D&I Issues in the Insurance Industry

Deborah Egel-Fergus
Regional Underwriting Director, Lawyers Professional Liability, Argo Group US

Deborah Egel-Fergus recently joined Argo Group in August 2020 as Regional Underwriting Director handling Lawyers Professional Liability. She was previously at US Risk/ USI Insurance for over 2 years servicing as Managing General Agent for The Hanover Insurance Company handling Lawyers Professional Liability. She served as Senior Vice President at AP Specialty where she was responsible for building agency partnerships and expanding the company’s footprint in the region. She wrote D&O and E&O for various professional disciplines. Ms. Egel-Fergus joined the company August 2017 after over 15 years at Travelers Insurance Company, where she was an Account-Executive Officer and Professional Liability Team Leader with the Bond and Financial Products. At Travelers, Ms. Egel-Fergus managed a $7 million Lawyers Professional Liability book of business consisting of 2 states in the South Central Region, and she handled Excess Lawyers E&O for Northern California, Southern California, Midwest and Southwest Regions of the U.S.  Prior to joining Travelers, Ms. Egel-Fergus worked in Property & Casualty insurance since 1986 in various capacities for several major national companies, including TIG Specialty Insurance Company, Southern Risk Specialists Lexington, and Bertholon-Rowland Corporation.

DIVERSITY and INCLUSION ISSUES IN THE INSURANCE INDUSTRY and THE IMPORTANCE OF STRONG ASSOCIATION SUPPORT

As the United States continues to roil in the aftermath of events across the country
to protest systemic racism and to support Black Lives Matter, many companies and
employees struggle to find the right thing to say or do. It’s no surprise that in today’s current climate companies across the nation are attempting to modify their efforts regarding Diversity and Inclusion. Professional Liability Underwriting Society (PLUS) has been instrumental in acknowledging the importance of the value of Diversity and Inclusion within the insurance industry. A few years ago PLUS launched a variety of comprehensive ways to have important courageous conversations about complex topics across differences. PLUS, in conjunction with the PLUS Foundation launched the Women’s Leadership Networking Events as well as the Leadership and Mentoring Program (LAMP) and the Diversity and Inclusion committee to work with the LAMP cohort to continue to strengthen our efforts towards the belief that Diversity and Inclusion was a critical component that needed to be addressed within our current industry. We have been able to add panel discussions during our Annual International Conferences which has also led to contributions from key representatives from important major insurance corporations including our sponsors and collaborations with Gamma Iota Sigma (GIS) a professional network. GIS leads the sustainable growth and diversification of the insurance industry’s student talent pipeline across all functional areas. We have attempted to create relevant much needed dialogue on urgent topics of combating racial bias, ensuring equitable talent outcomes and intentionally advancing people of color and LGBTQ+ groups most of which continue to be underrepresented in our industry.

It is quite evident that we are very motivated to work harder and provide more options for our membership. We seem to be getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. We realize that many of our corporate sponsors have also been called to action and have developed Diversity and Inclusion initiatives like Diverse Business Networks (DBN’s), Employee Resource Groups (ERG’s) and other directives to ensure these initiatives gain traction within their organizations. Consequently, it appears that some of these Employee Resource Groups are used as in-house Diversity Equity and Inclusion consulting teams and, in some way, take the position of a Chief Diversity Officer but without the salary tag thereby exploiting companies. In fact, companies save millions while passionate employees from marginalized communities burn themselves out. However, there are some companies that have attempted to incorporate diversity, equity and inclusion strategies into their governance, programming and various other platforms. Because of these changes it appears there is more demand for racial equality. We want to see more progress within the realm of diversity, equity and inclusion within corporate America and particularly in the insurance industry. In order for inclusion, diversity, equity in advocacy to really take hold, we urgently need people in positions of influence who truly understand the power of these values to support these initiatives. To put it more bluntly: we can be it if we see it. We have seen some evidence of companies making changes either by adding a Chief Diversity Officer to their executive suite or promoting people of color into middle and more senior professional roles. Consequently, we also know that there are companies that have not hired or engaged in hiring a Chief Diversity Officer. The reality is that only 3.2% of the Fortune 500 companies in the USA show diversity numbers. Challenges continue to exist within these social trends. 1,200+ CEOs and Presidents are pledging to ACT ON supporting a more inclusive workplace for employees, communities and society at large. https://www.ceoaction.com/

I came across another great article in LinkedIn written by Dr. Leroy D. Nunery II , Founder & Principal, PlūsUltré LLC and Susan Johnson Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer at The Hartford that really dives into the demands for racial equity over the past few months. They confirm that organizations across the globe have asserted their abhorrence against racism and have taken a call to action vowing to work harder and do more to demonstrate their commitment to equity. Lee Nunery and Susan Johnson, (July 23, 2020) LinkedIn, Part I of II: Why aren’t there more Blacks in leadership roles in the Insurance Industry? https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/part-i-ii-why-arent-more-blacks-leadership-roles-industry-johnson/?trackingId=kNagUZiLSkihmBxNj6nFcg%3D%3D

How can we gain the interest of these underrepresented groups we are trying to attract as an association? Becoming a great influencer has become so popular during this digital era. So many of our young folks are involved in vocal platforms and supporting common causes or creating awareness whether it be social, political, or popular. We know that the millennials seek purpose and diversity in the workplace. We are on the right path to ensuring that we listen to these groups particularly those within our insurance industry as we continue to create opportunities within the industry. As we look at our membership across the nation and various participating countries we realize how diverse we have become over the years. Through the offering of the Registered Professional Liability Underwriter (RPLU) designation program, PLUS University, Future PLUS Professionals, and those participants in the grass roots via our 14 chapters including Canada and London, and the collaborative efforts of the PLUS Foundation, we continue to make an impact on diversity. Although we are a nonprofit volunteer organization a lot can be said about the value that PLUS has provided in this space through the years. PLUS has evolved with the leadership of our CEO, Robbie Thompson, at the helm along with the PLUS Executive Staff and its volunteers. However, we have a significant need to focus and develop tomorrow’s workforce and those professionals that face obstacles. As a result, we recently updated PLUS Foundation’s mission statement to make a greater impact to address the changes within our industry and become more transparent to our mission as well as our membership. In fact, we have refocused our mission to develop and re-train military vets and help advance the career levels of our diverse membership due to challenges they face within our industry. We are looking to ensure that we evolve both the PLUS Board and the Foundation Board creating clear focus between the two arms of PLUS. Additionally, we are looking to include advisory positions held by former/current LAMP participants on to both boards thereby creating further accountability responsibly throughout the organization. Doing this would encourage them to become leaders and help serve as a model for others. We will continue to be more transparent by including more people of color as our panel or keynote speakers, vendors, staff, and the membership who represent our diversity and make them more inclusive across the board thus making everyone feel more welcomed.

Our rationale is knowing and understanding that the principle behind diversity, inclusion and equity are all elements that are important to having a culture that values uniqueness: people of different backgrounds, cultures, genders, and races. It’s belonging that makes each individual feel accepted for who they are. We at PLUS and as Chair of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee are committed to exploring the solutions to help our membership grow and remain relevant as the country continues to evolve. We face many challenges in today’s world and particularly in our industry. We strive to deliver intentional solutions to strengthen our impact as a diverse association. This barely scratches the surface, but it’s a place to start. We know that while it’s a great time to listen carefully, it’s also a perfect time that demands action. By taking positive steps to use our passion we can avoid having members that have felt marginalized because we are not providing opportunities to create an inclusive, diverse and equitable platform within the insurance industry as we posture ourselves and pivot to be well positioned for success and influence change.

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About plushq

The Professional Liability Underwriting Society (PLUS) was founded in 1986 by industry professionals who recognized the need for a forum for individuals involved in the field of professional liability. The Society is a non-profit organization with membership open to persons interested in the promotion and development of the professional liability industry. Membership consists of over 6,500 individuals, representing over 1,000 companies active in the many fields of professional liability. PLUS currently receives the support of more than 200 companies through corporate membership. PLUS is recognized as the primary source of professional liability educational programs and seminars, assistance to its members to help serve clients, and information regarding professional liability. The Society is continually seeking new means to fulfill its mission statement and better serve its members.

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