Top-level Diversity Execs Exit AIG
American International Group Inc. has lost four senior Black managers in recent weeks, including two who were tasked with improving the diversity of the insurer’s ranks.
Global inclusion head Vievette Henry and Walter Hurdle, who had previously run diversity efforts and was overseeing early-career recruiting, are leaving the insurer, according to people with knowledge of the departures. Christina Lucas, a senior vice president who worked on AIG’s global claims performance, was named president of Envista Forensics on Monday, Sept. 28. Ed Dandridge, who oversaw marketing and communications for AIG’s general insurance business, recently left to become the top spokesman for Boeing Co.
“I was informed that my role was eliminated,” Hurdle said in a phone call. “And that’s all I have to say.” The three others didn’t respond to messages or declined to comment on their departures.
An AIG spokesperson declined to comment on the exits. She pointed instead to a new executive diversity council that will review the firm’s efforts, and to what Chief Executive Officer Brian Duperreault said in June that the firm has made progress but not enough.
AIG, which has no Black executives among its 12-person leadership team, is one of many big U.S. companies that pledged to build a more inclusive company after the police killing of George Floyd this May. Like much of the finance industry, white men dominate the highest ranks at AIG. Only 1.5% of AIG’s senior leaders are Black, according to a 2018 report.
Henry, also the firm’s head of organizational effectiveness, called for more progress on diversity across industries in a recent interview about the pandemic with accounting firm KPMG.
“This is the time for business leaders to lean in and move away from groupthink,” Henry said. “We as a society, we’re not where we needed to be prior to COVID-19, and now we have seen the gap widen more.”
Lucas helped oversee the performance of AIG’s claims operation, according to her LinkedIn profile, which says she had previously run the company’s Bulgaria unit. Dandridge was a key deputy to AIG President Peter Zaffino and worked alongside him at the firm’s sprawling property-casualty business. Henry was responsible for diversity strategy and governance, employee resource groups, leadership development, succession planning and AIG’s cultural initiatives, according to a biography for an insurance conference.
Dandridge and Henry’s prominent positions at the company put them in close contact with AIG’s biggest executives, but they weren’t able to become one of them, even when spots opened up as others departed. Dandridge and Lucas left for broader roles at other firms.
One AIG veteran felt the board wasn’t doing enough to recognize the exclusion of Black talent from the top ranks. Henry is being succeeded by Ronald Reeves, who has worked for AIG for more than 20 years and will become the chief diversity officer, according to a memo reviewed by Bloomberg News. Reeves also is Black.
The finance industry’s progress tends to be uneven. Two weeks after Citigroup Inc. announced that Jane Fraser would become CEO and break Wall Street’s glass ceiling, Wells Fargo & Co. boss Charlie Scharf apologized for an “insensitive comment” that tied struggles to find experienced Black executives to the industry’s “very limited pool of Black talent.”
The tensions extend far past Wall Street. Most diversity and inclusion executives say their employers don’t make their work a priority, even as discrimination scandals grow more costly, according to an analysis last year from executive recruiter Russell Reynolds Associates.
“Diversity and inclusion are crucial to AIG’s future,” Hurdle said in a 2017 report. “A diverse workforce fosters creativity which leads to innovation and growth; recruiting more expansively helps us obtain skills others can’t, which fuels profit, and diversity prevents groupthink which decreases risk.”