Vivien Berryman speaks to Junior Garba and Godwin Sosi about the work the African-Caribbean Insurance Network is doing to make the profession more diverse and inclusive
Junior Garba, cyber underwriter at Tokio Marine Kiln (TMK), and Godwin Sosi, management liability underwriter at Sompo International, founded the African-Caribbean Insurance Network (ACIN) in 2018 in response to personal experiences with the diversity and inclusion landscape across the insurance profession.
"For generations, the insurance sector has been dealing with significant levels of underrepresentation of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) individuals," says Mr Garba.
"We know that just 10% of the UK insurance workforce comes from BAME backgrounds and the higher up you begin to go in an organisation, this statistic begins to reduce quite dramatically."
To address the profession's diversity and inclusion issues, the pair formed the ACIN in 2018.
"Our initial plan to create the ACIN was very well received by TMK, says Mr Sosi. "They sent us to the US to attend the National African-American Insurance Association conference for African-Americans across the globe. Here, professionals come together to hear about diversity and inclusion in the workplace and discuss how they can help drive it forward."
Mr Sosi explains that, on their return to the UK, they were approached by Lloyd's of London. Lloyd's offered them a gold sponsorship to get the ACIN up and running. "We had a meeting with John Neal, CEO of Lloyd's of London. Junior spoke about his experiences at TMK and the UK project developed from there," says Mr Sosi.
"We knew that the diversity and inclusion space had been gaining momentum for some time but that a lot of those conversations had been heavily focused on gender diversity," says Mr Garba. "The conversations are now beginning to expand to include broader aspects such as ethnic diversity.
"When we first started raising awareness, it was the first time many people had heard about these issues in the London market, there was natural resistance to what we were about," he says.
One key challenge in the early stages was in establishing the ACIN as a 'safe space' and a respected platform to give people the confidence to engage in conversations about the cause of diversity and inclusion issues in the profession.
But one year since it was formed, the organisation is now firmly established within the insurance profession as a forum for networking, sharing experiences and coming up with ways to make the sector a more attractive destination for BAME professionals.
Speaking of their success, Mr Garba says: "Last year, we decided to launch the largest careers fair tour in the history of the market. Godwin and I visited about 15 universities across the country, along with our leadership team of eight people and volunteers from the market. "
Through these careers fairs, we managed to sign up 700 students to our network. A lot of those students are now working in the London market."
Much of the ACIN's work is focused on helping prospective students and giving them valuable insights into what a career in insurance looks like.
Mr Garba continues: "Off the back of those events, we have now managed to place about 10 students into permanent positions on graduate schemes and on internship programmes.
"We have also been doing a lot of graduate recruitment, including recruitment for one of the largest graduate schemes in the market, which is a great success for us as well."
In 2020 and beyond, how do Mr Garba and Mr Sosi see the profession evolving in terms of racial diversity and what part will the ACIN play in this?
"We abide by the idea of being the change you want to see," says Mr Sosi. "It is not an overnight job, but it starts with attracting students, retaining and developing them through their career to make insurance a profession they can thrive in.
"One of the things that we have tried to work on is having reverse-mentoring sessions, connecting students with insurance professionals who are not from a BAME background in order to share some of the challenges that they have experienced throughout their lives and careers."
Mr Sosi concludes: "That safe space and that environment where you can talk about things and put things into action are what is ultimately going to drive the change within the profession forward." To find out more about the ACIN, visit: theacin.co.uk
Vivien Berryman is corporate development coordinator of the CII and founder of the CII Community Network. Additional reporting by Bobbi Sills
Mr Garba joined the TMK graduate scheme in 2015, having previously worked his way up on the Kiln internship programme. He then joined the cyber underwriting team within the enterprise risk division. Mr Garba is a keen supporter of his local community of Lewisham.
Mr Sosi completed a one-year placement programme at Mercedes-Benz, followed by an undergraduate degree in Economics and Finance (BA Hons). Prior to his current position as assistant underwriter, Mr Sosi completed a two-year role as an underwriting assistant in Chubb's financial lines team.