Brown & Brown CEO Powell Brown has urged the insurance industry to work harder to support staff with mental health issues, as he prepares for a 470- mile charity bike ride that could raise $6mn.
By Adam McNestrie – Insurance Insider on August 2, 2023
Asked whether he felt the industry had a blind spot on mental health, Brown said: “I think that historically the answer is yes. I do believe that more organizations are talking about it today than even before – but I think more can be done.”
Brown said that one of the major catalysts for his work in the area was when Brown & Brown saw three members of staff take their own lives in 2019. At a meeting of 2,000 staff that year, Brown said “that’s three too many, and so we’re going to start talking about mental health”.
The executive said if the industry was to provide better support to staff, the impetus had to come from the top. “I think that part of it is the leadership of the organization being comfortable being uncomfortable – because it’s an uncomfortable thing to talk about.”
He added that the second obstacle that needed to be cleared was firms accepting that there is a cost involved in providing staff with access to help, and in ensuring that there is enough knowledge in the organization to provide guidance on treatment providers.
Brown is spearheading the charity ride under the Shifting Gears banner in a personal capacity and will be joined on the ride by his brothers Kellim and Barrett.
The industry executive has raised in excess of $4mn to date and is looking to raise $6mn in total. Major donors include Chubb, CRC, AIG, Zurich, Ryan Specialty, Munich Re, JP Morgan, Amwins and Brown & Brown.
The trio are riding the Haute Route in the French Alps, one of the most challenging racing routes in all of cycling. In seven days of cycling, they will cover 470 miles, with 66,000 feet of total elevation, ending in Nice.
Brown said he had covered longer distances with greater elevation in a single day, but “never gotten on the bike the next day”. With seven days of cycling without rest days, he said he expected it to be “one of the most challenging physical events” that he’s ever done.
The industry executive said the money raised would be divided into three areas: research; education and prevention; and treatment. Shifting Gears will invite proposals from non-profit organizations and then issue grants, he said.
This ride follows a 2019 event called the Race Across America, in which Brown raised $1.2mn to provide support to a residential mental health facility for teenagers in Georgia.