News AirPlus 08 Mar 2018

Happy Women's Day!

| 08 Mar 2018

The call to action during #IWD2018 for gender parity and inclusion grows stronger than ever. The insurance industry has made great strides to ensure their make-up is as diverse as their clients, and all across Asia, the strength of women are being realized. In celebration of International Women's Day, we talked to several insurers across Asia on the importance of diversity and having women in the industry.


Mr Rajiv Kumar, Managing Director and CEO, Universal Sompo General Insurance

The role of a woman in the insurance industry, be it as a customer or working for an insurance company, is very pivotal for the society as well as for the insurance industry. Today, due to technological advancements, such as smartphone usage and exposure to multimedia, women are playing a key role in understanding product offerings and taking decision on financial planning towards their household and wellness services towards family members. Some independent market studies have also shown that women have an integral stance towards the purchase of vehicles (make & colours). With the country progressing on uplifting the spirit and empowering women towards an equal status, financial institutions have realized the potential and the needs that women customers can influence towards a purchase.  

Insurance companies like ours had already envisaged this earlier and have a few leadership roles and function that are solely being headed by women colleagues. At Universal Sompo General Insurance, we have Women colleagues who are successfully running the show in almost all departments of our company. 

We at Universal Sompo General Insurance have always believed that there is no function in an insurance company where the role of a woman is deemed to be seen as unfit towards the functioning of the organization. We have provided an equal opportunity for them to contribute and have a say in business strategy and operational activities. We encourage their point of view from their individual experiences towards drawing a marketing strategy or towards deployment of customer service solutions for gaining amicable outcomes.

 Our experience has taught us that Women are very keen to question the scope of coverage in Insurance solutions and consider insurance products to mitigate hardships towards any unfortunate events.

Ms Nighat Khan, Country Head P&C – India, General Reinsurance AG India Branch

"If you risk nothing, then you risk everything." Geena Davis (author) aptly reminds all women in this Industry of Risk Management to be champions of our own destiny.

Believe that your daily decisions, contributions, efforts and tolerance are shaping this Industry, building stronger foundations to be better for the next generation of women. We are carving out a path for them and beacons to aspire to. Each contribution is never wasted, and you are a part of it - today and tomorrow!

Ms Angela Kelly, Country Manager for Singapore, Lloyd’s

“The commercial imperatives of diversity continues to be proven. At Lloyd’s we strongly believe that diversity in all forms makes for a better and more inclusive workplace, and this leads to better outcomes for our customers and consequently, our business. Having women in the industry, and particularly in senior leadership positions, is key to fostering a diverse and inclusive environment.

Lloyd’s takes diversity very seriously and I’m immensely proud that we are leading conversations on this topic in the insurance sector and more broadly, in the financial industry. As an example, Lloyd’s is one of the original collaborators and major proponents of the Dive In festival, a global initiative to celebrate and raise awareness of diversity and inclusion in the insurance industry. Last year in Singapore the industry came together to host five events over three days covering a range of topics including disabilities in the workplace. What I think we do well in is that our words are backed by actions, which sends a strong message to our people.”

Ms Tessi Chan, Regional Head of HR, AGCS Asia

At Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty SE (AGCS) we have long recognized the importance and benefits of having a diverse workforce. For us diversity goes beyond gender and ethnicity. It also encompasses other critical aspects such as disability, work-life balance, inter-functional and inter-generational integration. Inclusion is about embracing differences and creating a cohesive workplace where everyone feels valued and achieves their full potential.

At AGCS, we have targets not quotas. Fundamentally it is about hiring the right individual for the correct role. We do not just select candidates based on gender or have an ethnic minority representative. The main goal is to stay non-discriminatory.

AGCS has set targets for the female percentage in leadership by December 2018 – 20% for board of management positions and 40% in talent pools. We have already achieved the target for the board and we are well underway in terms of female participation in talent pools.

This isn’t a box-ticking exercise for AGCS. We recognize there is still room for improvement in implementing flexible working options. For example, in Asia, we have helped ease the challenges of the working mother by implementing various programs, such as telecommuting, flexible work hours and paid leave by the hour.

It is important to continue motivating and supporting women in their career paths after we hit the target. For the long-term success of a company, we believe in equal opportunities for development for all staff, regardless of gender, race or age.

Our industry, traditionally a male-oriented industry has been changing and appointments are increasingly being made on quality rather than gender.

This is because employees from diverse backgrounds bring individual talents and experiences in suggesting ideas that are flexible in adapting to fluctuating markets and client demands. A diverse workforce that feels comfortable communicating varying points of view provides a larger pool of ideas and experiences. So we can draw from that pool to meet business strategy needs and the needs of customers more effectively.

Mrs Surekha Alles, Managing Director, Allianz Insurance Lanka

Diversity is important to any workplace irrespective of gender, religion, race or cast for a sustainable growth in any organisation. Women have the ability and emotional intelligence to look at many issues in different angles and have a natural ability of empathy which is very much needed in today’s customer service.

Ms Usha Ramaswamy, General Manager, GIC Re.

GIC Re, as a significant player in the financial sector leads the way in women empowerment and diversity at work place too.

With the first woman CMD of the insurance sector, 2 women Directors in its Board, a General Manager, an Actuarial Head, half a dozen DGMs in the wings to move to top managerial level and about 30% of  women employees, GIC Re is a happy place for women to contribute their value adds which comes naturally through their keen insights, sharp decision making abilities, balanced approach to problem solving and  deep rooted commitment to give their best in all  their endeavours.

Ms Farzana Chowdhury, Managing Director and CEO, Green Delta Insurance Co. Ltd

Workplace diversity contributes greatly to bring in more innovation and the socio-economic impact of this paves the way for financial inclusion. Women’s contribution is strongly visible in micro finance and SMEs like many other sectors. Bangladesh Government’s 7th five-year plan regarding the global goals also promise to bridge the gap through diversity and likewise Green Delta Family has included this in their corporate strategic objectives. Green Delta also signed the WEPs as a pioneer which ensured a platform for women to come forward in decision making and be engaged in risk taking activities.

R M Vishakha, Managing Director and CEO, IndiaFirst Life Insurance Co. Ltd

When considering career choices, women perhaps do not deliberate as much on our inherent skills. Strangely enough, what we lean more towards are roles bucketed as “male-centric” or otherwise, giving little credence to the unique individual competence. The need of the hour is to weed out pre-existing biases and abolish stereotypes formed out of centuries of conditioning.

Women’s resourcefulness has always been evident whether through spiritual endeavours such as fasts and prayers or the duteous attention to the smallest of things, when caring for her family - personal risk protection has been innate to them. Even in modern India, homemakers largely dependent on men for finances, are living examples of resourcefulness in usage, allocation and management of funds. How many of us have heard stories of our female friends recalling how they coaxed their parents for their late-night outings – sharing details of the plan down to the last detail, until parents were finally convinced? The male sibling has seldom had to struggle with this. 

These are just few parallels one could draw on women’s astute understanding of risk management, with them mostly being the beneficiaries. So, I believe that women’s impact in Insurance (be it asset or risk management) can be much more, as they naturally understand risks, as its part of their everyday life.

Mr Sunil Wariar, Chief Human Resources Officer at Future Generali India Insurance Co. Ltd

Historically, financial services have been male bastions. However, many Indian women are making it to the corner office now than ever before, besides handling critical roles in organisations. The proportion of women MDs and CEOs in Indian companies has also risen to a significant level. The insurance sector is all through a people business and needs high levels of trust and people orientation.

It is always felt that women can play impactful roles in it with their high levels of adaptability, sense of ownership, ability to build relationship and their towering integrity. The sector has also witnessed a large involvement of women as agents and intermediaries in distribution because it is a lucrative profession that is outside the 9 to 5 work frame.

Women are highly acceptable and very successful, and this is leading to increasing demand for women agents not just in Insurance distribution but also in the entire financial Services sector. Women agents’ numbers are growing in small cities also as they have started looking at it as an earning opportunity. Money is important but for many women, the career opportunity opened by insurance goes beyond the income it brings, even in the smaller cities.

Gunjan Gupta, Head of Analytics, Bajaj Allianz Life Insurance

A diverse workforce brings with it a rich collection of skillsets and perspectives that help an organisation create competitive advantage for itself. Studies have indicated that companies with higher women participation in leadership positions are better off in terms of emotional quotient, profitability and value creation for customers in the long term. At Bajaj Allianz Life Insurance, we have imbibed a culture that fosters and values female leadership and offers women several opportunities to grow in their careers and achieve their Life Goals!

Mr Vikramjeet Singh, Chief Human Resources Officer, Bajaj Allianz General Insurance

Insurance is a field where both technical and behavioural attributes have equal value. The perception that insurance is a male dominated field is changing rapidly with women making strides in building their career within insurance industry, not only at the entry level but also at leadership positions. Diversity and inclusion is the core value of our company culture, which reflects while attracting, retaining and developing the best talent. The organization has been instrumental in building an agile workforce across levels which reflects in our campus strategy and lateral recruits. Additionally, as a pioneering initiative in the insurance sector we had launched the ‘All Women Branch’ across India to help empower women professionals. It provides women with a conducive environment to gain financial independence and a platform to carve a successful career in insurance. I strongly believe employees of companies which value diversity and inclusion, tend to think independently together. This is a clear recipe of sustainable growth.

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