Local flair: Argus is BILTIR’s latest asset

11-07-2022

Local flair: Argus is BILTIR’s latest asset

Hannah Ross, chief strategy and capital officer, Argus Group

Hannah Ross from Argus Group joined BILTIR’s board of directors in April. Ross told Bermuda:Re+ILS what she brings to her firm and to the association.

The appointment of Hannah Ross to the board of directors of Bermuda International Long Term Insurers and Reinsurers (BILTIR) means the association now has a local Bermudan company at its highest leadership level.

Ross is chief strategy and capital officer at Argus Group, which was founded in Hamilton in 1950. A multiline insurance and financial services organisation, Argus offers insurance, pensions, investments, and healthcare products and services to local and international organisations and individuals. Argus also operates in Canada, Gibraltar, and Malta.

Ross, who joined Argus in 2010, leads the team covering group actuarial and risk, capital and finance, and strategic programme delivery. A fellow of the Institute of Actuaries UK, she previously held actuarial roles in London with KPMG, Synesis Life, and Pension Insurance Corporation.

On her appointment to BILTIR, Ross said she was especially looking forward to working with its other directors on Bermuda-based issues relating to the economy, social and corporate governance, and diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I).

“Argus Group has been in business in Bermuda for over 70 years and, in that time, we’ve seen the growth of the property and casualty (P&C) market and the general insurance market, and now the continuing growth of the already established life market—it’s hugely exciting,” Ross said.

“The Bermuda environment is brilliant for business vibrancy and the regulation is there to support it.” Hannah Ross, Argus Group

Economic pillar

The success of Bermuda’s sophisticated re/insurance marketplace will bring many positive things, notably “significant employment”, which means attracting new professionals to the country and also “retaining homegrown talent”, she said.

Other benefits are increased wealth and the opportunity for greater diversity in the workplace.

“Bringing different sources of income to Bermuda will allow us to continue investing in its infrastructure, which will support the growth of not just the life industry, but the wider insurance industry that’s here, as well as tourism and the Bermuda economy in general.

“Simply having more people in Bermuda will help balance out some of the challenges of the demographics that exist here. All in all, it’s a very positive development, having the life sector complementing the P&C sector solidifies Bermuda as a premier jurisdiction for people to come to, operate in and thrive.”

The benefits Bermuda brings to the life sector include “robust” regulation, she said, referring to the Island’s Solvency II equivalence and status as a National Association of Insurance Commissioners reciprocal jurisdiction.

The Bermuda Monetary Authority and the government “are openly communicating” with associations such as BILTIR, the Association of Bermuda International Companies and the Association of Bermuda Insurers and Reinsurers, to ensure that policy and regulation development is not only robust, but “sensible” for Bermuda, Ross said. That ensures “commercial appeal” for companies to come and domicile in Bermuda.

“The Bermuda environment is brilliant for business vibrancy and the regulation is there to support it,” she added.

Talent and innovation

Attracting talent from a small pool of actuaries is not only challenging for Bermuda-based re/insurers but, worldwide, actuaries are “few in number and high in demand”, she said.

“My background is in actuarial and attracting talent is a focus of one of BILTIR’s pillars: learning, networking and social impact. We want to foster a positive impact on our communities and one of the key things we can do for that is to grow and retain homegrown talent,” she said.

“I’m impressed with the work BILTIR has done already in terms of summer internships, the annual scholarship award, and maths tutoring in high schools. We do need to attract incoming talent to Bermuda as well, in particular where certain skillsets are required, so it’s a balance between the two.”

Some choose Bermuda for the lifestyle change, she said, and appreciate that it’s a “very welcoming” country, but it is also a place where it is “very easy” to do business with the companies that operate here being in close proximity.

“Bermuda’s geographical position—with direct links to the US and direct links to London—means we’re well-placed to be the market-maker. That attracts people to move to Bermuda and companies to domicile here. It’s definitely about keeping up that local advocacy, keeping up the commercial appeal of the regulation and the policies that govern the industry,” Ross said.

Her objective as a director of BILTIR is to harness the local know-how of Argus.

“In Bermuda, Argus’s customers are our friends, family members, colleagues, the people you see in your day-to-day lives. So, for me, the small, connected community of Bermuda means issues such as social impact, and DE&I, are ever more highlighted here. I’m passionate about bringing that perspective to BILTIR as the only domestic insurer representative on its board of directors.

“I’m passionate about innovation. At Argus, I’m driving forward the long-term strategy for the group and we’re trying to push the envelope on innovation and different ways of working and bringing new insurance solutions to our customers.

“Bermuda is a tech and innovation hub, and I hope my experiences at the retail end of the sector can help connect that innovation with our industry. BILTIR’s learning and networking pillar is probably the best one to bring some of those initiatives forward, to create the forums to connect them to innovation. Those two pillars are my primary focus as a member of BILTIR.”

The innovations Ross is working with at Argus are those with a focus on the “customer experience and proactively addressing customer demands, rather than on having to sell a product. That really is a different way of thinking”, she added.

“I don’t think anybody can afford to stay behind in the area of ESG.”

Diversity and ESG 

On being a senior woman working in Bermuda, Ross said gender equality is a topic in “global forums”, and that “insurance as a whole, historically, hasn’t been very diverse”.

“But you do see now that there are more female senior executives, so it is getting better. Actuarial work has traditionally been male-dominated as well, but in the time I’ve been in that industry, it has improved, with many more women in those roles.

“At Argus 30 percent of our board of directors are women, while our executive leadership team is 40 percent women,” she added.

“As well as bringing greater awareness, it’s important to address the unconscious biases that exist. For example, women may have opted out of the workforce because they felt they had to make a choice between staying at home or having a career.

“It should not be a ‘one or the other’ choice and, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic, alternative ways of working have definitely helped in terms of that work-life balance. I’ve found that in my personal experience, in Bermuda, it’s not been an issue, and Argus itself is a great example of a gender-diverse senior leadership team, and there are other companies in Hamilton with women in senior roles,” she said.

On diversity, it is important to be “consciously aware of the decisions you’re making”.

“It’s definitely a fraught topic, but the main thing is that access and opportunity are available for all types of diversity,” she explained

On environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) issues, Ross said the industry is already “very strong” on regulation, which encourages companies to be strong on corporate governance.

“On the social impact side, Bermuda is a small, connected community so we’re conscious of our impact on our community. At Argus, our philosophy is ‘always do the right thing’. This is core to how we run our business.

“The environmental side is probably the hardest one of the three. The UN has 17 sustainability goals and some of those are far-reaching. We can tackle some of those, being in Bermuda, but I don’t think you can ever be ‘done’; it’s an evolving process and it takes time even to know what your baseline is and what targets you want to produce.

“Regulators and ratings agencies are doing a lot to promote companies to think more about ESG. As an industry, Argus included, we’ll move forward at pace. I don’t think anybody can afford to stay behind in the area of ESG.

“BILTIR is committed to corporate governance and social impact,” she added.

Commitment from Argus

On Argus’s specific work on the environment, Ross highlighted the firm’s continued support to the Bermuda Zoological Society for its conservation education programmes for children. Most recently Argus employees volunteered their time to work on a project to regenerate the ecosystem on Trunk Island, where the natural habitat has been destroyed.

For charitable giving, Argus’s financial donations are to charities that make a positive difference to its communities. “Over the past year we have made grants to 17 non-profits. We will continue to select charities aligned with our chosen sustainability objectives,” Ross said.

On the social side, Argus is committed to education support and developing local talent.

“Our Centre of Excellence has been running a successful co-op programme with the University of Waterloo in Canada. This summer for the first time we will run this programme for our Bermudan summer student interns. 

“In addition, BILTIR supports summer intern programmes for companies which are BILTIR members, providing additional education sessions and networking opportunities.

“There are many career opportunities in insurance companies, not just for actuaries and underwriters. The scope of the programme will provide a greater awareness of the different occupations that exist. We’re doing this with the hope that our homegrown talent will seek jobs in Bermuda once they finish university. 

“In fact, we have just hired one of our previous co-op interns into the full-time role of project and innovation specialist on completion of his university studies,” she explained.

Personal goals

In her own career, Ross has had a “nice evolution from a traditional actuarial background to driving the direction of the company”.

Her focus in her current role is “rounding out the solutions that customers may want in their toolsets for managing their physical, financial and mental wellbeing goals throughout their lifetimes”.

“We are continuing to grow our presence, and with our acquisitions in 2020, we own nearly 40 percent of the local primary care providers in Bermuda, which is complementing our insurance business,” she added.

“For the future, it’s hard to say where I ultimately want to be, but I want to make a positive contribution to ensuring that Argus’s efforts on social impact and DE&I are core to us moving our business forward.

“People are key to a successful business so creating that sense of culture and ensuring that our values are aligned—that’s a key objective in delivering the company’s strategy,” she concluded.

Argus, BILTIR

Bermuda Re