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Returners programme brings 15 women back to work in EC3

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Nine (re)insurance firms in London including AIG, Marsh and Howden have taken part in a programme to enable professionals to return to the industry following a career break, with a total of 15 women taking up new roles in the London market as a result.

The programme, organised by diversity and inclusion firm Inclusivity and supported by the Insurance Families Network, successfully saw women start new roles after career breaks of anywhere between two and 17 years – with the 15 returners representing 50% more than the initial 10 targeted.

The programme provided opportunities across all disciplines, including underwriting, broking, claims, actuarial, exposure management, risk and some corporate functions.

The nine firms taking part in the first programme were Axis, AIG, Chubb, Chaucer, Howden/Dual, Lockton, Marsh, Phoenix Group and Willis Towers Watson.

AIG and Howden/Dual both welcomed three career returners, whilst most participating firms took at least one.

Following the success of the first pilot programme, a new programme has launched, with seven insurance firms so far signed up to take on returners.

In the next wave, Marsh and Phoenix Group will rejoin the company cohort, alongside Axa Partners UK, Axa XL, Aon, Lloyd’s and Zurich.

Like the first, the next programme is open to both women and men returning from a career break. The organisers use a tailored assessment process that looks for potential and acknowledges the full breadth of a candidate’s experience and that breaks should not be career limiting.

Successful candidates will be offered a six-month paid placement in one of the participating organisations, with a thorough training, onboarding and induction process and one-to-one specialist coaching.

Successful candidates will start work in January 2022 on six-month contracts, with the aim being to transition to a permanent role at the end of that period. The programme is open for applicants now.

Paula Juntunen, one of the professionals who took part in the first programme, is joining the complex claims team at AIG.

A qualified solicitor, she had worked in insurance in several roles including legal, broking and business development.

After an eight-year break, during which she set up her own business and volunteered with the Samaritans, Juntunen was motivated to return to insurance but conscious that recruiters might question her 11 years out of employment.

“The programme opened doors for me, and I’m confident I will have the support I need to pick up my career again,” she said.

Anthony Baldwin, CEO of AIG UK, said: “We were excited to be part of this first cross-industry opportunity to attract returners back to insurance.

“We have been impressed with the calibre of candidates and look forward to welcoming both Paula and Helen to our team.”

Through the programme, Axis hired Nerina Wright, who will join the international division as their London Market ESG lead.

Wright is a qualified advocate who had grown up in the apartheid years in South Africa. After a successful career as a barrister, she moved to London, took an MBA and worked in investment banking.

During her subsequent 17-year career break, Nerina volunteered for several NGOs and charities focused on social justice.

Mark Gregory, CEO of Axis Insurance International, said: “In Nerina, we have found someone with a background in financial services and an indomitable advocate who has the passion for this field and who will undoubtedly be an agent for change in our organisation.”

Gender equality and championing female talent in insurance is the subject of an upcoming Insider Progress webinar on Thursday, in which Inclusivity will be discussing the success of their returners programme. Attendance is free – register for the event here.