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Aviva boss vets white male senior recruits

Aviva boss Amanda Blanc spoke to the Sexism in the City inquiry last week (13 December)

Amanda Blanc, Aviva’s chief executive, told the Sexism in the City inquiry that she vets all senior white male recruits to improve diversity and prevent nepotism.

The Sexism in the City inquiry was set up by MPs to examine the barriers faced by women in financial services and the progress made in removing gender pay gaps.

MPs will explore the role that firms, government and regulators should play in combatting sexual harassment and misogyny.

Blanc, who is the insurance company’s first female chief executive, told MPs: “There is no non-diverse hire at Aviva without it being signed off by me and the chief people officer.

“Not because I don't trust my team, but because I want to make sure that the process followed for that recruitment has been diverse, has been properly done and is not just a phone call to a mate to say: 'would you like a job? Pop up and we'll fix it up for you'.”

Read more: Diversity conversations causing frustrations

As of 31 December 2022, more than 60% of senior management positions at Aviva were male. Seven men and five women were board members.

Khyati Sundaram, CEO of ethical hiring company Applied, said tackling nepotism requires a fair and transparent recruitment system.

She told HR magazine: “It’s good to see that Aviva’s boss is taking a hard line when it comes to nepotism but it shows a lack of faith in the fairness of their recruitment process. 

“Only those with friends in high places benefit from nepotistic company culture. And affinity bias means these benefactors are likely to look and sound like those who already dominate top jobs: white men.”

Research from employment law firm GQ Litter found women make up less than 7% of CEOs in the UK insurance sector. Only 29 out of 431 CEOs in the UK insurance industry are female.

Caroline Baker, partner at GQ Littler, told HR magazine: “It’s important to stress that, while improvements are being made, the proportion of women in senior roles in insurance remains markedly low. Low rates of diversity at the executive level can open a company up to employment law disputes.”

The City is under fresh scrutiny after a string of controversies this year, including scandals at the CBI and a flurry of claims brought against hedge fund manager Crispin Odey.

Read more: CBI boss sacked over misconduct claims

Blanc revealed that women from across the industry had been writing to her in recent days as she prepared for the hearing, sharing accounts of harassment, including unwanted sexual advances, being followed into hotel rooms or being told their pregnancies were inconvenient for the firm.

The testimonies also included evidence of women being excluded from key meetings and overlooked for promotions.

Blanc’s comments also came on the same day that former BP boss Bernard Looney was forced to forfeit £32.4m after he committed 'serious misconduct' over relationships with colleagues.

Blanc said Aviva had previously sacked male employees for inappropriate behaviour.

She told MPs: “Every individual firm has to be accountable for any allegations such as this, and the women in the firm have to know that there is a process for speaking up; that that process will be acted on, that everything will be investigated and that the person who did the bad leaves the organisation, not the women.”