Championing change with diversity of thought

I’d like to think my nomination for Innovate Finance’s Women in Fintech Power List 2017 had something to do with my work on our Digital Minds programme – championing digital transformation in the London insurance market by encouraging innovation and diversity of thought. I firmly believe that digital transformation in this market depends on cultural change as much as the adoption of new technology.

Lessons from the past

When looking forward, sometimes we can be guided by the past, and recently I was struck by a particular parallel. Some 20 years ago, we were facing a new technology that would transform our businesses. It was relatively cheap, accessible, and the potential was so vast that we struggled to know what to do first. It was, of course, the internet.

Back then, I attended a conference about using this new technology. A speaker put up a slide with a formula:


The explanation wasn’t as high-tech as we expected, but something much more fundamental. “New Technology” she said, “in an Old Organisation, is merely an Expensive Old Organisation.”

 The London Market – on the brink of a technology revolution

Twenty years later, I feel like the London insurance market could use the same advice. Transformational technology is at our fingertips, but without behavioural change, we risk ending up with a market that fails to grasp fully the opportunities available. The London market has long been good at talking about change – less so at delivering it. In this market, change is not so much life-threatening as threatening an enjoyable way of life. Turkeys, as they say, don’t vote for Christmas.

So how do we change a deeply embedded culture? It has to start with diversity — and not just as it relates to gender or ethnicity, but to diversity of thought as well. For example, there is value in including perspectives from the digital-savvy, who regard technology as an essential part of life; people with physical disabilities, who have different perspectives and whose disabilities put no limit on intellect; and those with experience in other industries who bring new ideas and approaches. The broader the makeup of the group, the more insights they bring. And while initiatives that aim to change a whole market have to be led from the top, the enthusiastic support of the industry’s practitioners is an essential component. Inclusion, therefore, is paramount.

Championing change from within

Our Digital Minds programme was created to broaden and embed the transformation discussion. It started with a simple premise: if you want to change who’s in the audience you have to change who’s on the stage. We needed to create a platform for a new generation of leaders; practitioners from across the market with different perspectives – brokers, carriers, analysts, catastrophe modellers, etc. There are as many women as men in the group. Age doesn’t matter. Ethnic origins and backgrounds are varied. The one common factor is a desire to see the market embrace change and to modernise, even if that means sacrificing some decades-old habits.

A year into the Digital Minds programme, it’s been embraced enthusiastically by the market. Some of the most senior leaders in the market have led workshops, seminars and roundtable discussions. The delegate list has multiplied, as has the number of companies involved. Requests to join the 2018-19 programme abound, even though the application process is not yet open. In an industry that is usually resistant to change, words like ‘technology’, ‘innovation’, and ‘transformation’ inspire excitement and enthusiasm.

At the start of 2017 we were focused on encouraging a conversation, but by the end of the year we were exploring innovation strategies and reviewing proofs of concept for technology applications. The Digital Minds programme is still evolving and we are building some new facets into the programme in 2018. It’s inspiring to see how change can happen anywhere, with a digital mindset and a diverse community.

Paula-Wilson-headshotPaula Wilson is marketing director at Xchanging, a DXC Technology company. Wilson was recently named to the 2017 Women in FinTech Powerlist that celebrates the contributions of women in the development of the global FinTech sector. Prior to her role at Xchanging, Wilson worked extensively in financial services, including insurance, asset management and debt markets, at XL Catlin, Deutsche Bank and Nat West Group respectively.


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  1. According to my thinking the Good timing as Open Policy Week is in a couple of weeks, and we are going to use it to try out some new ways of engaging a diverse group of young people, for example going to events where young people are anyway (not asking them to come to us), running workshops in schools and running a talk. If you have got experience of innovative ways of engaging with young people, we’d love to hear about them. And we wouldn’t mind your thoughts on the letters too!.


  1. […] Championing change with diversity of thought […]

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