Executive believes it’s time to start leaning into that idea
“We need to really start leaning into the idea that insurance is an exciting industry,” Kyle Matthews (pictured) believes. As director of sales and distribution at The Hartford since June 2023, he finds many aspects of his job fun and fulfilling.
Speaking to Insurance Business, he said that he originally had his eye set on law when he graduated from Fairleigh Dickinson University in 2013, but “the thought of more loans and more school was daunting.”
And while Matthews’ first step after college was into a paralegal role, he longed for more meaning in his work – revealing a mismatch between his career and his aspirations to serve on a larger scale. Soon enough, Matthews found himself yearning for a role where he could make a more significant impact.
This led Matthews to explore the insurance industry, a sector he had previously only associated with life and health insurance. The commercial insurance sector, particularly Property and Casualty (P&C), was a revelation to him.
“And once you get in, you realize how much the economy is supported by insurance and risk transfer,” Mathews said. “It’s that ability to have billions of dollars in capital to serve all different type of communities – this intrigued me.”
Insurance’s lack of diversity
However, as Matthews rose through the ranks at other insurance carriers prior to joining The Hartford, he quickly noticed the distinct lack of diversity in leadership positions within the industry – something which at first troubled and then inspired him.
“Typically being the only person of color in the room had a stark impression on my comfort and confidence,” he said. “However, knowing that I was adequately prepared for each role that I took, having confidence in my leadership’s investment in my development were table stakes for success. I felt it incumbent upon myself to reach back and pull others in. To educate others about how I’ve navigated, how I got to where I am and what other opportunities the insurance industry has.”
And Matthews isn’t alone in his experiences. According to 2023 data from McKinsey, men of color account for just eight to 14% of the talent pipeline at an entry level – holding just 14% of board seats and 12% of C-suite roles. However, instead of seeing a challenge here Matthews perceived it as a real chance to drive change.
“I saw the vast amount opportunities that there were to take advantage of and I really wanted to be a conduit to introduce and create awareness to all the different opportunities that exist,” he said.
At The Hartford, building a diverse workforce and nurturing an inclusive culture is a top priority. As research consistently shows, companies equipped with a range of voices and perspectives are better able to innovate, take risks, solve problems creatively – and ultimately achieve better business outcomes. The company believe that sustainable, exceptional performance requires a culture that values and embraces diverse perspectives.
Matthews’ concept of empowering excellence is centered around consistently delivering one’s best in any role or project. He strongly believes in the idea that great leaders must first be great followers.
“Great leaders know how to follow,” he said, emphasizing the importance of executing someone else’s strategy as a foundation for developing one’s own leadership skills.
Matthews’ personal motto, “stay ready, so you never have to get ready,” embodies his approach to professional growth and excellence – because for him, excellence is not just about achieving top rankings but being a role model, setting standards in attitude, contributions, and technical expertise. Some of which emanate from his own mentorship and sponsorship commitments.
Importance of mentorship
“Mentorship is really important,” he told IB. “For me, I can think of so many examples, but if I were to say one it was being involved in the employee resource groups. I was able to be aligned with two pivotal leaders who helped me understand how to create business cases, how to galvanize support and how to understand that the efforts we’re working on in the employee resource group are tied into the business.”
Mentorship in all areas of any organization is essential to ensuring diversity thrives, to ensure progression and ultimately clamp down on turnover. According to data from Forbes, 84% of Fortune 500 companies have mentoring programs – and 100% of Fortune 50 companies. What’s more, 89% of those who have been mentored will in turn go on to mentor another. And, as CBC research found, 91% of employees with a mentor are satisfied with their role – something that can’t go amiss in the ongoing talent shortage and skyrocketing turnover rates.
Matthews’ vision for the future of the insurance industry is marked by technological disruption and greater inclusivity in leadership. He anticipates a significant shift in industry dynamics, with technology playing a central role in transforming business operations and customer interactions.
“I think there’s going to be a shake-up of ideas, and we’re primed for disruption,” he said.
From leveraging AI and automation to rethinking customer engagement, Matthews sees endless possibilities for progress and improvement. And, naturally, the industry will witness a more diverse set of leaders, including more women and people of color, influencing decisions at the highest levels.
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