22 July 2016ILS

Changing risk transfer from within

Once very much a male-dominated industry, reinsurance is changing for the better. Its workforce and senior executives are increasingly diverse and more women are entering and succeeding in the industry.

This is driven partly by changes in society and all sectors of business, but it is also driven by deeper changes in the sector itself; as alternative capital has entered it has changed not just the way some risks are transferred but the culture of the sector too.

Here, for the second year running, we present Women in Hamilton, a feature shining the spotlight on some of the most successful and influential Bermuda-based female executives working in or servicing the risk transfer sector.

This list complements our 2015 research and it should be seen as a whole.

While the full list of the ‘Class of 2016’ can be found on page 18, and the ‘Class of 2015’ on page 20, only some profiles are published here in the print edition. For all the profiles in full—from both 2015 and 2016—visit our website for access to the full digital report.

Learn and grow

The executives profiled were asked a number of questions about their careers so far, aspirations for the future and how they see the industry developing.

One of the things that is striking from their answers is the passion they have for the industry—a passion that is complemented by an acknowledgement that balancing a career with life at home can be a challenge.

Our interviewees are increasingly willing to be open about that. This is one of the points made by Kiernan Bell, the chair of the Bermuda Business Development Agency, in our cover story. She states that she used to be afraid to admit to such struggles but now feels comfortable being candid—and believes more women should do the same.

“People will not remember how many chargeables you had or how many accounts you won, but how you made them feel.” Nicole Valadao

Carla Greaves, senior vice president and chief excess casualty underwriter at XL Insurance (Bermuda) says she tries to view all tough periods as an opportunity to learn and grow.

“Even when experiencing a tough period, I am constantly questioning ‘what am I supposed to be learning from this experience?’. I find that with the right attitude one can achieve a lot.”

She also admits to not always achieving the work-life balance she would like.

“I’d say on a personal level, I am not always good at balancing work, home and certainly not health. I am getting better, though and I thank my husband and my children for being so understanding and patient.”

Megan Kempe, vice president, underwriter, US property catastrophe team at XL Re, offers similar sentiments. “My biggest challenge has been balancing my personal life with my work life, especially since I started a family,” she says.

“At the end of the day, we can’t separate our lives into neat ‘work’ and ‘personal’ compartments, so finding the right balance has been vital for me. I have had to learn not only to ask for help, but also how to accept it. I can say that the latter has been much more difficult for me.”

Vanessa Hardy Pickering, chief financial officer, Hamilton Re, shares this sentiment.

“On a personal level, one of the biggest challenges is juggling the competing demands of being a mother/wife and a dedicated, ambitious professional. Managing my time wisely and having a solid support system at home and at work has been central to my success.

“I love my family and I’m also very passionate about my job. I have worked very hard to establish a balance that allows me to achieve all my professional and personal objectives.”

People matter

Nicole Valadao, partner at Deloitte Bermuda, says she has come to appreciate that it is the people in her life who matter and make a difference—both at home and at work.

“On a personal level, my biggest challenge (along with many other people) has been to make the time to fit in all the things that are important to me,” she says.

“As my career progresses, I realise that people will not remember how many chargeables you had or how many accounts you won, but how you made them feel. I try to consider how my interaction can make a positive impact—at home, at work and in the community—and I prioritise this above all else, although it is not always easy.”

It is noteworthy how many of these female executives have backgrounds in the capital markets or hedge funds—as opposed to traditional reinsurance—and are working in that sector of the risk transfer industry today. This melding of two sectors seems a great inspiration to many.

Yulia Bruskova, director and leader of actuarial, risk and analytics practice at Deloitte, for example, has more than 16 years’ experience in the re/insurance industry and capital markets. Starting her career in investment banking, Bruskova spent several years in Moscow advising corporate and institutional clients on their M&A activity and raising finance. She then undertook actuarial training and moved to the re/insurance sector.

Her interest in the industry was first piqued when she heard about how re/insurance matches risks with capital to allow it to flow where it is most needed, at the right time, when events happen.

“I loved the concept and it was crystal clear to me that this was the space I wanted to be in,” she says. “At the time, I was working in an investment bank. A friend told me about actuarial science, about how it could satisfy my thirst for solving puzzles (one of my hobbies) and open many doors, allowing me to travel.

“I’ve always been fascinated by diversity and foreign cultures, and this recommendation turned out to be true for me. I worked in several European countries as an actuary, then eventually came to Bermuda.”

She recalls vividly her first flight over the Atlantic in 2005 reading about cat bonds on the plane. “I was getting more and more intrigued about how capital markets could be combined with P&C risks. After landing and seeing Bermuda’s beauty, I remember thinking how lucky I was to live in paradise and deploy my skills. Now, 11 years down the line, I continue to feel truly rewarded and excited each day.”

Anna Burns, partner and audit leader at Deloitte Bermuda, is the lead engagement partner for hedge funds that invest in insurance-linked securities (ILS) and weather derivatives. After an early career in Australia working at PwC in audit, financial services, with an interest in retail asset management and retail insurance, she joined Deloitte in Bermuda early in 2004 and continued a focus on asset management, but in the hedge fund space.

This evolved further in 2008, when she was able to expand her interest to encompass the ILS and reinsurance space.

“The exposure to Bermuda’s dynamic and world-class financial services market has been extremely rewarding, allowing me the opportunity to pursue my areas of interest as well as developing professionally,” Burns says.

“The opportunity of working with complex, global US Securities and Exchange Commission registrants has been extremely rewarding. My clients operate in an ever-shifting marketplace, driven by changes in the economy, regulatory environment and technology. We need to be innovative in the face of these changes so that we can bring solutions and value as audit and advisory professionals.”

These women, with their varied backgrounds and experience from different sectors, are becoming instrumental in changing the face of risk transfer and helping Bermuda remain at the heart of innovation in reinsurance.

But they are also paving the way for future generations of women to enter the industry and make a difference—even if the importance of that role is not always obvious.

“A highlight for me was being promoted to partner in 2012—and becoming the first female partner at Deloitte in Bermuda,” Burns says.

“I hadn’t appreciated at the time the impact the promotion of a woman to partner would make on the rest of the firm, particularly for the younger women. We have a strong female leadership team at Deloitte now, and I am proud to be a leader in a culture of inclusion and diversity.”

To view the full profiles of these influential women, visit the Bermuda:Re+ILS website: