LB Forskikring is ahead of its time in terms of diversity

Monday, 15 June 2020

Danish ICMIF member LB Forsikring has 49% women in management positions according to 2019 results published earlier this year. This figure is 20% above the average for other member companies of the Financial Sector Employers' Association in Denmark.

In a recent interview with sustainability website Sustain Report, CEO Anne Mette Toftegaard says she believes the reason lies in her organisation’s corporate culture: "... it is not only the individual who must be successful, but the organisation as a whole that must be successful. Such a working environment attracts both men and women, so we have always had good gender diversity in LB Forsikring. When it comes to looking specifically at the gender distribution among our leaders, we have probably always been a little ahead of our time.

“At a time when few organisations in general, and very few in the financial world, were focusing on gender distribution, we had a leadership of visionary men who really took notice of the talented women they were surrounded by – not because they were women, but because they were talented. This has created a culture that means today we have a 50/50 gender balance in our leadership group. Our belief is that a good culture and a meaningful purpose are more involved in creating gender diversity," Toftegaard concludes.

The gender split across all employees at LB Forsikring in 2019 showed 58% of staff were women, at management level 49% are women and within the Board of Directors 33% are women.

The gender split on the Board of Directors at LB Forsikring was previously the same as the rest of the financial services sector in Denmark at 22%. However, Anne Mette Toftegaard was keen for all employees and members to get involved in the recent election process for employee representatives who would sit on the board. Before the elections took place at the organisation, everyone was encouraged to consider diversity as an important factor in their decision on who to vote for.

Toftegaard believed that the more people stand as candidates in both genders then there is a greater chance that more women will be elected or at least more involved in the process. Previously there were three men acting as employee representatives but after the last election there are now two men and one woman which corresponds to 33%. Also, the average age of the representatives has dropped.

Trust is a key part of the leadership culture at LB Forsikring according to Anne Mette Toftegaard. Her belief is that when employees feel they are trusted, they trust others to help them and that they can be helped in return. This creates an organisational culture where people are not afraid to think they could be a leader too, even if they feel they do not fit their perceived criteria of a typical leader. Toftegaard’s belief is that creating this type of organisational culture must start from the top and that people must trust and have confidence in the management of the organisation.

For LB Forsikring, diversity in all its forms has provided immense value for the organisation as it inherently implies that there is a broad range of knowledge and points of view. However, for this mutual insurer, discussions centre more around culture and competencies than simply gender distribution.

In a separate interview with Danish financial services news website Finanswatch Anne Mette Toftegaard says she believes that the equal distribution between the sexes provides a good starting point for incorporating even wider diversity in management positions: “My personal hope is that we use this to talk about diversity more widely. Diversity is different from gender”.

In the Finanswatch interview, Toftegaard talks about the example of the organisation’s implementation of a new IT system which was in English. Many employees spoke English well but not all were sufficiently competent in the English language to understand and put in place the new IT system. This highlighted the fact that diversity could also include having a different native language to Danish. Other factors, to name just a few, that could now be considered in terms of broadening the organisation’s diversity are age, education, ethnicity and geography.   

Anne Mette Toftegaard believes that the managers' most important task is to unleash the potential of their employees and to create a space where each individual employee can grow. She believes this means an organisation needs to have a management team that looks at people’s competencies instead of things such as gender and age. Keeping an open mind when looking for new talent for the organisation is equally important is another firm belief of Toftegaard.

Recent employee surveys to measure how employees view their working environment at LB Forsikring show that staff there have the highest job satisfaction in the industry and their satisfaction level is increasing. Anne Mette Toftegaard says she believes this is “Not because we can equate gender distribution and job satisfaction, but the work culture we have gives employee satisfaction, and that is also because we have diversity.”

Finally, another very positive outcome of the increased diversity within the LB Forsikring organiation is better discussions and new ideas, Toftegaard believes. "We recently launched a new 'purpose'. That together we will make insurance redundant. We would rather prevent damage from occurring in the first place than paying compensation if something bad does happen," says Anne Mette Toftegaard.