We speak with those people who are changing the mix in the financial services industry. Talking all things diversity and inclusion, with some fun thrown in along the way
Ep.75 - Driving corporate cultural change and the power of listening to employee lived experience, Steve Collinson, Zurich UK
Key learning points
1.How Zurich is changing company culture by embracing diversity and inclusion
2.The learnings from Zurich’s D&I initiative
3.How to get leaders on board with D&I change
Today on the Risky Mix podcast we’re delighted to be joined by Steve Collinson, Chief HR Officer at Zurich UK. As well as sharing his personal journey and passion for D&I, Steve is here to talk about Zurich’s impressive efforts to overhaul company culture and improve both diversity and inclusion across the organisation. From flexible work initiatives to more inclusive employee benefits, Zurich has led by example over the last few years, and we’re really looking forward to hearing more about the progress they’ve made and what they’ve learned along the way.
Being a Zurich ‘lifer’, Steve has worked in all sorts of change-focused roles, eventually becoming Chief HR Officer in 2018. Steve shares his passion for change at work, particularly through listening to employees’ lived experiences, not just examining data. His core goal was simple: ‘To put weight to the voice of our own people’.
We ask Steve about the change employees were asking for. Taking gender as an example, he tells us that whilst Zurich’s workforce had gender parity in their most junior roles, the same could not be said for senior positions. He emphasises how important it was for the firm to be open and honest about its starting point and progress; Zurich still published its ethnicity, gender, disability, and LGBT pay gap data, despite the reporting government’s break in 2020.
Steve engaged The Behavioural Insights Team, who challenged Zurich to introduce a ‘behavioural nudge’. Now, all job roles are advertised as 'part-time, job-share or full-time', which made a significant difference; the proportion of women hired rose and the number of applications for all positions more than doubled. Moreover, the number of women working part-time has risen significantly – almost one in four female hires in the last 12 months are employed part-time.
When asked about Zurich’s progress with inclusion, Steve tells us that the firm has put massive effort into diversity, yet inclusivity is almost more important – as it’s critical for employee retention. He introduced various initiatives, including having employee resource groups visit the board at least twice a year. Steve also worked to introduce benefits and policy to ‘celebrate diversity’ – including equalising parental leave, and creating menopause, premature babies, IVF, and other policies – not just for support, but to also create a conversation around these experiences.
We also ask Steve how he got leaders on board with his ideas. Steve notes that he was lucky to work with a supportive CEO. But he has also stressed the importance of D&I to his executives, with the knowledge that ‘a more diverse and inclusive, empowered and engaged organisation delivers a better bottom-line result’. But Steve also adds that he avoids ‘opening Excel and creating a business case for every scenario’ as many initiatives ‘were simply the right thing to do’. Where costs are associated, communicated these in advance and planned for them.
And the result? Engagement in the company is ‘at levels that would have been dreamed of five years ago’ and Zurich is the only insurer ranked in the top fifty places to work on Glassdoor.
Yet whilst Steve is very happy with the progress made, he believes the company still has a way to go. Steve realises it remains a challenge in financial services to attract workers from the black community, which he argues is a reality leaders need to accept and resolve. He is adamant that Zurich seeks a diverse and balanced applicant pool ‘at the top of the funnel’ and wants to ensure that the recruitment process is free of unconscious bias that does not create disadvantage to certain groups.
Ep.74 - How to ask for part-time work by making a business case, Rebekah Bostan, InsTech London
Key learning points
1.Changing attitudes to part-time and flexible working
2.How part-time workers could contribute just as much as full-time workers
3.Tips for how you can make the shift to part-time work
Today on the Risky Mix podcast we’re delighted to be rejoined by Rebekah Bostan, Director of Research and Insight at InsTech. Through sharing her learnings as a 14-year award-winning flexible worker, Rebekah will take us through the advantages that part-time work arrangements can offer both employees and businesses and will also challenge the stereotypes that surround this type of work, before providing some tips on how to ask your employer for a part-time role.
Rebekah begins by sharing how she looked to pursue part-time work after starting her family relatively young. It was the early-2000s, so part-time and flexible work options were quite rare, but as she was looking to balance childcare with caring for her partner with a disability, she was determined. She made a bold request and with a bit of help from lady luck, was successful in securing a part-time role. Rebekah tells us that this set-up not only allowed her to balance household responsibilities but also to do other things – she helped rebuild her local community centre and became a board member in local organisations.
Discussing attitudes to flexible work, Rebekah explains how throughout her career she encountered a wealth of ‘superfluous’ reasons for why part-time would never work, and yet during the pandemic, flexible working has proved completely possible. People have had no choice but to juggle work with caring requirements and social distancing necessitated work-from-home arrangements. But there is a long way to go for changing perceptions on part-work. She tells us of its ‘gendered nature’ as mostly women work part-time; often it’s seen as going down a ‘mummy career track’. Rebekah says you are still perceived as contributing less if not working a five-day week. Yet having experienced both full and part-time roles, Rebekah tells us that part-time workers are some of the ‘most structured, efficient, organised people because they have narrow time to do the work’. Working five days a week, she argues, can leave the door open for unproductive tasks and procrastination.
Rebekah also shares with us her ‘formula’ for how to ask your employer for part-time work:
1.Recognise the business before yourself. It’s not just about what you need - you have the right to ask for part-time work, but you don’t have the right to be granted it – your employer isn’t obliged to make changes unless it’s a medical adjustment. So you need to think about how you going part-time would benefit the business too.
2.All teams have their limits – think about what consequences your move to part-time will have on your managers and team members. Lots of teams are often overstretched and exhausted – so a request could be viewed as additional pressure - how will you counter this?
3.Recognise the role of manager discretion. Take time to figure out what your managers are worried about. Eg, is it cost, delivery timelines, or headcount? This can help you form a counterargument.
4.Triage your role. Get your work tasks down on paper, and sort them into three circles):
a.The ‘core’ tasks – high-value stuff that’s important to your manager or next job – the things you can’t compromise on and you will keep.
b.‘Low-value tasks’ – can these be automated, or even stopped?
c.The ‘delegation’ tasks – these should be sold as a golden opportunity to the people doing them – how can these grow your team’s skills?
5.Treat it like you are building a business case!
Rebekah also recommends looking at the charity Timewise (https://timewise.co.uk).
Ep.73 - Managing the menopause at work, Rebekah Bostan, InsTech London
The Key Learning Points:
1. How organisations can support women during menopause
2. How people are affected by (early) menopause
3. The importance of discussing menopause in society and at work
Today on the Risky Mix podcast we’re delighted to be joined by Rebekah Bostan, Director of Research and Insight at InsTech London and an award-winning diversity champion. Rebekah will be talking all about the menopause, including outlining some of the lesser-known symptoms and addressing some of the big misconceptions. Drawing from her own experience of unexpected early menopause, Rebekah will also share strategies for managing menopause at work and suggest how colleagues can support someone going through it.
Rebekah explains that, in her late 30's, she started to experience changes in her menstrual cycle. She says she was becoming increasingly intolerant and felt claustrophobic (later recognised as hot flush). She forgot common details like her children’s names (brain fog) and found it uncomfortable sitting down (a sign of vaginal dryness). Rebekah says she also struggled with anxiety. She wanted to grow her career, now that her kids were teens, but feared she would have to ‘lean out’. She explains it was a scary conversation to have; she had worked so hard to climb the corporate ladder and to persuade people to respect her as an equal, but now she had to ask to be treated a little differently (which, she reminds us, is ok too!).
Rebekah went to her GP believing she had early-onset dementia, but her GP recognised the signs of early menopause – having 28 out of 30 known symptoms! It turns out that both her mum and her grandmother had experienced early menopause, yet they'd never shared this with her. Rebekah believes this is because as a society we have ‘pushed menopause to a place where we don’t talk about it’. As a result, she struggled to recognise and define her symptoms - she lacked the language. She tells us it angers her that menopause isn’t discussed more, despite being a natural thing with symptoms that can generally be treated.
Rebekah tells us that her GP’s referral to an early menopause clinic had a nine-month wait, but she was lucky to have access to private medical treatment. But Rebekah tells us that she also leaned on other resources, including ‘menopause cafés’ where she talked to women at different stages of menopause.
Rebekah also tells us how she navigated her diagnosis at work. She worked part-time, which helped tremendously. As her company wasn’t talking about menopause, she created a menopause policy and groups (but warns us that policies only work if management buys into them!). She also tells us how asking for help was hard, but the best thing she did – she delegated her tasks to her team and chose opportunities that would allow her colleagues to grow.
We then talk about what teams can do to support someone experiencing menopause. Rebekah stresses the value of flexible working – such as working from home and the option to reduce hours. She wants employers to give people room to say what they need and then to provide that support. Rebekah told us how she felt comfortable telling her team when she was having a ‘brain-foggy’ day – allowing her colleagues to step in where necessary – and she would support them when they needed help too. She also urges people working in HR to distinguish menopausal sick days from normal sick days – as it can be stressful if you are perceived to be taking too much time off.
We also ask Rebekah if she has any final advice for people going through menopause. She urges people to track their symptoms and see a GP. If your GP isn’t taking your symptoms seriously, she says, find another one! She also recommends the resource menopausematters.co.uk. Finally, she urges people with the financial capacity to use private healthcare where they can, as she wants as many women as possible to stay in leadership.
Ep.72 - Learnings from the 10000 Black Interns movement, Dawid Konotey-Ahulu, Redington
The Key Learning Points:
1.How a lack of diversity affects the employee experience for minority groups
2.The impact of D&I focused internships
3.How companies can shift their mindset to become more inclusive
Today on the Risky Mix podcast we’re joined by Dawid Konotey-Ahulu, co-founder of Redington, an investment consultancy, and Mallowstreet, a platform for education and convening in the asset management industry. Dawid is also the co-founder of 10000 Black Interns, a not-for-profit organisation that is finding 10,000 internships for black graduates across 24 sectors over the next five years and in this episode, he will take us through the story, the successes so far and the things he has learned that could help organisations striving to recruit and retain a more diverse workforce.
Dawid begins by sharing his early career and the initial hurdles he faced. He qualified as a junior barrister in 1987 and was accepted onto a pupilage with The Bar, however, was informed that there was no chance of this developing into a job, as they’d ‘already hired a black person last year’! Nevertheless, Dawid went on to have a 30-year long career in the city, working as an in-house lawyer for banks, before eventually transitioning into investment banking and then founding Redington in 2006.
Dawid noticed that, though he never faced any outright racism during his time in the City, he was often the only black person in the room. He was approached by one of his junior staffers, Grace, who was also of black heritage and shared a similar story. As the daughter of a single mum, she had worked hard to get a job as an actuary in the City but felt that her confidence waned as she was outnumbered by mostly older, white colleagues - she didn’t know how to ‘be’.
Dawid tells us that at the time, out of the City's 3,000 asset managers, only 12 were black. Thinking introspectively in June 2020, deep in lockdown and in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, Dawid wanted to take action. He spoke with his asset management contacts and asked them to take 1 black intern for 6 weeks during summer. After phoning up 30 companies, 30 had accepted. Eventually, over 200+ firms said ‘yes’ to 500+ internships.
The response, Dawid tells us, was incredible and messages from ecstatic interns flew into his inbox. Dawid tells us this inspired him to grow the scheme to set up 100 internships over 20 sectors for 5 years - hence the target of 10,000 emerged. Dawid reminds us that firms ought to do more than simply accept BAME interns, but it's a step in the right direction, showing that when people come together, change can happen quickly. He tells us he used the 'here comes everyone' approach to persuade bosses and keep momentum, saying ‘everyone is doing it, so why don’t you!’. Amazingly, 30% of the interns placed got a job and those that didn’t were inundated with high quality offers from other firms. He reminds us that a hallmark of inequality is a lack of contacts – afterwards, the interns had a flood of LinkedIn requests. Dawid tells us that the programme changed the way in which firms work and think about recruitment – placing less emphasis on educational background (important, given that black people are underrepresented at the top universities).
We finish by asking Dawid what can be done by organisations to create a more diverse workspace. He acknowledges that there are plenty of well-meaning people in organisations who want to enact change, but there is a pervasive belief that success is entirely determined by how much work people are willing to put in. Dawid reminds us that this simply isn’t the case – take the fact that there are only 6 CEOs in the FTSE 100 are women. If corporations want to make a difference, he tells us, they need to make it their no.1 item on their agenda. A company can have a high stock price and great retention – but diversity is also crucial for business success.
Ep.71 - Dyslexia as a superpower and the need for digital 'ramps', Ross Linnett, Recite Me
Key learning points:
1.The impact of dyslexia on someone’s life
2.The value of neurodiversity in your organisation
3.The benefits of making websites accessible for everyone
Today on the podcast we’re delighted to be joined by Ross Linnett, CEO at Recite Me, a company creating inclusive online experiences through its web accessibility plugin software. We're hear Ross’ story, including the impact that his late dyslexia diagnosis had on his journey, and discuss how companies in financial services and beyond can deliver a more inclusive digital customer experience.
We first chat about how Ross’ undiagnosed dyslexia impacted his school life. Ross was very confident but hated reading aloud to his classmates and wasn’t performing in exams. Ross asked his teachers if he was dyslexic and was dismissed. He thought ‘I must just be a bit thick!’
Ross then tells us how he made his life choices around dyslexia, picking electrical engineering, despite not having a passion for it. He eventually got tested after a friend noticed he was showing signs of dyslexia.
Ross explains that we are all on a neurodiverse scale, with Autism and Asperger’s on one side, dyslexia on the other and non-dyslexic people in between. He reminds us that the world is mostly built for neurotypical people, but having a dyslexic brain can be a superpower in itself. Whilst neurotypical brains can only process one or two streams of information at the same time, dyslexic people can handle four or five. Ross reminds us that dyslexia is about the brain performing differently, despite being labelled as a disability. He tells us that The World Health Organisation thinks that 10-15% of the western population is dyslexic, but it could be as high as 25%!
Ross then tells us about how he became President of his Student Union where his abilities could shine.: ‘I got into running a £3 million business when I was 22’. He even pitched into the white paper for the Disability Discrimination Act. Before this, it was up to disabled people, not employers, to make necessary adjustments.
We then asked Ross about how his experiences led to founding Recite Me. After his diagnosis, accessibility software was a game-changer. Being able to have text read out aloud and change background page colour would allow him to stay switched on and work faster for longer. To make websites more accessible, Ross started Recite Me. Tools like text-to-speech, magnification, dyslexia-friendly fonts help his clients (including Boots and Tesco Bank) make their sites more readable for all. Ross tells us that these systems don’t just benefit dyslexics – everyone has their own combination of background colour, font and text colour that can make the work up to 20-25% faster. That’s why Ross believes that digital accessibility tools should be as common as a wheelchair ramp.
We then talk about the need for accessibility in financial services. Ross reminds us that we must read lots of legalese on websites. He questions how well companies could enforce a contract if someone couldn’t properly absorb that information. Walls of text like policy documents can easily make him bored – so he often leaves buying his insurance right to the last minute.
Ross warns us that the biggest impact on a dyslexic’s life can be the resistance of systems. Where something, like education, hasn’t worked for someone, they either design a system for themselves or reject it. He tells us that a study of a prison’s population revealed that 85% of the inmates were dyslexic. He urges people to get tested if they believe they are dyslexic.
Finally, we ask what non-dyslexic people can do to help, as community members and employers. Ross hopes that neurodiverse conditions are seen less as disabilities but more for their advantages in teams, such as their analytical and memory skills. He wants this to be as universal as having gender diversity in modern organisations.
Ep.70 - Diversity reporting in insurance and tackling the culture of concealment, Tracy Garrad, AXA Health
The Key Learning Points:
1.Misconceptions about careers in insurance, and why it is actually a fantastic industry to be part of
2.Lessons from AXA’s ‘Fairer in Five’ campaign for diversity reporting
3.How the culture of concealment in the financial services industry may be impacting negatively on the diversity of the workforce
Today on the Risky Mix Podcast, we’re delighted to be joined by Tracy Garrad, CEO at AXA Health and executive sponsor for D&I at AXA UK. We’ll hear Tracy’s personal career journey, including where her passion for changing perceptions of the insurance industry came from. We will also discuss Tracy’s experience leading AXA’s D&I disclosure campaign and explore what insurance companies can do to improve their D&I reporting.
Tracy starts by telling us about her career journey and her untypical path, which led her to becoming the CEO at three different organisations. Tracy grew up on a council estate in Blackpool, which now has one of the highest poverty rates in the UK.
After leaving school at 17 to look after younger siblings when her mother passed away, Tracy ended up working for someone who changed her life. They supported her practically and emotionally and helped her go back to school to study Business and Finance, alongside holding down her job.
In addition to Tracy’s role as CEO of AXA Health, she is the executive sponsor for diversity and inclusion for AXA UK. She tells us all about the ‘Fair in Five’ campaign launched last March. The campaign encourages employees to share their diversity and inclusion data characteristics. Tracy says that many businesses, not just insurers, have little data on the makeup of their workforce.
Tracy tells us that by having this data and having a baseline, AXA will be able to develop targeted interventions that will help make the workplace fairer and more inclusive.
Tracy is also passionate about changing perceptions of the insurance industry. She says that many have a perception that insurance is dull and really technical, but Tracy explains that insurance is actually really personable.
She wants to inspire and encourage more people to choose insurance as a career path and put the message out there; that you can make a difference to people’s lives by working in the insurance sector, plus have a brilliant career.
One of the ways Tracy believes we can encourage more people to choose insurance as a career is by getting rid of the existing culture of concealment that surrounds people’s backgrounds, which research has shown is very typical in the financial services sector.
“The data would suggest that there are more people, within the higher ranks of the financial services firms, that do have people who have come from a lower socioeconomic background but actually just aren’t comfortable talking about it publicly.”
Tracy adds that this culture of concealment creates this belief that you have to follow a certain path to success. She says that the more role models that we have, that are willing to be open and share the adversity they may have experienced, the more that myths will be dispelled and a wider range of people will believe that that could be them.
Tracy also shares her tips for young people and how best to progress in their career.
Her main big tip: have a plan.
Inspiring & honest , with a bit of girl power too !!!
The podcasts are interesting, relevant & well worth a Listen 😃
So honest and real!!!
I’m absolutely loving this podcast. As a women working in the insurance industry this really resonates with me and so nice to hear other women facing the same challenges/opportunities as me. Please keep more episodes coming 😊
This podcast is a game changer.
Interesting, uplifting, empowering and informative... as a young woman starting a new career in the Insurance Industry, this podcast has been so incredibly valuable for me, and I couldn’t recommend it highly enough!