Mark Till: Promoting authenticity in the workplace

Aegon recently launched a number of initiatives which aim to improve diversity and inclusion within the workplace, including the introduction of a new inclusion and diversity programme (I&D) and gender workstream, which looks to address the root causes of imbalanced gender diversity.

We sat down with Mark Till, executive sponsor of the I&D Program, and managing director of digital solutions at Aegon, to learn more about his role; the positive steps the protection industry has taken towards driving a diverse workforce and inclusive culture.

We also wanted to know what more he thinks we can be doing as an industry and the benefits of doing so.

I recently took my daughter to university for the first time, and I’d hate to think that when she enters the workplace, she’ll be unable to fulfil her true potential.

Mark, please can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I'm currently responsible for all aspects of the Aegon Digital Solutions UK business, which is the ‘open for new business' part of Aegon, covering platforms, investments and protection for advisers, employers and their clients.

I enjoy focusing on business opportunities where the challenge is to achieve a significant improvement in results. I passionately believe that this is made possible by doing the right thing for the people who work in our business, and the people who use our business. Ultimately this generates benefits for both shareholders and the wider community.

Before joining Aegon I was head of personal investing and marketing for Fidelity and spent a large part of my career at Barclays in a variety of banking, product, sales and marketing roles.

You're the executive sponsor for Aegon's I&D Program, what does that role involve?

I'm really proud of my position as executive sponsor of the I&D initiative, as it's something that's close to my heart. I'm pushing myself to learn more about what makes an organisation open and inclusive and have just attended a course on unconscious bias and inclusive leadership.

I've recently spoken at an event for women in platforms to share my experience, and will soon host an event for the Top 50 women in our business to support their development and progression. I know that in my position I can help to make sure that at Aegon, everyone, no matter who they are, can achieve their potential with no barriers to success.

I recently took my daughter to university for the first time, and I'd hate to think that when she enters the workplace, she'll be unable to fulfil her true potential. I won't let her down, or any of the talented women who build their careers at Aegon.

How do you think the protection industry has changed with regards to diversity and inclusion?

As an industry, we're starting to take steps in the right direction to become more diverse and inclusive. Providers are doing a lot internally to raise awareness of diversity and inclusion, which I think is an important step. It's crucial to get the people within our own businesses to buy-in and support the need for diversity and inclusion, before taking anything specific to the market.

From an inclusivity perspective, we don't differentiate customers based on gender, race, sexuality or marital status. If a customer has a disclosure about a medical condition that they're uncomfortable telling their adviser about, we offer alternative routes for them to provide this information to us in a private and confidential way.

Work is also ongoing around how the industry assesses customers with mental health issues. For example, the ABI is currently working on a framework of measures to improve underwriting standards for those impacted by mental health issues. At Aegon, we're also actively involved in an industry working group looking at suicide claims and what we can do as an industry to help prevent suicide and support the families of those affected.

Across the industry, there's also been an increase in the availability of added-value services on protection policies. For example, all of our protection customers have access to Policy Plus, our range of support services, throughout the life of their policy. This includes a 24/7 health and wellbeing service offering confidential counselling and online self-help tools, a second medical opinion service, a key person replacement service, and a funeral payment pledge.

There's also been subtle changes in the promotion of protection across the industry, for example, using more diverse imagery to better reflect today's families.

What more can we be doing to encourage a diverse workforce and inclusive culture in insurance? 

We need to ensure we're creating environments where employees can bring their authentic selves to work and play an active role in building an inclusive and diverse organisation. Organisations must, therefore, be agile enough to evolve and adapt to the changing needs of their employees and customers.

Increasing diversity and embedding inclusion into an organisation's culture allows you to create greater curiosity, which in turn opens up new opportunities, which can help meet the growing expectations of employees, customers and other stakeholders.

By bringing different perspectives to an organisation's operations and decision making, it can strengthen self-awareness to avoid biases, build a sense of belonging, and encourage inclusivity.

What is Aegon doing to drive positive change around gender?

Gender diversity is a key pillar of our current inclusion and diversity strategy, alongside wellbeing and Aegon Proud.

Aegon is committed to supporting gender diversity in the workplace. In fact, we've embedded inclusion and diversity targets into executive objectives to drive progress and create a link between our targets and executive pay. We believe that the root cause of imbalanced gender diversity is a combination of historical unconscious bias within organisations, a lack of flexible working availability, and few role models at senior levels for women.

As part of our I&D Programme, we've established a formal gender workstream to help deliver our strategy and drive gender equality. For some of our key initiatives, we've partnered with external providers such as inclusion and diversity consultants, Brook Graham, to develop insight into the key drivers behind our gender pay gap. We also offer leadership development programmes to a number of female senior leaders across our business and we've signed up to the HM Treasury Women in Finance Charter.

By delivering our gender action plan, we'll bring a better gender-balanced workforce and, ultimately, a more inclusive workplace. That means making sure all colleagues have the support they need to develop their careers within Aegon, giving everyone a fair chance to succeed and helping to break down any barriers which may currently exist.

I'm expecting that through these initiatives, we can increase the number of senior women role models within our organisation, who can, in turn, inspire and mentor women further into our business to help them realise their full potential.

Mark Till is Managing Director of Digital Solutions at Aegon

This article was written by Katie Crook-Davies from Cover Magazine and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.