Our insurance industry survey showed that 85% of 395 voters had seen nepotism at some point in their career. Respondents from the US (58%), Canada (16%), and the UK (11%) participated, with responses also received from Germany, the Philippines, Australia, and New Zealand.
The result may be damning, if you think nepotism is a bad thing, but it’s probably not all that surprising.
It’s not a stretch to think of examples of insurance family dynasties (the big names might include your Gallaghers or your Greenbergs) and it’s not uncommon to come across senior leaders whose parents also worked in the industry.
The same is true in some smaller brokerage houses, where children may seek to break into the family business.
But is this negative? And if it is, is nepotism always to blame?
Is nepotism always a bad thing?
‘Nepotism’ can take different forms, and some can be seen as more disturbing than others. Perhaps in the case of one person, her parents helped her get a job in the background, either within a family business or elsewhere, while another person may have jumped into a coveted position.
Sometimes the best person for the job can be someone who has developed an understanding of insurance because they grew up around it.
Some might argue that the offspring of established insurance leaders come with some kind of ‘genetic pedigree’ – their parents are successful and this, in turn, means they might as well be a good bet. It’s also easier to tell if the child of someone already in your organization, or someone you know personally, is likely to be a cultural fit.
Hopefully, most of us don’t know too many parents who don’t want the best for their children, and that’s at the heart of it all, too.
Being the son of someone with a name probably comes with its own set of challenges and expectations, as Lily Allen (daughter of actor Keith Allen and sister of Game of Thrones actor Alfie Allen) and others have pointed out.
“The nepo babies that everyone should be concerned about are the ones that work for law firms, the ones that work for banks and the ones that work in politics, if we’re talking about real-world consequences and robbing people of opportunity,” Allen said. in a series of tweets related to nepotism after the New York magazine cover.
“But that’s none of my business.”
The nepo babies you should worry about are those who work for law firms, those who work for banks, and those who work in politics, if we’re talking about real-world consequences and stealing opportunities from people. BUT that’s none of my business.
— Lily A (@lilyallen) December 19, 2022
And she may have a point.
Show business could forever remain one of those industries that is almost impossible for most people to figure out, but financial services should be a very different beast. And nepotism could, at times, pose a very real roadblock for talented people who aren’t born with connections and already face hiring barriers. This could have far-reaching consequences.
Perceived nepotism may be an open ‘secret’
In the drive toward growth and profitability, aided by diversity of thought, companies must seek out the best person for the job. Giving a hand to the boss’s son, or an inexperienced friend, cannot be at the expense of this.
Even if employees aren’t directly asking questions or expressing dissatisfaction due to perceived nepotism, you can be sure that if they do (or at least do it poorly) you risk making staff feel undervalued.
You might even think that nepotism goes under the radar, but anonymous employee complaints on layoff tracker and job review sites (plus our survey results) show that this isn’t always the case.
Whether it’s the son of the CEO who suddenly jumped a couple of rungs in the business or the son of a well-connected insurance leader who has slipped into the top ranks and now wields the corporate axe, in this hybrid age family connections make internet water cooler gossip.
I am a firm believer that everyone (including insurance ‘nepo babies’) should be judged and rewarded based on our own individual merit and performance, and there are many success stories where later generations of insurance families have built on or even eclipsed the legacy of their parents. There are also examples of people who have made waves from much more humble beginnings, including some ‘dynasty’ headlines.
However, I also remember long-suffering fictional media mogul Logan Roy (of the TV show Succession, often said to be loosely based on the Murdoch family) surrounding himself with his children, providing them with high-ranking positions flight, and yet he doesn’t seem to have anything good to say about any of them. He certainly doesn’t seem to trust them to take the reins, and watching their antics, you can see why.
If companies are seen to engage in nepotism and the individuals who benefit from it fail, this could have adverse consequences for staff morale, the talent pool, and company performance.
One could even call nepotism risky business.
Do you think insurance has a nepotism problem? Maybe you’re an insurance ‘nepo baby’? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
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