A Mission to be Proud of

Nov 9, 2022

[IMPACT+: This series features IMPACT posts that take a longer look at vital topics. A version of this article appeared in the 2021-22 annual report of the Global Federation of Insurance Associations.]

National governments and global policymakers are increasingly prioritizing diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) as important aspects of the second and third elements that make up environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues. Commitments to DEI are ultimately about progress and accountability, and they also demonstrate to policymakers the many benefits insurance products bring to national economies and social harmony.

And the global insurance industry is making more DEI commitments than ever before.

We insurers are fortunate that the International Association of Insurance Supervisors (IAIS) was the first international standard-setting organization to focus on financial inclusion when it created the Access to Insurance Initiative (A2ii) in cooperation with other international organizations in 2009. In November 2021, the IAIS issued a statement formally recognizing the importance of DEI considerations in insurance supervision. In response, the Global Federation of Insurance Associations (GFIA) has leveraged the work undertaken by the GFIA Financial Inclusion Working Group to engage the IAIS proactively with examples of GFIA member associations’ work on DEI.

The ACLI believes life insurance companies are uniquely positioned to achieve DEI goals through the products we offer and the investments we make. Our products build financial certainty and enhance the transfer of intergenerational wealth. Our investments in underserved communities increase the promise of upward mobility for their residents. Our commitment to financial inclusion and digital modernization provides a gateway for all people to be able to protect their family’s financial future — no matter their cultural background, gender or economic status.

What an incredible mission and one to be proud of!

One of the most powerful ways we can address DEI is by finding the areas where our industry’s business interests, societal needs and policy goals intersect. The U.S. life insurance industry has done that in multiple important ways.

Making new strides in impact investing

For many people, having a safe, affordable place to live is a powerful step to financial security.

This year, U.S. life insurance companies came together to launch 360 Community Capital, a historic initiative that will pair the life insurance industry’s long-term investment strategies with on-the-ground expertise from community partners who know what families and communities need to thrive. The investments will open doors to new capital and dramatically intensify our efforts to close economic gaps. Strengthening communities through affordable, sustainable housing allows us to do good business while doing good. A win-win.

Committing to financial inclusion and education

A study by Wharton, the business school of the University of Pennsylvania, noted that a third of financial inequality in the United States could be accounted for by differences in financial literacy. U.S. life insurers have doubled down on our commitment to financial education for all Americans through partnerships such as one with Junior Achievement.

Junior Achievement Worldwide was nominated for the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize for its work expanding economic opportunity for young people. Our support and partnership with them in the United States empower more young people by giving them the tools they need to develop and bolster their financial proficiency for a lifetime. And, globally, we have supported financial education and increased access to insurance since 2012 through our membership in the Microinsurance Network, which is a non-profit association aimed at building resilience through improved access to risk management tools, including insurance, and in FIDES, the Interamerican Federation of Insurance Companies.

Driving solutions to address inequities

We believe everyone deserves a retirement they can count on and the tools to get there. Through our advocacy for modernizing retirement security and ensuring access to financial professionals, we are removing barriers to access and building sustainable societies. Even now, we are pushing for passage of the second phase of landmark retirement security legislation in the United States, demonstrating how it benefits vulnerable communities.

Building diverse and inclusive workforces

Having diverse and inclusive workforces is just good business practice. By ensuring representation at every level and actively recruiting and supporting a diverse workforce, we can better serve the people in our industry. At the ACLI, we established a DEI Forum and an annual DEI Conference, bringing together chief diversity officers and other interested professionals from our member companies. Through these forums, they connect, share ideas, and set an industry-wide DEI focus. Creating the DEI Forum and Conference was a simple step, but one that proved powerful and reiterated the unique role associations can play in DEI efforts.

Recognizing that the need for financial inclusion has no borders, we are also actively advocating to close access and wealth gaps in global forums with groups including the G20, the IAIS and the GFIA Financial Inclusion Working Group.

A great deal of work is underway to achieve these vital social and governance measures. But there is so much more to do. Our commitment is deep and tangible. With a sustained commitment and collective global focus, these initial steps provide a valuable guide path for future action. And, in the meantime, we can be proud of the mission thus far.

Susan K. Neely

Susan K. Neely is the President and CEO of the American Council of Life Insurers (ACLI), the nation’s leading trade association determined to help families live better lives by achieving financial security and certainty. As president and CEO, Neely drives public policy and advocacy on behalf of ACLI’s member companies that represent 93 percent of industry assets and serve 90 million families.