Big Interview with Cover Magazine: CII’s Sian Fisher

The Chartered Insurance Institute (CII) set up Insuring Women’s Futures to examine how the insurance industry interacts with women and women’s risks. Fiona Murphy speaks to the CII’s chief executive Sian Fisher at a launch event partnering with the HeForShe movement.

Fiona Murphy: How did the HeForShe collaboration come about?

Sian Fisher: As part of the Insuring Women’s Futures programme, we wanted to find a fun and impactful way to make it clear that this was about everyone, and that it wasn’t a women’s problem or only for women.

We could have randomly tried to create something, but we were introduced to Laura (Haynes, board director of the UN Committee UK), who was talking about HeForShe.

We thought that was such a great flagship for this kind of message. It was already going and it had some sort of structure to it.

We thought it would be a good affiliation for Insuring Women’s Futures in any event due to its global reach and its positivity. Plus, Laura is a great speaker.

FM: I heard several pledges from members of the insurance industry. What are the next steps in terms of getting people to commit to the pledges that they make?

SF: I was teasing Simon Green (director, general insurance & protection of the Financial Conduct Authority), saying I hope he wasn’t going to be making a note of everyone’s individual pledge so that he’d be following up in their FCA return! What you find is the two sides of the work coming together.

We’ll go with the commitments at the moment, and during the Dive-In Festival, we want people to come and make their own pledges for HeForShe. We’re going to have a photo booth – it’s going to be quite fun.

What will happen is that once we have the research properly summarised for the Insuring Women’s Futures programme, we will then look at how you take it from research to action. We know it is going to need a market taskforce of people, particularly from the protection and pensions space.

We also know one of the things that will come out of the research is because the profession itself does not look, represent or feel representative. It is not encouraging women to approach it and it is not creating channels which are easy for women to access in the way that they seem to be thinking about things.

We’ll come in a big circle back to the commitments because it will then be really important we are moving forward with diversity within the sector itself – they are actually complementary. At the moment, we have the ability to move forward with HeForShe while we get the background in place for Insuring Women’s Futures.

FM: What would you say to IFAs about this issue?

SF: We are seeing a lot going on in the IFA sector. There are quite a number of women who are setting up their own advisory practices.

There are also women who have learnt to be professional advisers, but are now trying to think about the language, where it is best to approach women, and what kind of language and information women respond to as opposed to the quite technical numbers-based language we are all used to. Less geeky, more real life, I suppose, is what we’re hearing.

FM: What’s on the Insuring Women’s Futures Committee agenda for the next six months?

SF: The main, initial thing is for it to have oversight of the fact that the research is looked at rigorously and that, when we say 30% of this or 50% of that or 200 of this or 20,000 of that, it’s right.

We get information from plenty of sources, from think tanks to charities (some from the sector itself, some from providers), so there is a varying degree of rigour to what’s been done.

The other bit for the Committee is to make sure we have no gaps. What would be ridiculous is if we go through all this trouble and then, say, your female readership then goes, “But they’ve missed out the most important thing.”

(Say we missed out divorce or something came up about domestic violence. There are some things where we weren’t sure whether we should really include them. It’s not necessarily everything that happens that we can do anything about.)

If there are consequences coming off the back of it – such as losing your home or finding yourself without access to bank accounts, all of that stuff – we can’t leave out any of the major causes of those things in terms of looking at whether there is any research on the implications of them.

Obviously, it is not our business to try and solve all of society’s problems. But given that these problems exist, we can come up with the solutions for them.

FM: What are the three areas you are looking at for women and insurance?

SF: The first is Woman At Risk (risks in women’s lives). The second is Women As Customers (what are they consuming? What are they not consuming? What are their preferences? Also, looking at what is available and if it is gender appropriate. And if so, what’s the problem?

We don’t know yet. There could be any number of things coming out that, as to why, for whatever reason, women aren’t engaging in the same way as men do).

The third is Women In Risk because it’s that thing of, as I always say, “Everyone knows this but if you don’t have the diversity, you don’t feel the need. If you don’t feel the need, you won’t spot the business opportunity, either.”

One big area, from speaking to The Pensions Advisory Service’ chief executive Michelle Cracknell, is bereavement or women and pensions. We found that women did not understand pensions very well at all.

Even if they thought they had a pension, or if their other half might have one, a lot of women found out after they either got divorced or bereaved what they missed or how little they had, even though all of the family’s money had largely gone into supporting the man’s pension.

Cracknell’s main area of concern is that a lot of women who are bereaved then only get the dependants’ pension, which is often as little as half of the upfront. Often, a family will decide that the top-up contributions, or the pension plan contributions they will make the main contribution to, is actually the husband’s pension.

FM: Using the term HeForShe, financial services is still a predominantly male arena. How will you encourage men to advocate for greater diversity?

SF: From a personal perspective, what I normally say is, you might be a man but you have a mother, a grandmother, an aunt or a sister. What’s more, there is an increasing number of men whose children are female. Just blink and think about the world from their perspective, and how much it would also help you.

Passionately, I do feel this. A lot of men have an overwhelming responsibility that is almost too much for anyone these days.

If there was an ability for that burden to be shared equally, then that would be better for everyone. And particularly if you do protection products because one of the things that really irks me is that we created a big schism in our market.

I know there is this issue as to whether insurance means the whole of protection to people. But I don’t think consumers actually make a differentiation about products.

They think they have assets, they think they have themselves, their family and their life. They think about that as they want a portfolio of solutions that take as many of the risks as possible and actually provide some kind of practical solution.




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