2 August 2019News

A duty to drive diversity

Since this publication undertook its first Women in Hamilton special reports some five years ago, much has changed on the Island. A much greater awareness has emerged of the importance of ensuring more is done to ensure a more diverse workforce in companies—and of the benefits this engenders.

This idea is now part of the mainstream thinking on Bermuda and, it should be said, many other parts of the risk transfer industry globally. There is a greater recognition of the benefits a more diverse set of minds can have when setting company strategy or solving problems. It is also recognised that no two career paths are alike, and that sometimes corporate change is required to open up new avenues and opportunities to people.

As Alison Dyer-Fagundo, managing director of Estera (Services) Bermuda, a company in which 65 percent of its global team is female—22 percent higher than the industry average—puts it: “It is a duty of companies to actively seek out diversity. In the trust industry, there is a definite movement towards the younger generation, who are either uninterested in traditional investing, or actively demanding that trustees ensure investment in entities and industries that demonstrate diversity on their boards.”

As we revisit this issue in 2019, we profile eight new women, adding them to the prestigious list of names that have featured in this special project in the past (visit for a full list). You can read interviews with all of them on the subsequent pages.

Catherine Duffy
Company: AIG 
Job title: Country manager, Bermuda
With nearly 30 years of experience, Catherine Duffy is a veteran of the Bermuda international insurance market. In 2018 she joined AIG from XL Catlin, where she was most recently senior vice president and underwriting manager for XL Bermuda.
Over the course of her career, Duffy has held numerous underwriting leadership roles, including senior vice president, excess liability at Torus Insurance Bermuda, and vice president, underwriting at XL Insurance (Bermuda).

Is there still a shortage of female risk professionals in the Bermuda re/insurance market?
The re/insurance market is broad and covers many aspects. Generally, there are more women on the insurance side than the reinsurance side, but industry data show women are underrepresented across the industry.

While progress has been made, there are more women concentrated in the entry level positions and women are still vastly underrepresented in senior leadership positions, especially when it comes to leading product lines.

We see women in senior leadership positions in roles such as HR, compliance, operations and legal. There are still not enough women leading product lines.

What initiatives have you seen to encourage local talent on Bermuda to join the market?
At AIG our early careers programme is designed towards building a pipeline of new talent. Beyond recruiting, it’s about developing and graduating this talent directly into the organisation. We attract individuals through a rigorous process and over two years provide them with comprehensive training and skills they need to have a successful career.

Another initiative is work-life integration, which has become an increasingly important benefit for today’s employees seeking more flexibility in their lives. AIG’s Flexible Work Arrangement programme gives individuals the needed flexibility to perform their role outside traditional work hours or locations and has proved to be an effective tool towards enabling greater work-life balance.

We are cognisant of the changing, multi-generational workforce and look to promote a culture that is balanced, diverse and flexible.

What is your view of the current state of the re/insurance market on Bermuda?
Bermuda goes through cycles just like any other geographic location. Mergers and acquisitions help to right-size the balance needed for our corporate world to thrive.

The companies that thrive recognise when organic growth becomes out of reach and actively find ways to meet expectations by seeking partners to help them grow.

How well is Bermuda positioned to continue to prosper?
The Bermuda market continues to present strong growth opportunities and we see tremendous potential for the future. Due to its government, regulatory, legal and tax environments Bermuda is a favourable market. With our local talent and rich history of innovation, Bermuda will continue to be well positioned for the future.

How do you see the industry developing in the next five years?
In an age of acceleration, the pace of change is a challenge for the industry.

Technology is transforming our industry and it plays a critical role in how we will continue to service our clients. As an industry we are trying to keep pace with this change, which means buying, investing, or partnering to harness data and innovation for customer solutions.

Bermuda has a knack for following the fates whither they may lead which is our motto: Quo Fata Ferunt. We are able to change as necessary. Accepting life is a journey rather than a destination is a way of being that allows us to adapt to whatever comes our way.

Tracey Gibbons
Company: Third Point Reinsurance Company 
Job title: Senior vice president, reinsurance
Is there still a shortage of female risk professionals in the Bermuda 
re/insurance market?
Insurance and financial services both here and in other markets have generally been slow to embrace diversity in all its forms, but we are making headway. Lloyd’s didn’t allow women into the underwriting room until 1976, only six years before I started work in London. It wasn’t until 1988 that the first woman was elected to the Lloyd’s council and 1996 before a woman led a syndicate.

The Bermuda re/insurance industry has attracted a lot of very talented women to the sector in the 33 years I have been on the Island. These women have honed their craft and I am now seeing many of them moving into middle and senior management roles.

There does, however, seem to be a lack of women in the C-suite and at board level despite the talent that is out there.

What initiatives have you seen to encourage local talent on Bermuda to join the market?
The industry does a good job in promoting the range of opportunities that exist.

However, I would love to see more companies offering graduate training schemes and internships to students.

With specific reference to developing women’s talent, there have been a lot of initiatives in recent years. For example, Women in Reinsurance (WiRe) offers educational and networking opportunities; the Insurance Supper Club has been established on the Island which is a networking organisation for senior women in insurance, reinsurance and associated financial services; and there is the recent introduction of WeSpeak which is dedicated to coaching and increasing opportunities for professional women to be effective speakers.

I am encouraged by the fact that we are seeing a lot more women speaking at industry events and on panels. The women I have seen and heard are informed and passionate advocates for our industry.

How else can any such shortage be addressed?
A culture of gender diversity in the workplace needs to be developed at senior management level. Once such culture trickles down to the whole team and becomes part of the overall company culture, more opportunities will open up for advancement, getting more diversity in committees and in choosing participants for leadership acceleration programmes.

What is your view of the current state of the re/insurance market on Bermuda?
Our industry has been overcapitalised for some time and there have been insufficient losses to diminish the capital in any meaningful way. In this environment consolidation is inevitable, but many companies tend to underestimate the frictional costs and difficulties with integration which ultimately affect staff morale. When roles become duplicated, there is also the human cost of redundancies which we have seen over the past few months.

I am, however, cautiously optimistic about the changes we have seen over the past few months in the brokerage community. What looked like a move towards consolidation has led to a number of smaller boutique brokers taking advantage of the dislocation and the availability of talent to boost their presence both here and overseas.

How well is Bermuda positioned to continue to prosper?
Bermuda has always had a reputation for being innovative and responsive to the needs of the business community. Despite being a mature marketplace, we continue to see new business models and approaches being embraced. The government also appears to be responsive towards the needs of the re/insurance industry, and the resident talent ensures Bermuda continues to be innovative and prosperous.

How do you see the industry developing in the next five years?
The re/insurance industry is often considered to be slow to fully embrace technology. I believe we are rapidly catching up and in the very near future blockchain technology will be adopted for all aspects of our business. Bermuda will be at the forefront of this, with initiatives already in development.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?
Our industry is continually evolving, and every day presents a new challenge for those willing to look beyond the mundane. We are in a challenging and exciting time for our industry. There are ever-changing sources of capital, new products and exposures, fresh perceptions of risk and innovative ways of sourcing our business.

Throughout my career, I have been involved with building teams and developing different books of business. My new role at Third Point Re has presented me with the opportunity to put together my ‘dream team’: a group I consider to be some of the most talented and personable professionals available.

We are superbly placed to take advantage of the opportunities that exist in the market for those who have an in-depth understanding of the exposures and who are willing and able to think creatively.

Ann Holden
Company: Argo Insurance Bermuda 
Job title: Vice president, energy insurance underwriter
Is there still a shortage of female risk professionals in the Bermuda re/insurance market?
In the energy property space, the profile of female risk professionals remains relatively limited, but within my 12-member property team, six are women.

What initiatives have you seen to encourage local talent on Bermuda to join the market?
Re/insurance has such a high profile in Bermuda, and there is a long-standing commitment within the market to encourage local talent to enter the industry, with many companies on the Island offering intern and graduate programmes.

A focus on these efforts is needed to continue attracting young talent and foster the next generation of leaders. Since I arrived six years ago, any underwriter with less than five years’ experience that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting is local. The future looks bright.

What is your view of the current state of the re/insurance market in Bermuda?
Bermuda has historically been viewed as a “hard market” market and, over the past few years, it has striven to reinvent itself and focus carefully on risk appetite due to market conditions.

M&A can easily be seen for its negative implications, like loss of jobs. However, it does create opportunities. In this dynamic marketplace, we are pleased to see Bermuda continue to be viewed as an international leader in re/insurance. It is great to see continued new entities come into the marketplace.

Marisa Savage
Company: PwC Bermuda 
Job title: Partner
Marisa Savage is the leader the actuarial services practice in the PwC’s Caribbean region. She has 20 years of experience in public accounting. Savage is focused on providing assurance services to clients involved in the insurance and reinsurance industry. She serves clients in the middle market re/insurance practice of PwC Bermuda.

Is there still a shortage of female risk professionals in the Bermuda re/insurance market?
There is a lot of dormant talent in the Bermuda market that is untapped potential. A lot of young talent comes to Bermuda and gains great industry experience but for one reason or another they return to other markets.

Part of the solution to address the perceived shortage is to tap into that dormant talent and strategise a plan for retention of new talent in the market. Flexibility and mobility are key parts of the equation.

What is your view of the current state of the re/insurance market in Bermuda?
This question would have most people thinking about the property catastrophe market in Bermuda—but I think that the growth of life reinsurance in Bermuda has been a quiet revolution, that perhaps hasn’t received the credit and attention it deserves.

We can be doing more to ensure young Bermudians have their eyes open to the opportunities in that sector of the industry as well.

How well is Bermuda positioned to continue to prosper?
Attention is turning to areas ripe for growth, including the surge in the life reinsurance market and a race to expand capabilities in cyber. Insurance veteran Stephen Catlin has returned to the Island with a $1.8 billion reinsurance startup, Convex, that has an ‘A-’ AM Best rating.

Sheila Nicoll
Company: Sirius Bermuda Insurance Company 
 Job title: Chief operations officer
Sheila Nicoll started her career as a Lloyd’s broker before returning to Bermuda to join Johnson & Higgins. During her 40-year career she has worked in London, Bermuda and New York in both the reinsurance and insurance markets.

Nicoll was president of Olympus Reinsurance, the first reinsurance sidecar formed by White Mountains Insurance Group, from its formation in 2001 until 2008. She is a past president of the Bermuda Insurance Institute and currently the chairman of Argus Group Holdings, a publicly traded Bermuda insurance group.

Is there still a shortage of female risk professionals in the Bermuda re/insurance market?
Yes, women are significantly under-represented in the global reinsurance market, particularly at the senior management levels, and the Bermuda market is no different.

However, I’ve seen good progress during my career with an increasing number of women in senior roles and believe that we need to ensure that the momentum is maintained.

What initiatives have you seen to encourage local talent on Bermuda to join the market?
A lot of effort has been put into encouraging local talent to join the market over many years. There are a number of industry groups and individual companies who work to ensure that the insurance industry is seen as an interesting and attractive place to work by high school students and then to help them select a university course which will assist them to become equipped to join the industry on graduation.

More recent developments are initiatives such as the Dive In Festival which are focused on improving diversity in the industry.

How else can any such shortage be addressed?
It will be essential for the industry to adapt so that young, tech savvy people view the industry as an interesting and challenging place to work. The millennials have very different perspectives on what is important to them than previous generations. The insurance industry must work to understand what changes must be made to attract the people with the right skills and then be prepared to adapt accordingly.

What is your view of the current state of the re/insurance market on Bermuda?
The Bermuda market companies are financially strong and are willing to make strategic decisions to adapt to the changing global market conditions. The Bermuda market has proved to be resilient and is able to evolve to meet new demands and challenges and I think this will continue.

How well is Bermuda positioned to continue to prosper?
Bermuda is well positioned due to its deep pool of intellectual capital, strong regulatory environment and track record. The Bermuda market has a history of being at the forefront of insurance industry developments, starting with captive insurance over 60 years ago and this ability to innovate will serve it well.

How do you see the industry developing in the next five years?
The industry will need to adopt new technologies to improve its efficiency and reduce costs, to be able to bring better analytics to understanding and pricing risk and to delivering their products to the clients.

The Bermuda Monetary Authority has shown its willingness to embrace new business models by publishing its Insurance Regulatory Sandbox and Innovation Hub guidelines in September 2018. This is encouraging as companies trying new business models need to ensure they have a robust and appropriate regulatory regime in which to operate and thrive.

I expect that companies will take advantage of this to develop new business opportunities which will then benefit the Bermuda market.

Amy Ponnampalam
Company: Athora Life Re 
Job title: Chief executive officer
Is there still a shortage of female risk professionals in the Bermuda 
re/insurance market?
I have worked in Bermuda for eight years and during that time I have worked for two companies, both of which had successful management teams comprising primarily women.

My own experience has therefore been one where female representation has been very strong. However, looking more widely across the Bermuda market, the landscape is different, and at board level there certainly remains a shortage of female directors.

The shortage of senior women is, in part, typically put down to the majority of childcare responsibilities being placed firmly on the shoulders of women, and this is where I think change is needed in Bermuda.

It would be an impactful and positive step for more companies to offer equal parental leave to men and women, and support families in sharing childcare responsibilities so that having a family stops being an issue that affects only women.

What initiatives have you seen to encourage local talent on Bermuda to join the market?
Last year, Bermuda International Long Term Insurers and Reinsurers (BILTIR) launched a college internship programme which ran successfully over the summer, and provided 10 college students with an insight into the working world of life re/insurance in Bermuda.

I have personally participated in the Youth Net mentoring programme, and know many others who volunteer their time for similar activities. My perception is that there is a strong drive among the re/insurance community in Bermuda to develop local talent in the life industry and create Bermudian leaders to drive the industry forward.

I do feel we need to do more to make what has historically been an expat-dominated market more accessible to local talent, and this starts at a very young age. We see a number of re/insurers sponsoring school events and I think this is a great way to bring the industry and the youth community together so that Bermudian youngsters start to build a vision of working with international businesses from a young age.

How else can any such shortage be addressed?
International work experience at any age is a great way to broaden horizons, appreciate diversity, learn about other working styles and cultures, and develop new skills. Many re/insurers in Bermuda have offices across the globe and could look to leverage this network more to give Bermudian talent the opportunity to experience work in some of the other major financial centres across the world, and enhance their ability to succeed in international business.

Choosing the right academic path to support a future career in re/insurance is an important step in developing local talent as many roles are technical in nature and require a high degree of professional training. Supporting students in making these choices early on is something that schools and industry play a part in, in terms of promoting the right courses and qualifications.

What is your view of the current state of the re/insurance market on Bermuda?
The Bermuda market moves quickly and is highly responsive to changes in the economic environment, capital markets, and regulatory/legislative change. This degree of agility is one of Bermuda’s great strengths and rapid strategic change such as consolidation is one of the consequences.

The industry does need to be mindful to maintain corporate structures which are sustainable for Bermuda, which means considering the impacts that often accompany M&A transactions, and whether more can be done to support the local economy through these changes.

How well is Bermuda positioned to continue to prosper?
Over the past eight years I have witnessed the long-term sector in Bermuda shift from being primarily US focused, to becoming a major player in the long-term reinsurance markets across the world. This evolution is testament to Bermuda’s ability to expand its presence in new markets and take a front row seat in the life reinsurance arena. I believe this success is the result of a highly skilled and well regulated industry which leverages its ability to react and respond quickly to change. These attributes make Bermuda very well positioned to prosper into the future.

How do you see the industry developing in the next five years?
In managing Athora Life Re, much of my time is spent developing life reinsurance opportunities in Europe, which is a region where Bermuda is in the early stages of making its mark in the life reinsurance space.

Achieving Solvency II equivalence was a huge step forward in formalising Bermuda’s recognition in European re/insurance markets; I feel that the current chapter is about bringing the BMA’s Solvency II-equivalent regime to life in a way that works for European and Bermudian counterparties alike.

To make this happen I believe we need to maintain the level of transparency, trust and collaboration that exists between the long-term sector and the BMA, and continue to build our track record of providing well managed, effective reinsurance solutions to Europe.

Kim Wilkerson
Company: AXA XL in Bermuda 
Job title: Senior vice president & regional head of claims for insurance
Is there still a shortage of female risk professionals in the Bermuda re/insurance market?
I do not believe there is shortage of women in the Bermuda market, but there is a shortage of women in the most senior levels of the industry. While efforts are being made to address this, the proverbial glass ceiling still exists for women in our industry despite the numbers in the so-called ‘pipeline’.

There is clearly an issue of visibility of those women in the pipeline. That is why initiatives such as WeSpeak are so important. WeSpeak aims to build confidence and public speaking skills in women so that we will see more women on panels, on boards, and taking leadership roles in a more visible way.

What initiatives have you seen to encourage local talent on Bermuda to join the market?
A lot is going on in awareness campaigns by organisations such as the Association of Bermuda International Companies, Bermuda Foundation for Insurance Studies, and the Bermuda Insurance Institute about insurance careers which are aimed at high schoolers and college students.

One of the most exciting things I’m seeing is the number of students coming out of the Bermuda College/High School dual enrolment programmes, who are leaving high school with an Associate degree and entering the junior year at strong US universities such as St. John’s University (my alma mater) and Georgia State University.

I’ve recently become part of small thinktank to explore how the gap between education and experience can be bridged by structuring more co-op experience opportunities for Bermuda College students, particularly in the long-term/life side of the industry which is where more jobs will be in the future.

How else can any such shortage be addressed?
As a whole the industry is missing a trick by not proactively and intentionally seeking out ‘non-traditional’ backgrounds to boost creativity and innovation. There should also be a greater focus on sourcing and cross-training of mature talent from other disciplines.

What we do is not rocket science. Bright, creative people who are critical thinkers are the talent goldmine but I think due to the application of traditional recruitment standards, they are often overlooked.

What is your view of the current state of the re/insurance market on Bermuda?
Even with the M&A that we have seen, the market is strong. Certainly, on the traditional P&C side, buyers still see Bermuda as the domicile of choice with the largest carriers writing on larger balance sheets with more focused underwriting talent.

The long-term/life sector, as I mentioned above, is growing and poised to expand even more.

How well is Bermuda positioned to continue to prosper?
Bermuda is strongly positioned for the future. In terms of the re/insurance industry, I believe we have, hands down, the best regulator in the world, in the Bermuda Monetary Authority. In my prior role as general counsel for XL Bermuda, I interacted with regulators all over the globe, and I can say that in Bermuda we continue to have flexibility, and ease of bringing new products to markets.

We can sit across from a complex client, understand their needs and then go away and relatively swiftly create a bespoke policy form. That cannot happen in the US without form filings and regulatory intervention.

Here in Bermuda we can deliver quickly and adapt as needed. However, we do need to be mindful of the cost of doing business and while the future is very positive for the industry, I believe it is essential that growth and success for the industry are balanced with the social needs of the population.

How do you see the industry developing in the next five years?
Technology, automation, artificial intelligence and outsourcing are already impacting the industry in Bermuda and will continue to do so. For example, at AXA XL, we have already piloted robots for certain parts of the processing function in claims.

While the impact of technology will reduce the need for lower skilled job categories, it also provides opportunity for skilled professionals to have more time to think creatively, and provide innovative risk management solutions for clients.

We are also seeing a shift to a more holistic view of risk where clients are expecting a partnership from carriers that extends beyond the payment of claims. Certain types of losses, such as a major cyber attack, can impact multiple lines of cover—directors & officers liability, casualty and cyber cover—so partnering to help clients address risk, rather than the purchase of individual insurance policies, is where the industry is going. What better jurisdiction is there than Bermuda to do that in?