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Diversity and inclusion: a competitive advantage

A balanced workforce with members hailing from different backgrounds with diverse viewpoints doesn't just turn heads, it turns profits.

According to panelists at a recent session at the Swiss Re Centre for Global Dialogue, research shows that companies lacking in diversity of thought and opinion perform poorer than those who embrace it.

"I think that the greatest risk that we have inside any corporation - institutional blindness - is the biggest risk to the future of any organization," said futurist Patrick Dixon. Institutional blindness happens when a majority of an organization's decision makers have the same background.

"If it's true that institutional blindness is the biggest challenge to the future of any organization, then it must be true that to have a homogeneous group of people who are all roughly the same age, the same sex, the same backgrounds, went to the same schools, it must be a terminally suicidal risk."

Diverse risks need diverse ideas

The insurance industry can be a prime mover for showing in the worth of diversity. The reason? According to Dixon, risk is very complicated. To examine possible scenarios, a wide range of ideas is needed. This range should stem from a diverse group. "You need diversity of thought and approach to be able to predict in a modeling situation."

Using the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and resulting Fukushima nuclear plant accident as an example, Dixon stated that "if you want to understand the underwriting risk of a 20-second earthquake in Japan, you have to think about not just the earthquake in Japan, but about energy policies throughout the world."  A well-rounded understanding of this risk can only come from teams with diverse members, each contributing expertise shaped by their respective backgrounds.

Swiss Re, panelists discuss the business of diversity

Top management from Zurich Insurance Group, AXA, Allianz and Argo participated in the 13 June event. In her keynote address, Viviane Reding, European Commission Vice President and EU Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights, stated that gender inequality was "hurting business in Europe" and alluded to the EU considering the enforcement of a quota system.

Swiss Re Group CEO Michel Liès told the audience that diversity can be a common denominator for success. "At Swiss Re, we strive to diversify our risks both on the asset and on the liability side of our business. Ensuring the greatest diversity of assets and liabilities allows us to make our business model efficient. So why wouldn't we apply the same principle to our most important asset – our people?"

Published 2 July 2013

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