3 July 2024NewsRe/insurance

Leaders’ Showcase: Natasha Scotland Courcy

The Athene Life Re CEO and BILTIR chair was recently rewarded with the Woman of the Year award by Women in Reinsurance (WiRe) Bermuda.

Athene Life Re chief executive officer and Bermuda International Long-Term Insurers and Reinsurers chair Natasha Scotland Courcy was recently named the Woman of the Year by  Women in Reinsurance (WiRe) Bermuda. 

Scotland Courcy, who was born and raised in Trinidad, says navigating uncertainty has defined her career as she moved countries three times and has moved from law firms to a property casualty insurer to life re/insurance. 

Referring to these changes, she says: “Loneliness and doubt crept in, but I shut down that inner voice of uncertainty and reminded myself that hard work and dedication always pay off. So, I pushed myself and made sure I did my research around whatever market I was entering.”

Give us a snapshot of your career to date.

Having qualified in the Caribbean, I initially worked in London, primarily focusing on banking and corporate law. When an opportunity arose in Bermuda, I transitioned to the insurance sector — a market I knew was well respected and had a developed legal infrastructure with a well-respected regulator and regulatory framework. My first job in Bermuda was at a law firm, where I delved into Bermuda-specific legal issues, including insurance law. I was then given an opportunity to work in-house at a property casualty firm and immediately found I loved the ability to work with various business units handling a broad range of legal issues all with a view to supporting the company’s growth. Being in-house legal counsel gave me a perspective I found to be highly enjoyable. From property casualty I transitioned to life and annuity with an opportunity at Athene. It has been an engaging and rewarding experience.

What attracted you to re/insurance? 

I took a leap of faith when I transitioned from property casualty to life reinsurance. I was interested and excited about what Athene and Apollo had set out to do, to transform the life re/insurance space.  It was new and unique - at the time no one knew the extent of what this venture could bring about in terms of innovation for the industry, but I knew that I had the skillset and experience to contribute to its success alongside a team of motivated and talented individuals. Despite not knowing every detail of life reinsurance law, I recognised that the underlying concepts were similar to corporate reinsurance law. I was confident that I had a perspective from my time in the P&C space that would be of immense value in the sustainable development of the life re/insurance industry. I was coming in pre-IPO from a public company and so I had a strong value proposition to offer which I leaned into.

Who inspired you or acted as a mentor in your career?

 My father has played the biggest role in who I am, as he was my first example of hard work, determination and drive. He was eloquent, brilliant and fearless and to this day remains the most influential mentor that I’ve ever had. He taught me that you don’t have to meet every requirement of the job description, but you do need to be hardworking, diligent, proactive and confident, which has helped get me to where I am today. My Mom is also my mentor. Her grace, strength, honesty and commitment in everything she did for us growing up (even to her own sacrifice) provided lifelong lessons that I use every day.

What have been the greatest challenges during your career? 

Navigating uncertainty has been a defining challenge throughout my career. I have moved countries three times, and each time I have challenged myself to explore opportunities and  leaned in and trusted my abilities. Loneliness and doubt crept in, but I shut down that inner voice of uncertainty and reminded myself that hard work and dedication always pay off. So, I pushed myself and made sure I did my research around whatever market I was entering. Reviewing the law and my commitment to continuous learning have become essential to me and held me in good stead whenever I was looking to pivot in my career. I would relentlessly research the company, its product offerings, its mission and strategy along with finding out as much as I could about its leadership. It’s something that in interviewing candidates for roles recently I find missing whenever I ask, ‘what do you know about us?’ But for me it’s what always helped me to not only be ready for my interviews but also gave me important insight into whether the organization would work for me. 

Do you feel the re/insurance industry has made progress in terms of diversity and inclusion since you entered it?

While progress has been made, the re/insurance industry still faces challenges in terms of diversity and inclusion, including representation of black professionals in senior leadership positions. For example, the 2022 BILTIR DEI Survey shows that although there are 278 black females representing 21% of the workforce in the industry, there are only ten black women in senior management roles and less than five at the executive level; while 53 white males sit at the executive level. 

We continue to address these issues by having initiatives that promote diversity in hiring, leadership development programmes, and advocating for inclusive workplace policies. These initiatives have helped, but we still have a long way to go to, for not just black professionals but for all other underrepresented groups.

Do you feel this sector is especially attuned to diversity and inclusion?

Yes, many companies in the industry are actively working to improve diversity and offer opportunities to the underrepresented.  Companies are recognising the benefits of diverse perspectives and experiences when it comes to driving innovation, creativity, and business success within the industry. As such, many are implementing initiatives such as diversity training, mentorship programs, and targeting recruitment efforts to attract and retain talent from diverse backgrounds. While progress may differ among organisations, there is a growing awareness of the importance of diversity and inclusion. I am proud of our BILTIR member companies in particular, many of which are led by female executives.

Where is improvement and change still needed? 

Executives and leaders need to demonstrate a genuine commitment to diversity and inclusion, both in words and action; organisations need to create an environment where all employees feel valued, respected, and included, regardless of their background. It is also important to support the career development and advancement of underrepresented groups and give them the tools to succeed. We need to promote diversity in leadership positions and decision-making roles to reflect the diversity of the workplace. This extends to what boards of directors look like. I believe we need to get rid of outdated lists and rooms where the same group of people are afforded opportunities to sit at the table and open up the opportunities to a more diverse representation at the Board level.

What advice would you give to women entering the industry now? 

Three things I would tell women entering the industry is that confidence matters; believe in your abilities and your value. To do this you must know your value proposition and what you’re bringing to the table. Know it and lean into it.

Build relationships by seeking mentors who can give you feedback and guidance; building strong relationships can lead to opportunities.   

Stay curious; ask questions, take courses, attend conferences, and keep learning. 

And most importantly, advocate for yourself. Don’t hesitate to speak up, share your ideas, and contribute. You belong here. 

Would you encourage other women to consider this sector?

Yes, I always try to encourage women to explore their options in this sector, because by actively participating in this industry, we are helping level the playing field and breaking down stereotypes to foster a diverse and inclusive workplace. 

Why is this industry great to work in?

This industry offers a unique blend of challenges and opportunities. It is constantly evolving, with bespoke transaction structures, product offerings and regulatory changes, making it both exciting and rewarding. 

Another thing that makes it great is the people. This industry offers a dynamic environment, filled with professionals who thrive on complexity and innovation.  

Why is Bermuda a great place to be?

Bermuda has proven over the years to be a strong, reliable jurisdiction for international business, and has separated itself from other jurisdictions by being one of the few to be  formally recognized and approved by both the European Union and US insurance regulators. We have obtained EU Solvency II equivalence in addition to being a Qualified Jurisdiction with Reciprocal Jurisdiction status by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC). 

In addition, Bermuda has become a jurisdiction where key talent in the reinsurance sector resides. Not only does it have beautiful beaches and landscape, but it has also attracted  intelligent and diverse people from all over the world who have been able to push the boundaries of innovation.

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