24 September 2021
12 October 2021
This article considers neurodiversity and the needs of the financial services sector
Neurodiversity is a term coined to describe the infinite variation of human brains and minds. It is thought that 1 in 7, or 15%, of the UK population has significant neurological differences – they are ‘neurodivergent’.
Neurodivergent conditions include the autism spectrum condition (which now encompasses Asperger’s syndrome), attention deficit (hyperactivity) disorder, dyslexia, dyscalculia, developmental co-ordination disorder (dyspraxia), and more. Although commonly viewed through the lens of impairment or deficit, neurodivergence can be advantageous with the right support in place.
Being different: superpower or disability?
Greta Thunberg, a Swedish environmental activist, sees her having Asperger’s syndrome as a superpower. For Richard Branson, an English business magnate, being dyslexic enabled him to build the skills needed to become a successful entrepreneur. Although not possible to verify, it is thought that Alan Turing, Albert Einstein, Henry Ford, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs may have been neurodivergent.
However, not everyone who is neurodivergent exhibits, using Thunberg’s terminology, superpowers. Under the Equality Act 2010, neurodivergence can be a disability. In fact, the National Autistic Society and Ambitious about Autism define autism as a disability. Nevertheless, not everyone who is neurodivergent see themselves as disabled.
Many neurodivergent individuals would view being described as having a disorder or disability as alienating and ‘ableist’. Expand the Circle’s Inclusive language guide provides recommendations on how to create more respectful and accepting conversations around neurodiversity in organisations.
Neurodiversity and the needs of the financial services sector
The Future of Jobs 2020 report by the World Economic Forum identified (1) analytical thinking and innovation, (2) critical thinking and analysis, and (3) creativity, originality and value, as the top three skills that are in high demand within the financial services sector. Many of these skills are a natural talent of neurodivergent individuals. Creativity and problem-solving in particular, which are a pre-requisite for innovation, are common strengths amongst all neurodivergent conditions.
Some companies have already recognised that increasing the neurodiversity of their workforce comes with clear business benefits. Microsoft, SAP, JPMorgan and EY have well-established autism hiring programmes. In July 2021, EY announced the expansion of their Neuro-Diverse Centre of Excellence to the UK whilst Aviva created placements for neurodiverse individuals to work in their UK Data Science teams.
Through employer education and creation of support to address difficulties that come with being neurodivergent, barriers to meaningful employment can be reduced. Such actions will enable neurodivergent talent to flourish and their unique strengths benefit organisations and the society as a whole.
Relevance to our Profession
The Society of Claims Professionals has contributed alongside wider stakeholders into a new competency framework for the whole profession – the Professional Map, that we will soon be launching. This incorporates not just the technical knowledge needed to excel as a claims professional, but also the skills and behaviours. We believe that by looking objectively at those skills and behaviours may identify areas where people with neurodiverse characteristics may have natural strengths that could help firms and individuals open new career opportunities and talent pools.
Also as a claims professional we have a clear need to be able to understand and properly engage with clients, and that includes those with neuro-divergent conditions. Kathryn Knowles from Cura explores how financial advisors can respond to this in an episode of the Practical Protection Podcast.
Neurodiversity is still an emerging topic within the financial services sector. However, there exits several organisations and networks that focus on promoting neurodiversity within the sector. These include the Diversity Project, the Insurance Families Network and a brand-new organisation GAIN (Group for Autism, Insurance and Neurodiversity), which serves the insurance, investment and related sectors within the financial services industry.
The CII is committed to supporting the profession with guidance and thought leadership to help the insurance and personal finance sector understand and serve the needs of the whole of society. We will be sharing more detail about opportunities to learn about neurodiversity, including a webinar in partnership with to include case studies and guidance from GAIN
To find out more about GAIN and hear from its creators, please register for a virtual launch on 1st October 2021.
This document is believed to be accurate but is not intended as a basis of knowledge upon which advice can be given. Neither the author (personal or corporate), Society of Underwriting Professionals or Chartered Insurance Institute, or any of the officers or employees of those organisations accept any responsibility for any loss occasioned to any person acting or refraining from action as a result of the data or opinions included in this material. Opinions expressed are those of the author or authors and not necessarily those of the Society or Chartered Insurance Institute.