Ivan Massow: Everyone is part of a minority

From a talk by the entrepreneur and equal opportunities campaigner to the Diversity Day 2003 conference, held in London
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I started out in business to change perceptions - to help gay people to gain access to life insurance without a 600 per cent premium increase. Gay people weren't able to get mortgages or business loans. I was surprised to find that after only a few years, I was running the 10th biggest independent financial advice firm in the country.

Everyone is part of a minority today, and we shouldn't judge each other as parts of different groups. I don't think it is wrong for someone to refer to me as homosexual or queer. Ignorance of politically correct terminology is not, as some groups think, prejudice.

It's also important to accept that different groups have different business benefits - for example, the fact that major banks find it easier to relocate gay people internationally should not be seen as a bad thing. Your sexuality is a part of what nature has given you in the same way as your intellect, and it should be acceptable for a business, and the individual, to take advantage of it. It can turn what was once perceived as a disadvantage into a gift.

There are benefits being offered to gay people - partnership agreements, the equal rights legislation introduced only this week - that I thought would never happen. I'm very proud of the way Britain has taken to multiculturalism and that curry is our national dish.

I now want to change the way insurance companies look at people who have had cancer, who have had transplants, and those who are or who have been mentally ill. As with gay people in the 1990s, these people are finding it increasingly difficult to get insurance, despite advances in medical care.

Insurance is best when it's available to all, and because of the "cherry-picking" of low-risk people by some companies, there is a danger of creating uninsurable groups. This does not help the industry, which will always get its pound of flesh by adjusting rates to reflect the national mortality average. By creating an ever larger number of "uninsurables", it simply reduces the size of the potential marketplace.

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