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DEI Efforts at Assurant, Inc.

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Baker Donelson recently had a virtual "sit down" with Jerrell Moore, Vice President and Head of Global Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI), and Peter Loughlin, Vice President and Managing Attorney for Litigation, of Assurant Inc., a leading global provider of lifestyle and housing solutions that support, protect and connect major consumer purchases, to drill down on the company's substantial DEI initiatives.

1. How are you advancing diversity and inclusion through your roles?

Jerrell Moore: Reporting to Francesca Luthi, Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer, I am charged with the creation and leadership of an integrated, global DEI strategy that elevates Assurant's status as a best place to learn and work for employees. We aspire to foster a diverse, equitable and inclusive culture to drive sustainable innovation for the benefit of all stakeholders as we increase representation of diverse talent over time and produce a stronger, more diverse Assurant executive leadership team.

Our DEI strategy has been heavily influenced by the input received from my peers in the People Organization, business leaders and members of Assurant's Management Committee. During the past few months, we've created a framework to outline our strategy, core pillars and roadmap.

This helps us see the approach we'll take to achieve our overall goals and ensure alignment with Assurant's vision, values and priorities, to enhance our corporate performance and reputation in measurable ways.

Peter Loughlin: As a part of Legal, Compliance and Government Affairs (LCGA), I manage claims litigation and other disputed matters across the Assurant Enterprise. I focus on implementing legally-sound solutions designed to further company objectives, reduce risk exposure, and resolve disputes. In my role, I manage a highly engaged, effective team of internal attorneys, paralegals and administrative professionals; implement innovative strategies for defense and resolution of lawsuits, regulatory complaints, and pre-litigation matters; and build a network of diverse, engaged and results-focused outside counsel.

Assurant's enterprise DEI strategy is integral to LCGA and our goals in litigation as we recognize that diversity drives innovation, which is critical to the successful execution of our litigation strategy. DEI helps us to understand and connect with our people, clients, and customers, which leads to better teams and better results. This starts with our workforce – the people of our internal team. Through commitment to DEI, we create opportunities and enhance engagement of the team. It includes our workplace where communication, support and investment are paramount. It also includes our goal of building a more diverse and inclusive network of engaged and results-focused outside counsel.

2. Where are you now with your diversity numbers?

Jerrell Moore: Our overall diversity of Assurant is over 60 percent women in our workforce and we have over 50 percent racial and ethnic diversity. Our board of directors is 50 percent diverse in gender, race and/or ethnicity. When you think about that combined makeup of race and gender, we have good representation and very strong voices on our Board of Directors and Management Committee that are committed to Assurant and to our DEI efforts.

3. Tell us about Assurant's 2020 DEI Strategic Roadmap and three-year plan.

Jerrell Moore: Our strategy has been heavily influenced by the input that we received from peers across the enterprise. When I joined Assurant a year ago, I spent time with stakeholders from the various lines of business, working to understand what was important to them, what some of our opportunity areas are, and also what are some strengths we can continue to build on. Over the past few months, we created a framework that outlines our strategy and core pillars. That's what we live and breathe every day with the DEI work that we do.

Our vision is to create a diverse, equitable and inclusive Assurant that helps us better understand and connect with our employees and customers. Our four strategic DEI pillars are: Business Intelligence, Workforce, Workplace and Marketplace. We see those pillars as business intelligence, really looking at the way that we think about data and how we use data to not only tell a story but to inform our decisions and also hold ourselves accountable. Those are really critical to us.

2020 created tremendous opportunity to see our work, and the world, through the broader lens of diversity: individually, collectively and experientially. We've embraced the belief that diversity is who we are, all of us. We've listened, and learned, from many of our employees what their heritage means personally and the impact it has on their roles at Assurant. We've created safe spaces for conversations about social justice globally and from several different perspectives. Each opportunity has resulted in the chance to elevate our emphasis on inclusion to better serve our customers.

Thanks to the efforts, input and perspective from our employees and leaders across Assurant, we've made significant DEI progress in the last year, including:

  • Establishing the Executive Inclusion Council, chaired by President and CEO Alan Colberg, to ensure leadership engagement and accountability at the Management Committee level and throughout Assurant.
     
  • Creating new enterprise-wide forums to host candid discussions through the global Asian Heritage Month panel and Courageous Conversations about Race and Ethnicity forums focusing on Black/African American and Hispanic/Latino-American employees.
     
  • Providing funding and support for important issues of social justice by activating special 2-for-1 matches from the Assurant Foundation for employee donations made to charitable organizations including social justice and anti-racism causes.
     
  • Hearing impactful employee stories during Black History Month, International Women's Day, Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, Pride Month and Hispanic Heritage Month, and launching an internal SharePoint site to aggregate all DEI resources available to employees.
     
  • Receiving a perfect score of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index, which also named Assurant as a Best Place to Work for LGBTQ Equality for the third consecutive year.
     
  • Being included in the 2021 Bloomberg Gender-Equality Index of highly recognized public companies committed to supporting gender equality through policy development, representation and transparency.
     
  • Launching a SupplierDiversity registration portal to allow for increased opportunity for diverse businesses to register as potential suppliers for Assurant, while also creating a formal network of business-unit stakeholders to ensure collaboration and future progress of this program.

From the tremendous momentum created throughout 2020, we will continue to advance our efforts to bring our DEI strategy to life.

4. What do you hope to accomplish in 2021?

Jerrell Moore: The Assurant Management Committee has committed to launching the following programs and initiatives which will use a powerful combination of dedicated internal resources and external partnerships, to support a more diverse, equitable and inclusive Assurant community:

  • Enterprise Diversity Training: Core to education across Assurant is the introduction of enterprise-wide diversity training. The goal of this new training is to develop awareness of unconscious bias and cultivate inclusive leaders. We are rolling out this global effort in a phased approach in 2021.
     
  • Diverse Candidate Slates: In collaboration with Talent Acquisition and the People Organization, we have developed a process to ensure that we have greater representation of diverse candidates (both internal and external), with the goal of increasing diversity in leadership by requiring diverse slates. We are launching this new program now for position grades 13 and above for U.S. open roles and will continue to introduce the approach for all new roles at this level throughout 2021.
     
  • Strategic DEI Partnerships: To increase our DEI efforts in Talent Acquisition, Talent Development, Employee Education and Brand Engagement, Assurant will establish additional strategic partnerships with external DEI organizations.
     
  • Employee Resource Groups (ERGs): Part of bringing DEI strategy to life means providing even more opportunities for a greater sense of community to help foster inclusion. We will roll out ERGs in Assurant this year, beginning in the U.S. through a phased approach towards developing a robust framework. ERGs are made up of employees with shared characteristics or experiences, such as common race, gender or sexual orientation, and their allies.

As we continue to refine our DEI strategy and develop additional details for the roadmap, we will introduce other programs, goals and accountabilities.

5. Can you describe Assurant's DEI program as it relates to the legal department?

Peter Loughlin: Assurant's enterprise DEI strategy is an important driver for LGCA, allowing us to enhance employee engagement, create innovation and deliver outstanding results.

Specific LCGA DEI initiatives start with our people. We are committed to hiring, developing and retaining a diverse slate of candidates and employees and maintaining a diversity focus throughout the process and on all LCGA roles.

DEI also involves our outside counsel engagements. We recognize the importance of having a diverse roster of law firms and outside counsel to represent Assurant. We continue to accelerate our good progress in this area by providing opportunities for retention of diverse-owned laws firms, promoting diverse representation of attorneys on our legal work with current firms, and supporting growth and development of diverse counsel. DEI allows us to harness innovation, competition and deliver efficiencies and better outcomes for our company and customers.

6. How much of a factor is diversity in outside counsel hiring decisions?

Peter Loughlin: Diversity is an extremely important factor for us with respect to hiring outside counsel. Diversity leads to better teams, more innovative strategies and solutions, and better outcomes. It is also important that our slate of outside counsel be aligned with Assurant's DEI values. Current initiatives include:

  • Increasing opportunities for retention of diverse-owned law firms. This includes law firms that are certified as diverse-owned by government agencies or private organizations, e.g., NAMWOLF certified law firms.
     
  • Promoting diversity within the groups of lawyers at larger firms who currently do our work. We expect our mid- to large-sized law firms to ensure a diverse roster on our legal work. Baker Donelson is a great model. We have worked with Shareholder Clarence Risin for 10 years and he has compiled an exemplary team of diverse litigation attorneys for us nationwide that delivers outstanding legal services and litigation results.
     
  • Supporting diverse lawyers at current firms, especially more junior lawyers, to create opportunities for growth and development on our dockets.
     
  • Working with Mansfield Rule Certified law firms.
     
  • Ensuring our roster of firms is aligned with Assurant's DEI values.

7. Do you think an inclusive work environment helps your team provide better solutions for internal clients? If so, how?

Jerrell Moore: Our vision is a diverse, equitable and inclusive Assurant that helps us better understand and connect with our employees and customers. This strengthens our ability to be viewed as a socially responsible company – which is about how we want to show up in the marketplace – and the accountability we have to our external stakeholders. Assurant's social responsibility commitment also drives employee engagement while enhancing the customer experience to deliver innovative products and services, and this helps us be the best place to work for our employees and to better serve our communities.

8. What advice would you give other legal departments when it comes to diversifying their own in-house or outside legal teams and keeping those efforts fresh and energized each year?

Peter Loughlin: My advice is that we need to understand that DEI is a journey and not a destination. We need to assess where we are now as legal departments and where we need to go. And that takes commitment to DEI as a value and commitment to invest in people – both internal employees and outside counsel. We need to be comfortable with the uncomfortable and welcome different ideas, listen and engage. We really believe that having a diverse team with diverse points of view helps us to achieve greater results. The time, energy and journey are worth it.

9. Are there peer organizations that you find helpful in sharing best practices in DEI?

Jerrell Moore: This has changed dramatically over the last five years. There was a time when, as a chief diversity officer, you were kind of alone on an island. Now, several organizations have established working groups that are not just about benchmarking but are about having impact. Assurant is a proud member of Business Roundtable, which is comprised of CEOs from across the global marketplace, that really works to drive and impact policy. Subgroups of the Business Roundtable are focused on things like social and racial equity.

Another organization is CEO Action for Diversity, which is driven by a CEO pledge to make a bold commitment to helping drive change. It also involves working groups and subgroups and other opportunities to share best practices. It provides one of the most robust repository resources I've seen for companies that are at different points on their journey. If you're newly promoted or tapped as a leader for diversity, it offers great starting points and best practices and strategies. For someone who may be a little bit more tenured, it provides next-generation initiatives for companies on the leading edge. Having these communities has definitely enhanced my effectiveness as a diversity leader.

10. We are coming off a tough year, for many reasons. As we move through the spring season, which can be associated with renewal, revival and fresh awakening, how does Assurant keep DEI initiatives fresh and revitalized each year to ensure they remains a priority?

Jerrell Moore: Through an integrated and comprehensive communication strategy, through multiple channels, we continuously communicate to our employees that diversity, equity and inclusion are one of our key strategic enablers. We achieve this by staying connected with our employees and stakeholders through internal and external channels: our company intranet site, internal social media platform, and all-employee Zoom calls where our DEI efforts are constantly highlighted and communicated by our executives. Externally, we speak to our stakeholders and potential employees through Assurant.com, LinkedIn, and other social media platforms.

11. What challenges has the COVID-19 pandemic created in your specific area of work?

Jerrell Moore: Like most companies, keeping our employees safe and our culture intact is high on our priority list. We are keenly aware of how COVID-19 has impacted all of us and the challenges that arose for many, including underrepresented communities, working caregivers and those who have lost loved ones to this pandemic. Assurant has remained steadfast in its commitment to support employees throughout the pandemic and focus on the health, safety and overall wellbeing of our global workforce.

Early in the crisis, Assurant made the important decisions to suspend all non-essential travel and enable work from home for more than 12,000 employees in roles that did not require them to work in an office. At the same time, we took steps to create a safe work environment across our global facilities in strict adherence to CDC and WHO guidelines and have taken additional actions to support our employees providing essential services in Assurant locations. Other actions we took include:

  • Our Assurant Cares Employee Support COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund supported more than 1,000 employees and their families with approximately $1.1 million of financial hardship grants in March – July 2020.
     
  • We expanded our Global Employee Assistance Program and introduced a new series of global webinars focusing on mindfulness to improve overall wellbeing.
     
  • We added several extra floating holidays for all employees worldwide, recognizing that many have had to take additional time off to care for loved ones
     
  • We provided supplemental COVID-19 work-from-home relief payment to employees below the leadership level.

12. Can you share any best practices that would help other organizations remain focused on DEI initiatives during these challenging times?

Jerrell Moore: It is crucial that we focus on DEI in times of crisis, as this is when our employees need our support and strong leadership the most. Flexibility, adaptability and inclusive leadership are all important as we think about our changing work environments. For example, during the pandemic, people's personal lives have blended in with their work lives as more of us are working from home. There are small and large ways we can make a difference, such as welcoming employees to turn off their video cameras (which can be especially helpful for caregivers), allowing flexibility in schedules, and encouraging employees to take time to focus on their wellbeing. Another example is offering resources to support mental health, reduce stress and promote wellbeing – from workshops with experts to run/walk charity fundraisers to virtual yoga sessions during work hours. We also are encouraging teams to have Courageous Conversations about race, ethnicity, gender and other DEI topics to address social justice matters to foster greater inclusion and connectivity.

13. Historically, times of crisis have also provided opportunities for change. Are you optimistic that, when we emerge from this pandemic, we will witness a positive shift in the importance of creating a diverse and inclusive workplace?

Jerrell Moore: We are optimistic. The pandemic has become the one major unifying global event that has impacted us all, worldwide. While we witnessed traumatic instances of social and racial injustice during the last year, we also saw how businesses responded to take actions that range from charitable donations, to focusing on social justice, to revamping how companies recruit, retain and promote underrepresented employees. We also witnessed and supported various communities and partners coming together to help each other out. We're optimistic that we will see positive change that will lead to more inclusive workplaces if we all continue to do our part in addressing systemic racism every place it exists.

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