Recently, we had the privilege of welcoming political veterans, authors and podcasters Alastair Campbell and Rt Hon Rory Stewart OBE to our London office. In terms of a British Unique Perspective, it is difficult to imagine a more unusual one: it brought together seemingly directly opposed speakers to preach a new discourse, with civility as its lodestar. 

Former rivals Campbell, ex-Director of Communications to a Labour Prime Minister, and Rory Stewart, Foreign Office stalwart in the 00s and Conservative Minister in three different departments in the 2010s, are now united in promoting “the lost art of disagreeing agreeably”. 

In a volatile time in the governance of the UK, it was inspiring to see two representatives of the recently bitterly divided tribes sharing reflections and opinions, often united in their perspectives on an array of policy challenges. 

A strained macroeconomic outlook, increasing polarisation in domestic politics and global geopolitical turmoil formed the backdrop to this conversation. There is no hiding that we face a vast array of challenges in coming years: certainly, no secret to insurers and reinsurers, often at the forefront of facing down the risks to economic, environmental and social cohesion. 

Facing the future with hope

One reflection from Alastair Campbell that struck me was where he found positives in the admittedly stark picture he painted. In an uncertain world, doing talks in schools and witnessing the engagement, enthusiasm and conviction of students was, to him, an inspiration and a hint that the future might just be better than the present. 

He noted (the words are mine, but the sentiment is shared) that young people are more clear-sighted, more direct and more able to sift through the multiple layers of inaccurate, inadequate or incorrectly sourced information than any previous generation. Younger millennials and Gen Z-ers are coming up with solutions, confronting the challenges that will likely dominate the broad arc of their lifetimes. 

In a sector where there’s an industry-agreed battle for talent, surely attributes like clear-sightedness and a focus on solutions are exactly what we’re looking for? Particularly as demand across the industry grows for people to work with technology and assess the value in the data it produces.

We have a duty to operate an effective scheme to employ talented young staff at the very beginning of their careers: whether through apprenticeships and our school leaver programme or through our graduate scheme.

Building the foundations for a better future

Each year, we invest significant resources and management time in ensuring a fully-fledged training programme for graduates, apprentices and school leavers, in order to build the future of our company. Our newest recruits are exposed to the full spectrum of diverse jobs within the insurance market, allowing them to find the career paths most suited to their interests and abilities. 

Each year, I am struck by how different the intake is to when I began my career in this market. With each successive annual cohort, our company becomes more diverse, broader in outlook and in skillsets. This variety of perspectives leads to better underwriting and ultimately financial outcomes for our company, as well as creating a more inclusive working space. 

The onus is on us to offer talented youth what they are looking for: an inclusive culture, long-term stability and the financial strength that comes from being part of one of the largest P&C insurers in the world. In an uncertain world, that stability and feeling of being part of an organisation that genuinely cares about and for its talent is crucial, and we are here to provide it. 

Where do we go from here?

What Campbell and Stewart made clear is that there is a path back to a more civil, more effective collaboration between even bitterly divided tribes in the future, but it must be actively sought and taken. 

The opportunity is there: Stewart was enthusiastic about individual activism and the need to participate in order to affect change. According to Stewart, each of the Conservative party’s “safe seats” has 400 to 500 members associated with it. In practice, 40-50 activists in each constituency determine everything: selection and deselection of the MPs, and the everyday agenda of those MPs in the House of Commons. 

In any given organisation, the large majority consists of members that participate in activities only occasionally. Those who attend meetings and enact policies are often a small minority, which offers a significant opportunity for committed individuals to join those very committees and enact policies.

The lesson here is simple. Becoming champions for inclusion, for policies that make workplaces more welcoming and diverse – and therefore more effective as businesses – depends on us. We have a huge, individual responsibility to participate because we have significant potential to drive change. Change depends on the amount of people willing to contribute: the more individuals participate; the more change reflects their communities and who they represent.

We cannot simply state that we find hope in young, enterprising talent, but simply wait for them to come through our door and say we have the best available. True diversity, with all its benefits, comes with a commitment to build pathways and nurture, foster and support our successors. It also comes with respect: respect for each other's talents and abilities, wherever they may lie. That is what we are building at Liberty.