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Insurance industry takes ‘huge step forward’ in boosting diversity and inclusion in the workplace

Press release

auticon, a ground-breaking IT/ Data consultancy whose consultants all have a diagnosis of autism, has made great strides in boosting diversity and inclusion in the insurance industry, thanks to a new global service agreement between the unique social enterprise and Zurich Insurance Group.

Autistic adults often have valuable strengths and talents for the workplace. Consultants from auticon possess significant cognitive abilities, such as systematic approaches, logical analysis, pattern recognition, error detection and high concentration levels, making them ideally suited for roles in analytics, test automation, data governance and complex software development.

In recent years, Zurich has worked with auticon on numerous different projects across Switzerland, the UK, and most recently with Zurich Insurance plc (ZIP), where teams are analysing claims data to create innovative frameworks and reporting tools.

Inspired by the successful collaboration with auticon consultants, the new global service agreement between Zurich and auticon makes it possible to skip multiple processes from due diligence through to financial checks since many of these activities are already completed.  This allows business units to engage with auticon on projects more easily and quickly.

Andrea Girlanda, Chief Executive of auticon UK says: “The new global service agreement between auticon and Zurich is a huge step forward in helping boost employability amongst autistic adults. It sends an important and positive signal to others, in the insurance industry and beyond, that making it easier to bring neurodiverse talent into the workplace isn’t only good for individuals, but it makes great business sense too.”

Erica Arnold, EMEA & Bank Distribution’s Chief Operating Officer, is an ardent champion of auticon and the quality of work they deliver: “auticon has proven to be a valuable resource for us over the years and this global service agreement is a great example of how we’re equipping Zurich to better meet the needs of our customers and supporting  diversity and inclusion in the workplace.”

Notes to editors:

For more information contact Kristy MacLeod – kristy.macleod@auticon.co.uk / 07778 842 274

About auticon

auticon is a unique IT consultancy and social enterprise, which exclusively employs adults as IT consultants. Autistic adults often have exceptional talents in logic, attention to detail, accuracy and pattern recognition. Many have a strong interest in IT, physics, mathematics and technology. To ensure our consultants can work to their full potential, auticon provides them with qualified job coaches and line managers. Clients receive outstanding quality of work in the areas of Quality Assurance, Data Science and Cybersecurity; autistic adults benefit from employment opportunities that match their unique gifts and characteristics.

Visit auticon.co.uk for more information.

Challenges for autistic people in the workplace

A recent study has shown that only one in five autistic people are in employment, with further evidence to suggest that underemployment is also a significant issue for autistic talent, i.e. of those who are employed, many are in roles that do not make good use of their skills and experience.

Some of the ‘unwritten rules’ in the workplace and systems endemic to the recruitment process can place autistic adults at a disadvantage. For instance, team or departmental customs and challenges in social interactions such as eye contact, the interpretation of facial expressions, or the use of sarcasm or irony can make it stressful for autistic people to navigate everyday work interactions all the way from the recruitment process to the job itself.

At auticon, a social enterprise which exclusively employs autistic adults as IT consultants, we bypass many of the traditional HR practices (such as formal interviews) that can often disadvantage autistic talent. If you begin to drill down into how many processes have an informal element – from networking and word of mouth recommendations, through to the content of job adverts and formal interview situations – it becomes evident that they all have the potential to be highly challenging for someone who is autistic.

For some roles, especially those with a strong technical requirement, it is possible to find quality talent through a series of more generalised assessments and diagnostic tests to check aptitude and skills, followed by more relaxed and informal ‘conversations’ that significantly reduce much of the pressure and anxiety that so often goes hand-in-hand with the traditional assessment systems.

Case study

Fiona Sage, Chief Claims Officer for EMEA and for Zurich Insurance PLC, was introduced to auticon by a colleague after she mentioned she was struggling to fill a data scientist / analyst role. She says: “Data and data insights have become an increasingly important field in the industry. With data scientists on high demand, this has led to a supply and demand issue. We were looking to recruit just as Covid hit and the combination of uncertainty, coupled with restrictions to meet face-to-face, has meant there has been a reluctance for talent to leave secure positions to take up new roles. The recommendation to approach auticon, who have a roster of highly skilled consultants, came at the right time.”

The recruitment process with auticon was unlike any other Fiona has experienced. She comments: “I was used to a traditional process of screening CVs and an interview process, but auticon was entirely different. auticon explained how the interview environment could make it hard for autistic people to perform well, so we placed our trust in the auticon team to find the right candidate with the skills and capabilities we were looking for and Lars has delivered.”

Fiona’s team took on auticon consultant Lars Backstrom, who has been using his skills to help ZIP translate raw data into frameworks and reports that facilitate claims management.

“I have the high level of attention to detail and pattern recognition that most autistic people have,” says Lars. “I also have some special interests, such as map reading, looking at spatial data and learning languages. Plus, I like to read a lot and can amass and retain lots of information. Together, these give me an unusual and wide skillset, where I can adapt to a lot of different roles, learn lots of new things and come up with unusual and unexpected solutions.”

Since joining ZIP at the end of last year, Lars has analysed ways to better leverage claims data to manage large losses (over 2.5 million euros). Using Power BI, he’s built a visual and graphic-based online platform that allows claims handlers to quickly tailor their view of loss exposures by a whole range of different factors such as commercial and retail customers, loss types and claim status.

This means ZIP and Business Units get a more visually appealing way to manage their claims that’s powered by better quality data and faster to use.

Fiona Sage adds: “He’s made a significant impact and has broadened the skill-set within the team, helping us build data mining experience which is being shared far and wide across ZIP. Lars sees things in a completely different way and, because his unique skills and capabilities help him to find patterns in data within minutes, he has saved us many hours of human resource.”

“Working with Lars has improved our style of communication, as we better understand how important it is to be clear, concise and brief. We’ve realised how many inferences we make, without realising how ambiguous and open to misinterpretation they are. These hidden messages do not work for autistic people and it’s important to make sure we do things differently to avoid confusion.”

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