Building a More Diverse Insurance Industry: Adrian Stewart, Public Sector Field Practice Leader, Travelers

Insurance Industry News & Views - February 24 2022

Adrian Stewart is Public Sector Field Practice Leader at Travelers Insurance and Vice Chair of the GammaSAID Industry Council, Gamma Iota Sigma’s student-centered diversity, equity, and inclusion strategy that engages both students and industry stakeholders to amplify authenticity, inclusion, and diversity within the insurance industry. Adrian has over 25 years of experience underwriting and managing guaranteed cost and loss responsive business in Middle Market, National Accounts Casualty and Public Entity business units. We caught up with Adrian to ask a few questions about his path to insurance, and how insurance companies can attract new talent and foster a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Adrian, tell us about your path to insurance. What attracted you to the profession?

Heading into my junior year at the University of Missouri, one of my closest friends and teammates in college got me into insurance. He recommended that I apply for the minority internship program that he had completed the previous year. The program was designed for students to learn all aspects of the insurance business.

Looking back on my path, what attracted me to the profession was the opportunity to work with a friend who had already created a path within the company. He was a great mentor and taught me the importance of understanding corporate culture and building a network. After college, I was offered a position and received my formal training as a small business underwriter.

Over the course of the next 15 years, I worked my way up from small commercial to middle market and eventually national accounts. I believe my experience in multiple areas of insurance helped advance my career into the varies leadership position I’ve held over the past 8 years at Travelers.

The insurance industry faces a recruitment challenge with millennials and Gen Z choosing professions they believe to be more progressive, challenging, and fun. What can insurers do to entice new talent?

More than ever, insurers need to create a work-life balance friendly environment. Flexible work schedules and/or the ability to work remotely is important. Competitive salaries and a clear vision of career growth opportunities are critical during the recruitment process. I believe that insurers that are at the cutting edge of digital innovation will also have the upper hand. In more recent years, there has been a call for action related to diversity and a more inclusive workplace. In my opinion, the industry will need to continue to employ diverse management teams to ensure that millennials and Gen Z’s can envision themselves as an employee at the company.

In 2019, S&P Global Market Intelligence, compiling data from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, found that Black employees represented 12.4 percent of the insurance carrier workforce, a slight increase from 9 percent in 2010. What do you think needs to happen to change the face of the insurance industry and make it more diverse, equitable, and inclusive?

First, we need to see an increased effort by insurance companies to recruit diverse candidates. This week I participated in roundtable discussions hosted by Gamma Iota Sigma which included faculty members from women’s and historically black colleges, along with community colleges. GIS is looking to expand chapters into this academic segment. Career fairs and increased corporate visibility on those campuses would be a great place to increase diverse candidate recruiting. Second, we need a solid employee retention strategy for people of diverse backgrounds. We won’t see the numbers continue to increase if the turnover rate is high. Third, consistent evidence of promotion and advancement for people of a diverse backgrounds is needed. Finally, it’s up to everyone, from all different backgrounds within the organization to prompt and foster an inclusive workplace environment.

Do you see any connections between fostering a diverse culture and innovation in the insurance industry? Do insurance organizations that have embraced diversity in a meaningful way have an edge when it comes to innovation and growth?

Definitely. Recent statistical projections point to this very fact. By 2045, White Americans are only expected to account for roughly 49% of the US population. If you believe the numbers are accurate, we will continue to see a diverse consumer demographic. Companies that emphasize the importance of “Cultural Competence” will be in a better position to service their insureds. It starts with focused and purposeful leadership behaviors. Companies that develop leadership teams that see diversity as an imperative will be equipped to adapt to change at an accelerated pace.  

Throughout the pandemic, many of us have had to learn to work remotely and collaborate virtually. What lasting impact do you think the pandemic will have on the future of work?

No matter how you want to define it, hybrid/remote work arrangements are here to stay. Our ability to connect and conduct business virtually has been tested over the past two years. I believe most would agree that we’ve found a way to make it work. As technology continues to advance, people will embrace collaborating virtually even more in the future. The cost benefits and work efficiencies associated with a hybrid/remote workforce have really changed the attitudes of many within our industry.

We curate an annual crowdsourced eBook Commercial Insurance Underwriting Priorities. Given your background in underwriting, what’s your perspective on how emerging technologies are transforming core underwriting processes?

Exposure analysis, risk evaluation, price determination, and decision making will always be paramount and core fundamentals in the underwriting process. Over the past several years, improvements in our system platforms and work management tools have really helped to increase the workflow efficiency of our underwriters. From my perspective, technology has really enabled a more streamlined workflow process for our business. In addition, it’s improved how we communicate internally and externally. Increased agency/client visibility, more time for internal collaboration, and quoting more business are just a few of the advantages we are seeing due to the emergence of technology.

What would you say to a student or recent grad considering a career in insurance?

There is still a significant talent gap in the insurance workforce with as high as 50% of staff preparing to retire by the year 2034. This means that there will be an abundance of jobs and opportunities for advancement within the industry. Job security is another advantage as insurance is overwhelmingly viewed as a more stable field than others. More importantly, you will get the opportunity to build personal and professional relationships that will undoubtedly benefit you down the road.  

Adrian StewartAdrian Stewart is an Assistant Vice President with Travelers Insurance Companies, where he leads a team of underwriters and sales professionals within the Public Sector business unit. He holds a B.S from the University of Missouri – Columbia and MBA from The University of Notre Dame. Mr. Stewart has over 25 years of experience in the insurance industry. In addition to his role with Travelers, He is Co-Chair of the GammaSaid Industry Council.

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