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Lou Smith: Pioneering figital innovation and LGBTQ+ inclusivity in financial services

In partnership with myGwork

By Dylan Mann-Hazell

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Lou Smith (Image: Provided)

Lou Smith, Global Digital Leader at WTW and CEO of pioneering trading platform Neuron, delves into her story of self-discovery and resilience. Lou was recently presented with the esteemed 2023 LINK lifetime achievement award, as well as receiving recognition in the InspiringFifty network, and is known for driving positive change in the industry through forward-thinking initiatives.

Early struggles

Raised in the 70s, Lou Smith thinks back on the moments that led to the embrace of her lesbian identity. In an era of limited visibility and acceptance, Lou had to navigate a world where authenticity often took a backseat to societal expectations. She recalls a brief period in her 20s when she pretended to have a boyfriend, despite dating a woman at the time. Eventually, Lou felt comfortable revealing her truth, receiving an outpour of support from her loved ones. Despite these initial struggles with being open about her sexuality, Lou was always building inner strength, as well as a passion for inclusivity that would propel her forward later in life.

During a dynamic career in financial services, Lou found herself confronted with the challenge of balancing different personas – at work and in her personal life. Although she embraced her identity in the professional sphere, she still grappled with lingering insecurities that stifled authentic expression. Recognising the profound impact of fear on her professional performance, Lou is quick to highlight the importance of cultivating inclusive environments; Spaces where people can embrace their true selves without the burden of judgment.

“You can’t be yourself if you’re fearful”

“If you’re fearful at work, you cannot be brilliant at what you’re brilliant at. Feeling fear of anybody will stop people being their authentic self. You can’t be yourself if you’re fearful, in every sense of the word.”

Working as a Global Digital Leader at insurance company WTW, Lou is a vocal advocate for business environments where employees can freely express themselves across all platforms. She talks about the need for ongoing inclusivity efforts that transcend designated awareness months. Lou calls for an all-year response to improving standards for marginalised communities, rather than only on special occasions. Embracing a commitment to courage beyond symbolic celebrations, Lou also champions the transformative potential of everyday interactions infused with genuine dialogue.

“It comes down to ‘what are we doing every single day’? Not just on the awareness months, not just Pride – every day. That’s how you show you really care about it.”

Diving deeper into Lou’s professional journey, the conversation shifts to her groundbreaking role as a digital innovation trailblazer. Through her role as the CEO of advanced digital insurance platform Neuron, her vision is to revolutionise the insurance industry through cutting-edge data connectivity and empowering clients to utilise efficient decision-making processes. Neuron exists to enhance connections between underwriters and brokers, streamlining the trading processes through digitisation, automation, and improved data usage.

The diverse team at Neuron is reflective of Lou’s inclusive leadership style, welcoming seasoned experts who bring a wide range of industry knowledge to the table – and equally important– a variety of perspectives. 

Championing diversity

“We’re all really excited about Neuron, and the feedback is great,” revealed Lou. “We’ve got some fantastic people on the team who are diverse in its broadest and deepest sense. We’ve been really conscious about that – how do we keep diversity of thought in the conversation? Because if you don’t, then you’ve left somebody out of the room.”

Reflecting on talent acquisition within WTW, Lou is committed to embracing diverse perspectives, including generational thinking, in the cultivation of a professional community. She commends the organisation for embedding inclusive practices as core values, establishing a year-round culture of openness and understanding.

In a resounding call to action for contemporary businesses, Lou emphasises  not only including diverse voices but empowering them to make a meaningful impact within the financial services realm and beyond.   She highlights the need to work consistently on improving accessibility of services for all, and the importance of daily actions over occasional gestures.

Through her passion for innovation, dedication to enhancing customer experiences, and advocacy for accessibility, Lou Smith exemplifies authentic leadership. WTW is a proud partner of myGwork, the LGBTQ+ business community. Find out more about job opportunities at WTW.