Ground breaking programme exceeds targets and sets out plans to extend its reach

Monday 12th September 2021, London:

In March this year, nine leading firms – brokers, insurers and long term savings and retirement businesses –  launched a programme to enable “career break” professionals to return to the insurance industry.  Organised by diversity and inclusion experts Inclusivity, and supported by the Insurance Families Network, the programme provides opportunities across all disciplines, including underwriting, broking, claims, actuarial, exposure management, risk and some corporate functions.

The target was to place ten returners into roles at one of the participating firms.  This target was exceeded by 50%, with fifteen women starting work after career breaks of anything from two to seventeen years.  AIG and Howden/DUAL both welcome three career returners whilst most participating firms took at least one.

Paula Juntunen is a perfect example.  Paula had a long and varied professional career.  A qualified solicitor, she had worked in Insurance in a number of 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, Paula was motivated to return to Insurance but was conscious that recruiters might question her eleven year career break.

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

Paula is joining the Complex Claims team at AIG.

Anthony Baldwin, CEO American International Group UK Limited. “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!”

Marsh, which is welcoming two returners to its UK Risk Management division, is keen to participate once again.  Ailsa King, Chief Client Officer, UK & Ireland, Marsh, commented: “In order to fully contribute to the success of our colleagues, clients and communities, we need input from a diverse range of voices across all levels of the business. Inclusivity’s returners programme opens the door to a vast array of often overlooked talent that has left the industry, and provides these individuals with the opportunity to get their career in insurance back on track.”

The programme has also helped firms find talented women to fill new and emerging roles in the Insurance sector.  More and more organisations now have a dedicated focus on Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) matters and need to build teams to deliver on their strategies and commitments in this area.

Axis Capital joined the programme to try to find someone with the right skills and experience to join their team. In Nerina Wright, they found a perfect fit.

Nerina is a qualified advocate who had grown up in the apartheid years in South Africa. After a successful career as a barrister, she had moved to London, taken an MBA and worked in investment banking. During her subsequent seventeen year career break, Nerina had volunteered for a number of NGOs and charities with social justice at their heart. She is joining Axis Insurance International Division as their London Market ESG Lead.

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

Stephanie Dillon, founder of Inclusivity is delighted with the success of the programme.

“Our target was to place ten career returners” she explains.  “We’re on track for fifteen and they cover several disciplines: broking, underwriting, client management, claims, technology, finance.  It just proves how much untapped talent is out there waiting to be discovered.”


What may have begun as an important diversity initiative is now recognised as a critical weapon in the “war for talent”. And rather than sitting back to enjoy success, the team are now launching a second programme.

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

  • A six month paid placement in one of the participating organisations
  • A thorough training, onboarding and induction process
  • One-to-one specialist coaching

The programme is open for applicants now.  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.  Phoenix and Marsh, participants in the pilot will be joined by Lloyd’s of London, AXA Partners UK, AXA XL, AON and Zurich who are all keen to replicate this success.

Interested applicants can apply here