Talent shining through

21-09-2015

Talent shining through

Despite its importance and for all its innovation over the years, the re/insurance industry has not historically been as attractive a career choice to young people as other financial services sectors. That is now changing. As part of a wider feature available online, Bermuda:Re+ILS speaks to 35 young executives—all under 35—tipped for bigger things.

The re/insurance industry has been central to the Bermuda economy for many decades now. Yet despite the many talented individuals who have helped the industry innovate and evolve on Bermuda, it is also worth remembering that many more have also been lost to the industry—lured away by other, more glamorous, professions in the financial sectors such as banking.

Yet things are changing. The re/insurance industry fared well through the last recession and financial crisis in terms of its reputation—certainly in contrast to many banking sectors, which were tarnished by a series of scandals, subsequent job losses and a perception of a boom and bust mentality.

Some believe, especially when combined with some of the innovations taking place in the world, and in the risk transfer sector generally (probably a better name for it now given the rise and rise of insurance-linked securities) that more young talented people than ever are entering the industry, and reshaping it in the process.

This article relates to a much bigger report available online at (www.bermudareinsurancemagazine.com) designed to showcase some of the young and emerging talent in the industry. We have profiled 35 young executives, all aged 35 or under, from re/insurance companies, brokers and service providers to the risk transfer sector on Bermuda and asked them why and how they ended up in this business and about their hopes and aspirations.

A small sample of these profiles is included below. Their answers make interesting reading. The overall message seems to be that there has been a very distinct shift in perceptions of the industry and many young people increasingly see it as being one of opportunity and exciting career prospects. 

Interesting fields

Erik Soria, branch manager, P&C treaty reinsurance at QBE Re Bermuda, says that although he ended up in the industry by chance, he feels lucky to be working in a field that he sees as a very good career and profession to pursue. He agrees that it has not had the same appeal as other sectors historically, but thinks that it’s changing.

“It’s very attractive once discovered and understood,” Soria says. “The industry is becoming more known to young professionals and more sought out than ever before. There are more risk management and actuarial science courses offered at top universities, tipping off future talents to our industry’s existence.

“Similarly, there is a huge need in our industry for talent in interesting fields related to ILS, catastrophe modelling, actuarial sciences and various analytical roles, to name a few. On the surface reinsurance may appear dull to the average college student, but all it takes is a few months in the industry to realise that it’s actually quite the opposite.”

Jay Cahill, vice president of RenaissanceRe, says he learned more about the industry in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. He grew up in New Orleans and the hurricane impacted many friends and family. This inspired him to be part of an industry that he describes as very relevant to rebuilding communities after catastrophes, but he agrees that it is often overlooked or misunderstood by young people.

“More could be done to advertise some of the novel opportunities in the industry,” Cahill says. “Over the last 15 years, I have seen many of my peers drawn to the technology or investment industries. I was too, initially, as a computer programmer, and then as an investment banking analyst.

“The re/insurance industry still has significant unrealised gains available to it, in my opinion, as it further integrates information technology, perhaps more so than banking which is already further along its technology adoption curve. A young technology professional may be able to participate in an ongoing technical refit in the re/insurance industry, and that could be an exciting opportunity.”

This is a point echoed by Nicholas Jagoda, principal and portfolio manager at Elementum (Bermuda). “The industry should be attractive to young professionals globally due to the continued opportunity to participate in an evolving market,” he says. “However, outside of the well-known reinsurance hubs, the industry is less advertised and promoted at the collegiate level.

"A young technology professional may be able to participate in an ongoing technical refit in the re/insurance industry, and that could be an exciting opportunity.” Jay Cahill

“This results in a disproportionate number of graduates chasing Wall Street-type opportunities. From the perspective of someone who went to university in the US, it would help if reinsurance was something more prominently addressed in the curriculum.”

Countless opportunities

Cahill’s personal reasons for initially exploring the industry are echoed by a number of the rising stars featured in the list. Victoria Cunningham, assistant vice president, underwriting, at Tokio Millennium Re, admits that she saw the industry as fairly staid and sober in terms of its image when growing up. However, as a Bermudian, she was encouraged to take a closer look following Hurricane Fabian in 2003, which caused approximately $300 million of damage.

“I was attracted by the countless opportunities available to me within the industry from a relatively young age and I have been lucky to have had some great mentors along the way. As a young professional today, the industry still has its allure but it is also a slightly tougher sell, given the market conditions and consolidations taking place. However, with determination and hard work the benefits are well worth the effort,” she says.

Chris Dart, senior vice president at Guy Carpenter, is another young professional who admits he fell into the industry by accident after initially seeking a profession as a stock broker. He praises some of the schemes available on Bermuda designed to attract young talent, including graduate programmes at companies such as ACE and XL and internship schemes at Marsh in Bermuda, that allow graduates to spend time in Marsh and Guy Carpenter offices learning the different aspects of the business.

He believes that once a person is established in the industry, the opportunities are there. “Once you start working at the companies in Bermuda, there are great opportunities to meet senior management and executives,” he says.

“One of the big advantages Bermuda has is the exposure young professionals have to decision-makers within the firm and also to clients visiting the Island. You don’t really have that in other global offices and this was part of the attraction for me in Bermuda.”

A beneficiary of some of the internship programmes available is Anna Card, assistant underwriter at AXIS Re Bermuda, who grew up on Bermuda and participated in the Bermuda ACE summer internship programme. Since then, she has never looked back and remains enticed by the ever-changing challenges the industry must overcome.

“It appealed to me because it didn’t look like your standard office job, simply sitting behind your desk. You are given the opportunity to meet with clients and brokers, which allows you to form professional relationships,” Card says.

“I definitely think this industry offers fantastic opportunities in all departments along with career development for young professionals. If you are eager, motivated and driven, you will never stop being recognised by your colleagues and clients. The industry is constantly changing and learning how to adapt to economic challenges. No two weeks have ever been the same for me.”

Despite the optimism and enthusiasm shown by so many of this relatively new batch of rising stars looking to make a difference in the sector, a note of caution was also sounded. Recent years have brought great change to the industry both in terms of the way risks are being packages and transferred and, more recently, thanks to a wave of consolidation among many of the more traditional companies operating from Bermuda.

This fluid situation is met with a mixture of caution and optimism. On the one hand, change often also means innovation and the opportunity to make a difference. But the trend of consolidation can also mean rationalisation and job losses.

Liz Cunningham, partner at Deloitte leading the actuarial, risk and analytics practice across Bermuda and the Caribbean region, sums up this mixed sentiment.

“There is no doubt that the re/insurance industry is facing change on an extraordinary scale,” she says. “Shifts in the distribution model; alternative sources of capital; increasing use of sophisticated data analytics and sweeping regulatory changes are just a few. However with these challenges come opportunities; there is greater need and appetite for the wealth protection re/insurance provides and technology advancements and innovative thinkers are making insurance products more accessible to people.”

That, it seems, is the central point about the industry and its biggest attraction: the fact that it, in some ways, will influence every part of daily life and the way society changes.

“While there is the obvious commercial element to it, the profession offers an opportunity to genuinely do some good, because at its core, we offer protection and peace of mind to vulnerable commercial and non-commercial clients,” says David Amaro, senior claims analyst at Hamilton Re.

“I do think the industry is attractive, or at least it should be seen as such. Re/insurance extends beyond auto and home insurance, and concerns every exciting new development we hear about—cyber, climate change, drones, self-driving cars and even 3D printers have unique re/insurance issues to consider,” he says.

“Most of the events we see on the evening news have re/insurance implications. As such, for my part, not only is the industry attractive and rewarding, it is also highly relevant to our daily lives.” 

Click here to read all 40 profiles.


 

Jay Cahill

Job title: Vice president

Company: RenaissanceRe

Career path

2009—Vice president, RenaissanceRe

2008—Assistant vice president, RenaissanceRe Ventures

2007—Research analyst, Barclays Global Investors (acquired by BlackRock)

2004—Private equity associate, TA Associates

2002—Investment banking analyst, UBS Investment Bank

Do you think the industry is attractive to young professionals? 

More could be done to advertise some of the novel opportunities in the industry. Over the last 15 years, I have seen many of my peers drawn to the technology or investment industries. I was too, initially, as a computer programmer, and then as an investment banking analyst.

Do you think the re/insurance industry offers good opportunities and career development to young professionals?

Yes. The London Market especially does a good job of bringing together under 30/35 groups with a focus on networking and career development. Compared with those other popular industries, the re/insurance industry has tended, historically, to delegate authority to individuals later in their careers. However, as this Rising Stars Under 35 feature itself suggests, I believe that is changing a bit.

Offering challenging positions to young professionals is beneficial for the industry overall—it establishes a bit of balance between youth and tenure, which keeps knowledge transfer flowing in both directions.

 

Jemma Henry

Job title: Broker

Company: Aon Benfield

Why did you choose to go into the re/insurance industry?

My first glimpse of reinsurance was a work experience placement at Benfield during my school years. I was impressed by the diversity of people, skills and disciplines of the industry and was attracted to the global opportunities that a multinational company/industry can offer. The Aon graduate scheme rotates individuals between departments, which was a great way to gain experience and meet people across the company before committing to a team.

Do you think the re/insurance industry offers good opportunities and career development to young professionals?

Most teams provide a good balance between experienced support and individual responsibility, which allows young professionals to accelerate their career from an early stage. This is particularly notable in Bermuda due to the added benefit of working in a market with daily exposure to senior executives. Training opportunities allow for constant personal development, including mentor relationships, professional qualifications, and soft skill classes.

 

Liz Cunningham

Job title: Partner, actuarial, risk and analytics

Company: Deloitte

Why did you choose to go into the re/insurance industry?

I decided I wanted to be an actuary from quite a young age—I enjoyed math and economics at school and the career seemed like a good fit. I started my career in pensions, but I soon moved into insurance and now I work with insurers and reinsurers of all sizes and from all around the world.

What are your aspirations for the future?

I have been very lucky to have some incredible role models and mentors in my career to date. I am extremely grateful to these people and I feel I owe it to them to succeed in my career to the best of my ability. I also recognise the importance of having this support network around me and I want to be able to give back—I hope I am able to provide similar inspiration, knowledge and guidance to the next generation of re/insurance professionals.

 

Jubilee-Ann Edness

Job title: Assistant underwriter, professional liability

Company: Arch Insurance (Bermuda)

Career path

2015—Assistant underwriter, professional liability, Arch Insurance (Bermuda)

2014—Underwriter trainee, excess and surplus property, Arch Insurance (New York Region)

2012—Intern, various departments (including claims, internal consulting, corporate risk management, compliance, finance), Arch Reinsurance

Why did you choose to go into the re/insurance industry?

In 2009, two representatives from St. John’s University gave a lecture to the top math class at Berkeley. While they mostly encouraged the students to pursue studies in actuarial science, they gave us information on the risk management and insurance programme, which aligned more with my personality. I was accepted into St. John’s in February 2010, and the rest is history.

Do you think the re/insurance industry offers good opportunities and career development to young professionals?

This industry not only allows a professional to move around horizontally and vertically within the company, but the global presence of re/insurance companies allows for cross-border movement as well. I worked in Arch’s New York office for one year after completing my Bachelor’s degree.

 

Shabnam Ahmed

Job title: Vice president, Global Reinsurance

Company: AXIS Specialty Bermuda

Career path

2013—Vice president, global reinsurance, Axis Specialty Bermuda

2009—Group actuary, PartnerRe Bermuda

2007—Assistant vice president, actuary, Guy Carpenter

2004—Actuarial analyst, Tillinghast (now Towers Watson)

Why did you choose to go into the re/insurance industry?

It was somewhat of a fluke. I was a highly numerate graduate looking for a secure career in a technical field. I started out at an actuarial consultancy in London but I didn’t know much about the re/insurance industry itself at the time. It has turned out to be a great match.

Do you think the re/insurance industry offers good opportunities and career development to young professionals?

Without a doubt. The reinsurance industry is in a state of flux right now. Our world is evolving and reinsurers have to innovate to meet demands. I’m sure that this will present further opportunities.

 

Erik Soria

Job title: Branch manager, P&C treaty reinsurance

Company: QBE Re Bermuda

Career path

2014—Branch manager, P&C treaty reinsurance, QBE Re Bermuda

2012—Senior underwriter, QBE Re North America

2010—Assistant vice president, Willis Re

2007—Senior account representative, Aon Benfield

2004—Account representative, Aon Re Global

Do you think the industry is attractive to young professionals? 

It’s very attractive once discovered and understood. The industry is becoming more known to young professionals and more sought out than ever before.

Do you think the reinsurance industry offers good opportunities and career development to young professionals?

There are great opportunities for young professionals, but our industry has historically not done a good job at training or with succession planning for the future. Many companies that historically had great training programmes to cultivate internal talent cut back due to high costs and competitors poaching on this initial investment. I think the industry as a whole agrees this was a mistake. 

 

Victoria Cunningham

Job title: Assistant vice president, Underwriting

Company: Tokio Millennium Re

Career path

2014—Assistant vice president, underwriting, Tokio Millennium Re

2012—Assistant underwriter, Tokio Millennium Re

2010—Underwriting assistant, Tokio Millennium Re

2004—Senior re/insurance analyst, Kirkway International

2003—Claims administrator, BF&M Bermuda

Why did you choose to go into the re/insurance industry?

The potential for growth, both professionally and personally, can be endless. If you have the work ethic to back up your ambition, a career in re/insurance will take you as far as you want to go.

Do you think the re/insurance industry offers good opportunities and career development to young professionals?

The industry offers a wide variety of opportunity for young professionals; whether it be on the broking, underwriting side or in more of a behind the scenes role. On-the-job learning is critical and companies are focusing more on professional development of their employees

 

Chris Dart

Job title: Senior vice president

Company: Guy Carpenter

Career path

2009—Senior vice president, Guy Carpenter 

2008—Broker, property/retro, JB Collins Associates

2005—Broker, casualty/property, Rattner McKenzie Bermuda

2003—Broker, sports/terrorism/A&H, Rattner McKenzie London

Why did you choose to go into the re/insurance industry?

The opportunity came up when I arrived in London. I find broking very interesting and it has turned out well. I’m a ‘people person’ but I do like math and numbers, and I find this is a good combination.

Do you think the re/insurance industry offers good opportunities and career development to young professionals?

Here in Bermuda, yes—mainly on the underwriting side. Many companies here offer specific internships. One of the big advantages Bermuda has is the exposure young professionals have to decision-makers within the firm and also to clients visiting the Island. This was part of the attraction for me in Bermuda. 

 

Crystal Sala Doughty

Job title: Senior underwriter, international and
retro property reinsurance

Company: Markel Bermuda

Career path

2012—Senior underwriter, international and retro property reinsurance, Markel Bermuda

2006—Assistant vice president, actuary, Alterra

2005—Credit risk analyst, Bank of Montreal

Why did you choose to go into the re/insurance industry?       

At university I started studying cognitive science and artificial intelligence, the programme itself was quite new so I started looking at other options. I enjoy science and analysing data so I began to study actuarial science as a pathway into the world of risk management. I looked at multiple opportunities in various lines and reinsurance interested me the most due to the complexity and range of products. When I was offered an opportunity to work in Bermuda, how could I say no?

Do you think the industry is attractive to young professionals?

Yes, I do. Reinsurance is a type of commerce and like any industry it will need to adapt to changing times and technology. The reinsurance product will always be needed in some form, although it remains to be seen how the industry will adapt with increasing automation, mergers, outsourcing and an increasing abundance of available capital.

 

Elizabeth Madeiros

Job title: Assistant vice president, operational enhancement

Company: Validus Re

Career path

2015—Assistant vice president, operational enhancement, Validus Re 

2014—Senior reinsurance accountant assistant manager, operations, Validus Re 

2013—Senior reinsurance accountant, finance, Validus Re 

2012—Reinsurance accountant, finance, Validus Re

2010—Junior reinsurance accountant, operations, Validus Re

2006—Staff accountant, KPMG

Why did you choose to go into the re/insurance industry?

I entered the reinsurance industry in 2010 as I saw a vast amount of opportunities that would push me towards realising my potential. I am the kind of person who likes to be challenged with new tasks to ensure a state of learning and adapting, as this is where you grow. 

Do you think the industry is attractive to young professionals?

If you are driven and passionate about self-improvement, it is possible to obtain a wealth of education specific to excelling in the re/insurance industry. With greater education comes greater opportunities!

 

Jevon Williams

Job title: Associate legal counsel,
 regional compliance officer

Company: XL insurance (Bermuda), XL Catlin

Career path

2011—Associate legal counsel, regional compliance officer, XL Insurance (Bermuda), XL Catlin

Why did you choose to go into the re/insurance industry?

I have always known that when I completed law school, I wanted to be a part of an in-house legal team. I thought that I would somehow land in banking or investments, but never contemplated insurance. Re/insurance of course is Bermuda’s business mainstay. When it came time to look for employment opportunities in Bermuda, re/insurance was a natural option. It has worked out to be a great fit because I enjoy the analytical aspect of business.

Do you think the industry is attractive to young professionals?

Certainly; there are many burgeoning areas of risks which are not only interesting, they also relate to issues and topics that are particularly relatable for young professionals. A great example is cyber liability. Young professionals will always be the most tech-savvy and having the opportunity to shape how the world deals with the implicit risks around technology is both challenging and exciting.

 

David Amaro

Job title: Associate vice president, staff attorney & senior claims analyst

Company: Hamilton Re

Career path

2014—Staff attorney & senior claims analyst, Hamilton Re

2011—Trainee solicitor, Clyde & Co (London)

Why did you choose to go into the re/insurance industry?

I was always interested in re/insurance. As a Bermudian, I was inevitably exposed to the industry from a young age, and it always seemed like an interesting career to pursue. What is particularly attractive for me is that, while there is the obvious commercial element to it, the profession offers an opportunity to genuinely do some good, because at its core, we offer protection and peace of mind to vulnerable commercial and non-commercial clients.

Do you think the industry is attractive to young professionals?

I do think the industry is attractive, or at least it should be seen as such. Re/insurance extends beyond auto and home insurance, and concerns every exciting new development we hear about—cyber, climate change, drones, self-driving cars and even 3D printers have unique re/insurance issues to consider.

 

Jonathan Allen

Job title: Assistant vice president, underwriter,
professional lines

Company: ACE Bermuda

Career path

2014—Assistant vice president, underwriter, ACE Bermuda

2010—Underwriter, ACE Bermuda

2005—Assistant underwriter, ACE Bermuda

Why did you choose to go into the re/insurance industry?

I wanted to study a discipline I would enjoy and for which there was a high demand in Bermuda. I did not want to have a full-time job that left me asking myself, “why did I even bother going to university?”

Do you think the industry is attractive to young professionals? 

Most definitely, as the industry provides careers that are challenging, offer limitless learning and networking opportunities, encourage innovation, and afford travel and work opportunities across the globe.

 

Nicholas Jagoda

Job title: Principal and portfolio manager

Company: Elementum (Bermuda)

Career path

2011—Portfolio manager, Elementum (Bermuda)

2009—Portfolio management associate, Elementum Advisors

2006—Analyst (reinsurance and risk-linked investments),
Stark Investments

Why did you choose to go into the re/insurance industry?

Relative to mainstream investment asset classes, I saw the reinsurance industry as a more niche, specialised sector which could offer a better career trajectory.

Do you think the industry is attractive to young professionals? 

The industry should be attractive to young professionals globally due to the continued opportunity to participate in an evolving market. However, outside of the well-known reinsurance hubs, the industry is less advertised and promoted at the collegiate level.


 Bermuda’s rising stars: The full list

br-table.jpg

 

Erik Soria, QBE Re Bermuda, Jay Cahill, RenaissanceRe, Nicholas Jagoda, Elementum (Bermuda), Chris Dart, Guy Carpenter, Bermuda

Bermuda Re