Talent comes to the fore


Talent comes to the fore

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Bermuda’s position as a world-class domicile is partly based on its deep talent pool—both homegrown and developed and attracted from overseas—but it must never get complacent about the importance of talent, Charles Cooper of AXA XL tells Bermuda:Re+ILS.

As the risk transfer industry negotiates a period of unprecedented changed with new forms of capital and new technologies transforming the industry, much will depend on ensuring Bermuda has the best people capable of ensuring that it leverages this change and remains at the forefront of risk and innovation globally.

That is the view of Charles Cooper, chief executive, reinsurance, at AXA XL, who says that the right balance must be struck between developing homegrown talent and attracting the best people from elsewhere.

“It’s absolutely vital that we continue to attract and retain the best people while also developing from within,” Cooper says.

“We are an island of only 65,000 people, so there is a balance to be struck. That is something we are always working on.”

AXA XL runs a number of initiatives and programmes designed to attract and develop the best people. It has a structured and intensive two-year global graduate training programme, for example, where candidates join the company at an entry level and achieve professional qualifications while working.

The scheme includes overseas assignments to provide trainees with exposure to different ways of working and markets around the world.

For more than 20 years, it has awarded annually a full four-year scholarship to a high calibre Bermudian university student. The scholarship is set up in such a way that it paves the way for a career at AXA XL if the student wants to follow that course, and includes working at the company during summer vacations.

“It has been a brilliant way of supporting and attracting high-quality talent for us,” Cooper says.

Meanwhile, the company globally has launched its own Reinsurance Academy, an in-house training programme that more than 100 people so far have taken part in. It is designed to expose reinsurance employees in all geographies and at all levels within AXA XL to different parts of the business, while helping them to strengthen key technical skills and improve their leadership skills. Sessions focus on topics including alternative capital, leading in a changing market, and pricing data and analytics.

Cooper notes that what he calls “talent mobility” is an increasing focus for the business. This refers to encouraging talented individuals to move between offices and departments in different parts of the world.

“The idea is to give people an opportunity to grow within the company,” he says.

“For example, we recently announced that Megan Kempe, a Bermudian underwriter, will be heading up the Reinsurance US Property Team in our London office.”

A diverse blend

Cooper says that AXA XL is increasingly looking for people from more diverse backgrounds, as it is aware that a richer tapestry of individuals makes for better decision-making and performance in a company.

“We are looking for the right cultural fit in terms of people’s core values and integrity,” he explains. “We want a diverse workforce aligned with our core philosophy, which is very customer-centric and open to innovation.

“I want to work with people who have that intellectual curiosity and who are willing to challenge the way we do things. In such a changing industry that is how we ensure we stay ahead of the curve.”

Cooper admits that historically the insurance industry may have played second fiddle to other financial markets in terms of its attractiveness as a career. That is now changing, although it could still do a better job of educating young people about the opportunities it offers, he says.

“The industry has improved its ability to attract the top people, especially in the way it is using technology and data to innovate, reduce its costs and become more competitive,” he says.

But he believes that the dynamic in Bermuda is more positive than the picture globally, and that the industry on the Island represents a first-choice career option.

“It is one of the more attractive career choices for young people in Bermuda and, as such, we attract the best and brightest people,” he says.

“That said, we are a small island and we cannot rely only on Bermuda talent, which is why we need to balance that with allowing international experts also to work here.”

Charles Cooper is chief executive, reinsurance, at AXA XL. He can be contacted at: charles.cooper@axaxl.com

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