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Feb 21, 2023

Welcome to RIMScast. Your host is Justin Smulison, Business Content Manager at RIMS, the Risk and Insurance Management Society.


NAAIA is the National African American Insurance Association and they recently released a report with Marsh McLennan titled The Next Steps on the Journey. It’s a great read and it’s publicly accessible through the link on this episode’s show notes and The Next Steps study is interested in demographics, but it goes far deeper, by exploring the specific experiences of Black and African-American professionals in risk and insurance. Further, it sought to understand a number of qualitative concepts and issues, including barriers of entry and retention, the evolution of DEI commitments, limitations of DEI initiatives, and, of course, opportunities for professionals in risk and insurance organizations.


NAAIA Executive Director and COO Omari Jahi Aarons is here to discuss the findings of the survey and special details in the report and we’ll get a glimpse into his career path and his hopes for NAAIA and professionals of color in the risk and insurance professions.


Be sure to tune in for today’s insightful conversation!


Key Takeaways:

[:01] About the RIMS Membership.

[:14] Registration for RISKWORLD 2023 is now open!

[:26] About RIMScast.

[:39] About today’s episode.

[:50] All about upcoming RIMS webinars, workshops, events, and more!

[1:40] About RISKWORLD 2023.

[2:15] About Spencer Day.

[2:30] Today’s episode is about NAAIA with Omari Jahi Aarons.

[3:36] Justin welcomes Omari Jahi Aarons to RIMScast!

[3:10] Omari is the Executive Director and COO for NAAIA, a professional membership-based organization with 1,700 members and 22 chapters.

[4:06] How NAAIA serves people of color in the insurance industry. NAAIA is 25 years into its mission.

[4:27] NAAIA is looking forward to the next 25 years, and how NAAIA can help the entire industry to level up, by its mission to diversify the insurance industry.

[4:46] What inspired Omari to enter the insurance industry? He reframes the question to “Who invited me to join the insurance industry?”

[7:07] What kept Omari in the insurance industry?

[9:38] How Omari was “voluntold” to join NAAIA and then discovered the value in it.

[11:05] Omari shares the experience of attending his first annual NAAIA conference.

[11:53] Why Omari stayed in NAAIA and about his journey to Executive Director and COO of NAAIA.

[13:11] How Omari’s role at NAAIA, a 501(c)(6) nonprofit organization, differs from his former corporate roles.

[14:51] About the recent report, The Next Steps on the Journey, and how it relates to the 2018 report, The Journey of African American Insurance Professionals.

[16:27] What NAAIA and Marsh were hoping would come from the recommendations in the 2018 report.

[16:55] What led up to the 2022 study, The Next Steps on the Journey, published by Marsh and AAIA in January of 2023?

[17:46] Omari explains why the majority of study respondents for The Next Steps were female and what it means for the industry.

[19:13] What do we do to help close the gap for Black and African-American men in the insurance industry? Omari offers some suggestions.

[20:01] How mentoring played a part in Omari’s career and what The Next Steps reveals about mentoring.

[21:52] Why are sponsorship programs and coaching essential to success?

[22:06] About types of coaching needed for different roles.

[22:58] Sponsorship programs and coaching supports at every level of the career journey are big parts of The Next Steps.

[23:33] Omari presents some helpful initiatives and key actions that organizations can take from The Next Steps report.

[25:08] What are the things, beyond the workplace, that people need so they can thrive?

[25:47] Plug Time! — RIMS’s DE&I Advisory Council — RISKWORLD 2023 will be held April 30‒May 3 in Atlanta, Georgia! — In-Person Workshops April  29‒30 — Upcoming RIMS events.

[26:49] Justin revisits his interview with RISKWORLD’s Awards and Leadership Keynote, Josh Linkner, speaking about live events and seeing everybody at RISKWORLD!

[28:33] Justin returns to the conclusion of his interview with Omari Jahi Aarons.

[28:54] Omari describes a reception he held during RISKWORLD 2019 as the inaugural president of the Boston Chapter of NAAIA and how the reception boosted the chapter.

[31:34] About sustaining DEI initiatives in the face of layoffs. Research shows that DEI improves profitability and productivity when DEI is integrated with the business strategy.

[34:04] Omari explores the question: who does DEI work belong to in an organization?

[34:52] About succession planning for sustaining the DEI work.

[36:42] How do we embed DEI into business strategy and society? What about when DEI mentors, sponsors, and coaches leave the organization?

[38:15] What do organizations get wrong about the ROI on DEI?

[38:44] The importance of long-term outcomes and sets of activities that build trust and lead to becoming an employer of choice for the Black community.

[40:39] Omari reveals the end outcome of NAAIA. What will organizations and society look like then?

[41:46] Omari poses a question to ask in 100 years.

[43:32] How did HR become the workplace police?

[45:14] How is HR shifting to enable the best experiences in the workplace and to accomplish the organizational mission, including diversity, equity, and inclusion?

[46:20] About risk and putting people first in the workplace policies and practices, including business continuity.

[48:13] Justin gives special thanks to Omari Jahi Aarons, the Executive Director and COO of NAAIA. Justin shares links to NAAIA and The Next Steps on the Journey.

[48:37] Remember that you can sponsor a RIMScast weekly episode or a dedicated episode! Justin shares examples of episode sponsors. See links to sponsored episodes below. RIMScast has a global audience!

[49:18] More RIMS offerings: Transitional Membership available to members separated from their place of employment, valid for up to two years or when you secure your next full-time position. — Register for the RIMS CRMP, the only risk management-based competency credential. — Check out the searchable RIMS Content Page.

[50:10] Subscribe to the monthly Risk Management Magazine and to Risk Management Monitor, the official RIMS blog.

[50:31] Justin thanks you for your continued support and engagement. Stay safe and we’ll see you next week!


Mentioned in this Episode:

RISKWORLD 2023 — April 30‒May 3 in Atlanta, Georgia! Public registration is now open!

RISKWORLD: In-Person Workshops — April 29‒30

Spencer Day is Feb 27. Visit to show your support.

RIMS Diversity Equity & Inclusion page

The Next Steps on the Journey from NAAIA and Marsh McLennan

New NAAIA Report Focuses on Next Steps for DEI in the Insurance Industry — coverage from Risk Management Monitor

Contribute to Risk Management Magazine

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Related RIMScast Episodes:

“Riskworld Keynote Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM President, and CEO”

“Innovation and Improvisation with RISKWORLD Keynote Josh Linkner” (2023)

“Diversity as a Successful Business Division with Rodney Johnson”

“RIMS DE&I in June 2022: Pride, Juneteenth, and National Indigenous History Month”

“RIMS DEI Council Chair Kevin Thomas and Vice-Chair Monica Merrifield” (2021)

“Launching DEI Initiatives with Tara Lessard-Webb” (2021)

“Pride Month: How Risk Pros Can Protect and Uplift LGBTQ+ Employees” (2021)

“RISKWORLD 2022 Keynote Michael C. Bush On Risk and ‘Greatness’”

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“Using M&A Insurance: The How and Why” | Sponsored by Prudent Insurance Brokers Ltd. (NEW!)

“Zurich’s Construction Sustainability Outlook for 2023”

“Aon’s 2022 Atlantic Hurricane Season Overview”

“ESG Through the Risk Lens” | Sponsored by Riskonnect

“A Look at the Cyber Insurance Market” | Sponsored by AXA XL

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“Keeping Subcontractors Safe Through Partner Elevation” | Sponsored by Highwire

“ESG: A Responsibility and a Growing Megatrend” | Sponsored by Prudent Insurance Brokers Ltd.

“Prioritizing People: Focusing on Your Team to Deliver Exceptional Quality and Service to Your Clients” | Sponsored by Gallagher Bassett

“Bermuda Opportunities in 2022 with BDA Chair Stephen Weinstein” | Sponsored by Bermuda Business Development Agency

“SyncR: A Tool to Enhance Your Risk Quality & Insurance Strategy” | Sponsored by Prudent Insurance Brokers Ltd.

“RIMScast: Navigating the Risk Landscape in 2022” | Sponsored by AXA XL

“RIMScast: Prioritizing People: Expertise and Innovation” | Sponsored by Gallagher Bassett

“RIMScast: Risk Findings for the Industrial & Manufacturing Industry” | Sponsored by Aon

“RIMScast: Establishing the Right Assurance to Request From Business Partners” | Sponsored by HITRUST

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“The Golden Era of Insurance” | Sponsored by The Hartford

“Insurance Investigation Trends Happening Now” | Sponsored by Travelers

“What Could a CRO Do for Your Business?” | Sponsored by Riskonnect

“Hard Reality: A Look at Rising Rates in Property & Excess Casualty” | Sponsored by AXA XL

“Property Valuation Deep Dive” | Sponsored by TÜV SÜD

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RIMS Publications, Content, and Links:

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Follow up with Our Guest:

Omari Jahi Aarons on LinkedIn


The Journey of African-American Insurance Professionals

The Next Steps on the Journey


Tweetables (For Social Media Use):


“Insurance touches everything, and so we are at the forefront of innovation for every industry. … When you’re in the insurance industry, you pick up a little bit of expertise from so many different areas because we touch so many things.” — Omari Jahi Aarons


“[At NAAIA’s 2018 conference] I was like, ‘Wow! I didn’t know that there were this many Black people in the insurance industry!’ …  Everyone was so welcoming, … being willing to share with me their work.” — Omari Jahi Aarons


“What do we do to help close the gap for Black and African-American men in the industry, and make sure that Black men know that the insurance industry is a place where they can come and have a thriving career?” — Omari Jahi Aarons


“The issue is … a microcosm of the larger systemic racial bias permeating our whole world. It’s going to take generations of committed efforts across the board to move the needle to a place where we … have an equitable and inclusive society.” — The Next Steps on the Journey


“[We may ask in 100 years,] ‘Can you imagine a time when we needed organizations like NAAIA because we didn’t value the full humanity of each other? Like we allowed differences like skin color, national origin, and immigrant status … to be barriers?’” — Omari Jahi Aarons


“HR is there to help people be valued, recognized, supported, enabled, and to be able to do their job, and there’s certainly a DEI lens that wraps around that.” — Omari Jahi Aarons