Celebrate this month with us as we take a look at Black History Month and our industry! The theme for 2022 is Black Health and Wellness. Insurance and risk management help to promote wellness in many ways. It’s exciting because there are so many ways our industry can support this theme!
Celebrate Black History Month With Notable Insurance Contributions
The insurance and risk management world has a long and rich history. We’ve seen many changes over the centuries within our industry. But one thing has stayed the same — insurance plays an important role in the theme of Black Health and Wellness.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives abound in our industry. Most major carriers and agencies have a DEI program. There is room for more growth, however. Recent numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics found just 10% of insurance agents and 6% of underwriters were Black or African American. This highlights the opportunities for more diversity within agencies and insurance companies.
But while there are plenty of opportunities for people of all backgrounds in insurance, Black Americans have shaped the industry as we know it.
Ernesta Procope, The First Lady of Wall Street
Ernesta Procope, known as the First Lady of Wall Street, was the founder and CEO of E.G. Bowman Co. Inc. Her brokerage, founded in 1953, was based on the idea of providing personal attention to clients. Her business started as a small storefront and later wrote some of the largest Fortune 500 accounts. She fought for everyone to have access to insurance. Procope passed away at age 98 in 2021 but her legacy continues through her agency.
John Merrick, North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company
John Merrick formed the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company in 1898 along with several other investors. The company is now called NC Mutual. They sold life insurance policies to Black Americans in North Carolina and across the south — just a few decades after the end of slavery. Born into slavery himself, Merrick did more than sell life insurance to Black families. He also employed Black Americans as salespeople, providing more opportunities to his community as his company grew.
Alonzo Herndon, Atlanta Benevolent and Protective Association
One of the first Black millionaires in America was Alonzo Herndon. He purchased the Atlanta Benevolent and Protective Association in 1905. Herndon grew the struggling business by employing door-to-door salespeople. He also acquired other insurance and benevolent companies to grow his mutual business. The company continues today, now called the Atlanta Life Insurance Company.
The African Union Society, 1780
A precursor to modern-day insurance and risk pooling, union societies started as mutual aid groups. One of the first began in Newport, Rhode Island, in 1780. The African Union Society allowed Black members to pool resources to help each other in times of illness and hardship. The group also recorded births and deaths and is one of the first formal organizations for Black Americans. Other mutual aid societies developed after the African Union Society in Rhode Island.
Ways to Support Black History Month at Your Agency
There are many different ways to support Black History Month this year.
Support Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives.
Does your agency have any employee resource groups dedicated to diversity? Or does your agency support community DEI initiatives? Find ways to get involved with your company’s affinity groups and to support the various programs they offer. If you find there are no obvious DEI initiatives at your agency, consider starting an affinity group or resource program yourself.
Host a speaker or webinar series.
Offer interesting speakers and compelling topics during the month. You could host a speaker in person or virtually. You could look for speakers to talk about Black History Month or those who could share their experiences in the insurance industry.
Work with a partner organization.
There are several insurance and risk management organizations designed for Black insurance professionals. These groups can become valuable partners for your agency. They can help provide education and resources designed for Black insurance professionals. The National African American Insurance Association (NAAIA) is one such group.
Support scholarships, internships, and mentorship.
February is Black History Month, and it is also Insurance Careers Month. Think about ways your agency can support scholarships and internship programs. Get involved with a national partner like Gamma Iota Sigma, the fraternity for insurance and risk management students. Support an intern during their college summers — your intern may be your next best new hire.
Expand Your Network With the American Agents Alliance
Another way to expand your network with agents and brokers from all walks of life is by becoming a member of the American Agents Alliance. Our members enjoy great networking and educational opportunities. We also offer helpful discounts on various business solutions. Become a member today!