Kenthia Roberts is a junior mathematics major, computer science and psychology dual minor and serves as President of Gamma Iota Sigma at Howard University. Kenthia was interviewed by Michael Fiedel, a Managing Director at InsurTech Ohio and Co-Founder at PolicyFly, Inc.
Kenthia, growing up outside of the United States, what presence did insurance have on the lives of your family and those around you?
“I originally grew up in the Caribbean, and the insurance industry wasn't widely spoken about or introduced to us in school. No one was really exposing us to the fact that insurance is an industry you can go into. The insurance industry was low in terms of how much I knew specifically, but I do think that I realized growing up that it was all around me. There were different types of insurance that existed; my mom had car insurance, my uncle had house insurance. I didn't think about the back end or the processes that went into all those different things.”
When did you start to pay attention to insurance and think of it as a potential career opportunity?
“I would have to say it started to click in my transition from high school to college as I started to ask more of those questions. The why, the what, the when and the how, most importantly. That's when my interest started to peak within and when I realized insurance was more than someone just giving you a plan. I realized the industry was actually evolving, and that’s when I first heard about what an actuary was. When I found out how long insurance has been around, that's really when I started to see where I can fit within the insurance world.”
What exposure have you had to ways in which the industry is changing?
“I'm very passionate about technology, so I've seen it from the lens of how the insurance industry has struggled to use technology within their processes. For example, in the beginning, there may not have been a website where people could just go and put in their information to get a quote. Just having that website there now makes the customer experience so much better. I know that artificial intelligence and data science are becoming a booming market right now. I can see how the insurance industry can not only take advantage of that, but I've seen how they are beginning to by adopting things like personalized policies for their members. I think that's really where I could see the insurance industry going in terms of technology and what I'm passionate about doing as well.”
Do you feel like the insurance industry is diverse?
“I want to say at first, no, like initially from the surface, no. I don't think it's that diverse mainly because I don't see many women or people of color who are in leadership positions and are a part of these companies. It's gradually getting there, but I think that it could be better in terms of diversity and in terms of making the space more open where anyone could feel that they have a place and their opinion matters.”
How have you felt in terms of being welcomed into the industry?
“Being a member of Gamma Iota Sigma at Howard University, I feel a little bit more accepted and generally needed within the industry, mainly because I think we need to push past these companies saying that they're committed to diversity and inclusion by just giving money. We need to see some type of community aspect, some type of actual care. I've actually had that experience. That's made me want to continue on this line within the industry where people are showing their genuine interest in trying to hire top talent from my school, which is an HBCU (Historically Black College or University). I think that's a step in the right direction for sure, actually being committed to diversity and inclusion and having those initiatives as well.”
Have you developed, in your own mind, some different ways you think the industry can continue to diversify?
“I haven't thought about it specifically, but one way I know is recruitment, how their recruitment is tailored. Initially, I'm the only math major who is on this insurance path. I think it's because insurance usually is seen from a business lens, so most of those interested in insurance are business majors. However, I think one way to diversify it is through the welcoming of different majors. Create a wider span of majors that are available to be a part of this industry. Reach out to schools that don't have insurance programs, or companies can create initiatives to actually start them at these schools because nine times out of 10, they probably don't know that it exists.”
How do you see the Gamma Iota Sigma group growing naturally as historically black colleges gain interest in the industry?
“Howard actually is one of two HBCUs that has a chapter, which means that out of the 107, there's only two that have an insurance Gamma Iota Sigma chapter. I think it's very important, and I know it's important to Howard based on the things we do in house to create opportunities externally. For example, every year, Howard holds a firm symposium under our Center for Insurance in the School of Business where they invite insurance companies and select students from Howard and from other schools to stay on campus and have this three day event.With these companies, students are able to not only learn about the insurance and risk management industry but get the chance to network and learn different skills. Howard is definitely committed to trying to make that advancement, and while it's happening slowly, I can see it leaving a long-lasting impact because it's definitely something that has inspired me. This is why I took up the role as president of Gamma Iota Sigma and want to help bring awareness to this industry .”
What opportunity do you feel like you have to improve the equity and inclusion of insurance?
“I believe my responsibility is to be exemplary, so if I give up now, I think no one would see someone who looks like me and has a similar background to me in this space. If they don't see me in that space, then they may not be motivated to actually be in that space either. I see myself having to show people the way and be a guiding hand, especially because I have a different major and am interested in insurance from the technology lens. I definitely need to share about it so that other people can bring their new perspective to the insurance industry.”
Anything else you would like to share about your passion for insurance or your expectations for the future of the industry?
“I think the insurance industry has been going down a straight path for a long while, and maybe it needs to be a little bit more winding in terms of trying to expand what it really can be. That way we can definitely create a more diverse and inclusive space for people to want to be a part of this industry and not see it as something boring or something that doesn't have true value. A lot of times, people are not only trying to get a paycheck, they're also trying to find their purpose. One thing that really inspires me about the insurance industry is that it has a lot of room for you to find your purpose, give back to your community and make a meaningful impact.”