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Zurich given five stars for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion policy

Publication date:

23 May 2023

Last updated:

15 October 2023

Last year, Insurance Business recognised Zurich (Chartered Insurers) as having a five star Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) policy. To determine the most effective programmes, Insurance Business conducted one-on-one interviews with DEI professionals to gain a keen understanding of the industry standards for and find out which companies have met or exceeded these expectations.


All CII Chartered firms are required to have a DEI policy in operation to demonstrate that the firm actively promotes equal opportunities. However, we are aware that many of our Chartered firms go above and beyond this requirement — whether it be supporting industry initiatives, setting stretching goals related to DEI, implementing forward-thinking and supportive policies or sharing insights and best practice more widely so that the Chartered community and profession as a whole can benefit.


We caught up with Ruth Humphreys, People Development Consultant at Zurich who shares the DEI initiatives they have focused on over the past 12 months to make their programme five star.

Could you summarise Zurich’s DEI activity which led to you being recognised as having a five star DEI programme?

We address diversity and inclusion through several specific policies we have created over the years covering everything from family friendly working, parental and carers leave, right through to mental health and menopause to support our people through all life stages. We also have policies that align with the employee life cycle from attraction and selection.

This includes a fair recruitment charter for all hiring managers including DE&I specific training for recruitment. In 2019, we introduced our part time jobs initiative — whereby all vacancies are available on a part-time, job share and flexible working basis – as well as full time. To develop this, Zurich joined forces with the Behavioural Insights Team to identify issues that were blocking career progression for women. The research highlighted a lack of applications from women for senior roles. Many of these roles have not previously been available on a part-time or flexible basis and female employees reported that this lack of apparent flexibility was making them less likely to apply.

As part of our onboarding of new employees we signpost all policies and the support available including the opportunity to work with our employee resource groups (Women Innovation Network, Pride, Cultural Awareness Network, Accessibility and Inclusion Network and NEXT, focusing on the next generation).

We offer several learning and development platforms and training packages including apprenticeships to all employees to support our commitment that all employees can realise their full potential regardless of gender, age or any other characteristic.

We also have a fair promotion guide for all hiring managers when it comes to internal promotion.

All these policies are underpinned by things like our Dignity@work policy and commitment to broader industry initiatives including Women in Finance Charter, Financial Services Skills Commission, Stonewall, Edge and Disability Confidence.

As part of the nomination stages, what did you learn about your DEI strategy?

To determine the insurance companies with the most effective DEI programs, the Insurance Business research team first invited firms to share the DEI initiatives they have focused on over the past 12 months. During a 15 week process, the team conducted one-on-one interviews with DEI professionals to gain a keen understanding of the industry standards for DEI and find out which companies have met or exceeded these expectations.

After receiving nominations for DEI initiatives, the team reached out to the companies’ employees to gauge the effectiveness of these programs. The companies that scored 4 or higher on a scale of one to five were recognised for having five star DEI programs.

As part of our nomination, we were asked to submit an overview of our DEI strategy, policies, and key activities, as well as providing key measures such as our diversity measures. We asked our employee resource groups to support with this submission to ensure that we reflect the wealth of activity that is being driven across all areas of our business. It was energising to see so much passion and engagement, with initiatives running from local, grass roots engagement (such as a Kick-Start mentoring programme which started in our London Commercial team) through to executive thought leadership.

In the second stage, our employees were asked to complete a survey to share their views on our DEIB (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging) activity. We had an average score of 93.28 and were the only winners in the 2500–9,999 company by number of employees category. This was a fantastic result and highlights the value placed on our DEIB activity by our employees.

Why is it important that firms are recognised for initiatives relating to DEI?

Whilst a lot of our DEIB activity is facilitated by our People Team (for example, policies, benefits, training, and recruitment), it’s important to recognise that much of this activity is influenced by passionate individuals and employee groups in our business. These employees work around their core roles to hold the business to account, raise awareness and foster an inclusive culture. This award is a testament to the work that these individuals carry out to make our organisation a more inclusive place.

What does it mean to you as a firm to have been recognised?

Whilst we cannot consider DEIB as a corporate asset in the sense that we include it on our balance sheet, we can absolutely see the impact it delivers for stakeholders. DEIB helps to drive competitive advantage through innovation and better decision making. Having external recognition such as this award is a signal to investors, customers, and prospective employees that we see DEIB first and foremost as a priority and that we are actively seeking improvements to unlock competitive advantage.

Do you think that Chartered firms have an expectation to lead the way in this area?

As a Chartered firm, we have committed to key actions including ongoing people development, a commitment to ethics, building public trust, and taking a customer-centric approach. Each of these is clearly aligned to DEIB, so it makes sense for Chartered firms to lead the way in this space.

When individuals feel safe and included, they are more likely to share their thoughts, knowing that their perspective and ideas will be valued. This means that new solutions and challenges can be identified, helping to drive innovation and tackle groupthink, allowing blockers such as biases to be removed.

By building a more diverse workforce and empowering personal development, we gain access to new ways of thinking, as well as a greater variety of skills and experiences. This can help us to better understand our customers, helping to build a customer-centric approach.

How does your firm demonstrate the Chartered ethos principle of serving society?

We are prioritising access and visibility for diverse candidates to ensure we better reflect the society we serve. We have partnered with 10,000 Black Interns, Bright Network and Inclusivity who have posted our job ads across their networks. In addition, our work skills programme provides six-month paid placement opportunities to those who have experienced long periods of unemployment (many of whom have a disability). Other initiatives include our flexible working approach. We have also reviewed the language we use in job adverts to emphasise our commitment to diversity and ensure roles are attractive to all.

We have several initiatives where we work with local schools, colleges and universities and attend career fairs to showcase the opportunities and career paths at Zurich. We have introduced recruitment and fair promotion charters, with hiring managers receiving training for each step of the recruitment and onboarding process to mitigate bias.

Additionally, we support our wider community through the Zurich Community Trust (Zurich’s charitable arm in the UK) which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Alongside fundraising and partnerships with local and national charities, we encourage employee engagement in charitable activities, with all employees given three paid volunteering days per year.

Zurich Community Trust has recently entered a 5-year programme worth £1m with Teach First, a charity that develops and supports teachers and leaders in school with higher-than-average deprivation indicators. Recent statistics for the schools Teach First work with show that 1 in 3 pupils are from an Asian, Black, or ethnic minority backgrounds and 1 in 4 are eligible for free school meals. The £1m financial commitment is complemented by a programme of employee volunteering in classrooms, where employees will share insights into the world of work as well as specific insights into insurance.

How has your DE&I programme evolved in the year since the 2022 award?

Key activity and milestones in 2022-2023 included:

Age Friendly Employer Pledge – Zurich was one of the first insurers to make this commitment, which was introduced late last year and seeks to improve recruitment, retention, and promotion prospects for experienced workers.

Stonewall – Zurich is now ranked 22nd in the top 100 employers list for LGBTQ+ employees and has been awarded Gold for its initiatives and approach to inclusivity. Additionally, Zurich Pride UK has received a Highly Commended Network Group award in recognition of its achievements.

GAIN – Zurich is a founding member of the Group for Autism, Insurance and Neurodiversity) to help accelerate and champion the benefits of neurodiversity in the insurance and financial services sector. Additionally, we have a partnership with Auticon, through which we are increasing employee awareness of Autism and Neurodiversity. Alongside this, a collaboration with Ambitious about Autism (via the Z Zurich Foundation) will provide resources to support the mental wellbeing of thousands of autistic young people in hundreds of schools across the UK.
Fertility Friendly Employer – we have committed to supporting our employees undergoing fertility treatment and IVF, and to improving awareness and understanding for managers.

The Big Promise – as part of Race Equality Week, all UK People Leaders were asked to make a personal and measurable commitment to create positive change. Not sure about including this until we’ve outputs to talk about?

Additionally, we have recently introduced a menopause policy, supported by regular cafés for employees. We have also implemented a policy to support employees affected by abusive relationships. This has been developed with one of our charity partners Swindon Domestic Abuse Support Service and includes access to specialist help and services. We have launched a series of training sessions to help improve awareness of this policy which also covers situations where there are concerns that an employee is a perpetrator of abuse.

8. What does the future of DEI look like at Zurich?

We have recently embedded a suite of new dashboards and reports to allow us to take a data led approach to DEIB. Utilising this new insight, we have refreshed our D&I Strategy and action plan, concentrating on maximising opportunity and bolstering underrepresented areas.

Via our UK Diversity and Inclusion Council, we are increasingly embedding DEIB as a business challenge, seeking to incorporate activity within local action plans and strategies, helping individual business areas and locations to pursue initiatives which will lead to meaningful change.

Melissa Collett, Executive Director of Professional Standards said: “We are proud that Zurich were recognised by Insurance Business as having a 5-Star DE&I programme and encourage other Chartered firms to let us know about their successes in this area so that the CII can share best practice within the Chartered community and help your firms to celebrate your achievements.”