Do you remember your first Monte Carlo conference?
Even if you haven’t been to the infamous Rendez-Vous, you can imagine the champagne, the yachts and the canapes, as well as the serious business talk, of course.
At my first Monte Carlo, when I was 23, I went along to one of the cocktail parties and got chatting to a white, middle-aged male executive from the (re)insurance market.
After the part where he said it was nice to have “more young pretty things to look at” at the conference (to which I laughed nervously, because even though I was screaming inside I felt that given his seniority and the situation I was unable to retaliate) he asked me where my surname was from.
I told him my father is Malay Chinese, to which he jollily replied, “Oh, so you’re one of those half-and-halfs, are you?”
I was completely taken aback. In my whole life, I had never been called anything of the sort. In fact, until now, my background never really seemed to be a talking point, and certainly not something to be chuckled at.
The thing that struck me most was that this executive has used the phrase so casually, as if it was part of everyday vocabulary.
To bring the story to an end, I quickly made an excuse and left.
Fortunately, I can say this was an isolated incident, and I’ve not experienced that same sort of flippant comment since. But I would be lying if I said it hadn’t made a lasting impression on me, or my perception of the market I was writing about.
With this in mind, the latest Holding Up The Mirror report made heartening reading.
The findings show that more companies in the London market are taking diversity and inclusion (D&I) seriously.
The report said 63 percent of surveyed respondents worked at a company that had a D&I policy in place, up from 53 percent in 2017 and just 35 percent the year before.
Some 49 percent of respondents to the research said they felt there was a positive D&I culture at their organisation, up from 21 percent a year ago.
This market likes quantification as much as it is possible, and these figures demonstrate progress. But we need to build on the momentum.
Ethical and moral standpoints aside, there is a business case for implementing D&I policy at a company level. And that business case is talent acquisition and retention.
London pushes innovation as its USP, but if it is coming from people with the same backgrounds, perspectives and experiences then surely the potential of that innovation has a limit.
The market can only benefit from embracing D&I initiatives with open arms.
At the very least, it should make the experience far more comfortable for Monte Carlo first-timers.