Diversity isn’t just valuable in a workforce – it can make all the difference at the Board of Directors level, too.
“The problem is, the same people end up cycling through all the public company Boards because they have the relevant experience,” says Paresh Patel, who leads a highly diverse Board as Chair of insurance company HCI Group. “But what we need are new ideas, more diverse industry experience, and people of varied heritage and expertise.”
To that end, HCI launched the area’s first training and talent identification program of its type for board members two years ago. HCI’s Board Observer program is different than others around the country: While some companies use board observers to help provide input and expertise in certain areas, Patel started HCI’s program specifically to help diversify boards, both for HCI and other companies. The Tampa Bay Times recently wrote about the unique program.
HCI picks two new board observers each year for a one-year term. They participate in meetings, are asked their opinions and get an idea of what a board seat entails. HCI is choosing people who aren’t already on corporate boards and may not hit the radar of traditional headhunters. The first two observers in the program, Loreen Spencer and Sue Watts, went through the program in 2018 and were invited to join HCI’s board last year.
The current two board observers, and others going forward, will provide a benchmark for HCI and for the future, but it’s also a way for HCI to “pay it forward” by broadening the field of potential board candidates for other companies.
“Experience can be a barrier to entry on a public company Board, not only because you need specialized knowledge of Board operations, governance and laws, but because it calls for a different kind of leadership,” Patel says. “Being accountable to shareholders is very different than being accountable to a boss.”
The next HCI Board Observer program term runs from October 2020 through September 2021. Interviews will begin in the spring. Candidates should contact HCI Group via the email address [email protected].
Loreen Spencer and Sue Watts were HCI’s first two board observers.
About HCI Group, Inc.
HCI Group, Inc. is an InsurTech company with operations in insurance, software development and real estate. HCI’s leading insurance operation, TypTap Insurance Company, is a rapidly growing, technology-driven insurance company, which provides homeowners’ insurance and flood insurance primarily in Florida. TypTap’s operations are powered in large part by insurance-related information technology developed by HCI’s software subsidiary, Exzeo USA, Inc. HCI’s largest subsidiary, Homeowners Choice Property & Casualty Insurance Company, Inc., provides homeowners’ insurance primarily in Florida. HCI’s real estate subsidiary, Greenleaf Capital LLC, owns and operates multiple properties in Florida, including office buildings, retail centers and marinas.