress the balance.

I refer to a recent Head of Pricing search that I conducted with a FTSE 250 Insurance client. The lack of female respondents was obvious – to the extent that there were none! We had mapped the market and created a long list of potential candidates for our client within a specific line of business (both male and female) but of the limited number of women we could approach, none were interested in a move. We were asked to widen the net to other lines of business for females to balance the shortlist, looking for all top female pricing actuaries; but the numbers were still light compared to, for example, the reserving or capital space, which led me to ask the question – why?

I obviously don’t have all the answers yet, but I do think the industry needs to work harder to encourage and support female employees throughout the insurance industry. This would be particularly relevant in predominantly all male front office environments, such as pricing and underwriting in the London Market, where there is more demand on your time, more confrontation and the work is less predictable. In general, I have found that female actuaries move away from these types of roles and look for something more cyclical, which can be more flexible, and where a better work/life balance can be achieved. 

It comes as no surprise that our beloved industry is still viewed as ‘male, pale and stale’ even with the launch of the Inclusion@Lloyd’s DiveIn initiative in 2015. Here, the industry is finally raising awareness and is on a mission to investigate the reasons why we, as recruiters, struggle to attract diverse shortlists for particular roles.

Of course, there is a wider discussion for the subject of diversity aside from it just being a gender issue, but the ongoing disparity between maternity and paternity benefits remains. Do male employees have more career mobility, more experience, longevity in roles and therefore potentially an easier route to the top than their female counterparts? Could this be one of the reasons we struggle to hire at a senior level? 

Quite simply, we need to work on two fundamental areas – attracting women into insurance in the first place, and then working hard to retain them through their careers.

I would be interested in hearing your comments and experiences in this regard so that we can help address this issue and work with our clients to make a difference. 
Paul Fox 

*From ‘Talent at Hyperion Group’ A presentation by David Howden, chief executive officer, Hyperion at the Insurance Insider, Insider London conference 8 February 2018
HFG host a Women in Insurance Network group (allies are more than welcome!) where we keep up to date on diversity within the Insurance industry, addressing topics such as: flexible and agile working, unconscious bias, shine theory and also organising and publicising Women in Insurance events. Click here to join the group: