Sector has “significant role” to play in sustainability transition: EY’s Santenac

The insurance industry has a “very significant” role to play in the transition to a more sustainable world, according to EY’s global insurance lead Isabelle Santenac.

Speaking to The ReInsurer, Santenac noted that many insurers have already signed the UN principles for sustainable insurance and pledged to be carbon neutral on their asset portfolio by 2050. However, there is more that can be done, she said. 

“Underwriters can also help corporations to transition to a more sustainable way of doing business,” Santenac said. “They could incentivise and accelerate these transitions with their underwriting policies.”

There are regulatory benefits for the sector if it engages in a more sustainable agenda, she said, pointing to the European Union’s potential plans to offer a reduction in the regulatory capital requirements if firms invest in green assets.

However, Santenac noted that the easiest way for the (re)insurance industry to influence is through its role as a prominent investor in financial markets and infrastructure projects.

“Insurers are big investors and as investors they have a role to play and ensure they invest in sustainable assets,” she said.

Such a role will also serve to enhance the sector’s image and help the industry attract younger talent – particularly from the younger generation,” Santenac added.

“The insurance industry is maybe not the most attractive industry for young people,” she explained. “It’s perceived as quite a boring and quite a technical industry and when you are a young person the interaction that you have with the insurance industry is usually when you have a claim and it’s not always a very good experience.”

The industry must accelerate towards further digitalization, something that has become more of a priority following the pandemic, she said.

“Digitalization is the priority. It is a topic which is very interesting for the younger generation,” Santenac explained. An increased focus on customer centricity is also essential in attracting new talent, she said.

“That will be a much more attractive opportunity for young people because it’s a transformation journey and they can see that they can bring a lot of their experience. That will change the perception of the industry,” Santenac added.

The Covid-19 pandemic represents a massive opportunity for the industry in attracting talent and opens up the potential access talent from across the world.

“People are working more from home and you can certainly now attract people in countries or regions which may be far away from where you operate. You can recruit from anywhere in the world. That could also certainly help to tap some pools of talent which may have previously been hard to access,” she added.