“Being able to reach out and help or support the development of individuals is something I get a lot of value from.” Matthew Searby’s life experiences, from growing up in South Africa during apartheid to his current role at DUAL, one of the world’s largest international insurance agencies, have shaped his understanding of discrimination and the importance of authentic inclusion. He spoke to myGwork about his personal journey and how he advocates for change within the insurance industry, emphasising the need to create a more inclusive and supportive environment.
Matthew grew up in South Africa during the peak of apartheid, where discrimination pervaded society at the time. Reflecting, he can see the lasting effects it had on his childhood and family, but in parallel, fond memories exist, and South Africa still holds a significant place in his heart.
Experiencing legalised discrimination firsthand has fueled Matthew’s desire to fight bias and promote understanding. Upon moving to the UK, Matthew naturally compared the attitudes towards discrimination between South Africa and his new home. While acknowledging that discrimination was more visible in South Africa, he was still acutely aware of the challenges faced in the UK, particularly within the workplace. His life experience means it’s easy for him to see the impact of different generational beliefs and biases in both the UK and South Africa. He knows that change takes time but strongly believes that we are all responsible for challenging obstacles that prevent people from expressing themselves openly.
Creating a safe and welcoming space
Matthew moved away from his initial interest in accounting early in his career. He entered the London insurance market and joined Rethink in 2019. Rethink is a digital underwriting platform that automates the matching of capacity to risk, and is part of DUAL. DUAL is one of the world’s largest international insurance agencies and is part of Howden, the global insurance group. Now comprising over 40 members, the division focuses on revolutionising the insurance industry through digital innovation, with diversity, inclusion, and equity as its core values. Matthew’s personal relationship with the LGBTQ+ community is evident in his ongoing support for equal rights, representation, and inclusion. He has actively worked with Howden to help create a safe and welcoming space for the LGBTQ+ community, whether through advocacy, education or simply being there as a supportive ally to colleagues.
“Being able to reach out and help or support the development of “individuals is something I get a lot of value from.
“I put very high value and invest a lot of time in the development of individuals,” Matthew explains. “Being able to reach out and help or support the development of individuals is something I get a lot of value from. The best part about this is we can go global with it.”
Matthew understands the significance of culture and diversity in attracting talent and challenging established industries. At Howden, the employee resource groups play a vital role in building the foundation for an accepting culture to bloom. With an active involvement in the LGBTQ+ group, Matthew has seen firsthand the company’s commitment to intersectionality and genuine support for marginalised communities. He’s also dedicated to investing time in mentoring programs and stressed the importance of expanding inclusivity efforts beyond London.
“There is genuine commitment and belief in the whole topic”
“It has had executive sponsorship right from the top, right from the get-go,” Matthew says, speaking fondly of the authentic allyship at Howden. “[The executive team] will come to the events and speak very openly in front of wide groups of people from all backgrounds. You can tell there is genuine commitment and belief in the whole topic.”
Matthew has also witnessed the company’s significant growth and how it has repeatedly overcome any challenge it has faced. Howden’s people-first approach is a vital aspect of their progressive mindset, including active participation in events promoting inclusivity, as well as utilising digital spaces and workplace sites to foster acceptance and support for the LGBTQ+ community and allies. Howden has also displayed a strong commitment to taking suggestions from the community to continually improve and expand upon their inclusivity efforts. This authentic and proactive approach is a huge contributing factor to Matthew’s pride in the company, as they repeatedly demonstrate integrity in their support for marginalised voices.
Looking beyond just Pride Month
The company also goes beyond token gestures during Pride Month, visibly committing to active allyship year-round. Matthew has seen progress made by the financial services sector, with many increasing their budget and resources for supporting and celebrating the LGBTQ+ community. Despite this, there is still work to be done across all sectors to foster genuine, lasting change.
Looking to the future of diversity and inclusion efforts, Matthew sees the need to continue fighting discrimination and create a genuinely supportive environment for all marginalised communities. With Matthew’s leadership and contribution, Howden is expertly paving the way for a more inclusive future within the insurance industry and beyond.