Bermuda’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic was “proactive, aggressive and successful,” according to Curtis Dickinson, Bermuda’s Minister of Finance.
However, Dickinson admitted he did not want to get ahead of himself, noting the battle against COVID-19 is not yet over.
Dickinson was speaking as part of a webinar presented by the Bermuda Business Development Agency (BDA), in association with Bermuda:Re+ILS and Intelligent Insurer, titled Clarity In Changing Times: Bermuda’s Response to Tackling the COVID-19 Crisis.
Panelists agreed the timing of the crisis was relatively fortuitous, with recent technological advances enabling re/insurers and their service providers to keep working seamlessly, despite Bermuda going into lockdown.
Patrick Tannock, managing director at AXA XL and chairman of the Association of Bermuda International Companies, said: “Ten years ago we would never have been able to transition as seamlessly as we did if there was a pandemic. We would have been extremely challenged. But technology has rapidly evolved in recent years.”
Kathleen Reardon, chief executive officer at Hamilton Re, went even further. “I can’t say we would have been able to do this five years ago,” she said.
With data at the heart of what the re/insurance industry does, the ability to access that data remotely was key to keeping businesses operational while offices were closed, Reardon said.
She also highlighted the importance of new video conferencing services, such as Zoom, in allowing re/insurance professionals to communicate with their teams and their clients.
It also made meetings more accessible to more junior members of staff, she noted: where in the past a meeting may only have been attended by a couple of senior executives, online meetings could be attended by more junior members of staff, giving them more experience and enhancing mentoring and coaching opportunities.
Meanwhile Sarah Demerling, partner at Walkers and chair and executive committee member at the Alternative Investment Management Association (AIMA), reserved special praise for the Bermuda Monetary Authority (BMA).
“The speed at which the BMA pivoted was incredible,” she said. “If you were doing an application for a formation or a new structure the day before we went into lockdown, the next morning you would have been able to progress and get electronic certificates of incorporation and approval.”
Craig Swan, deputy chief executive officer at the BMA, said this level of continuity had been achieved because all its employees had continued working throughout the crisis, despite being forced to work remotely.
Greg Wojciechowski, president and chief executive at the Bermuda Stock Exchange (BSX) and board member at the BDA, said the BSX had been well prepared for the crisis.
“We began a remote working environment but the BSX was already a fully electronic platform, it was probably one of the first fintech companies in the country," he said. "It was nothing new to us, and our operations continued to function seamlessly.”
Wojciechowski added: “It was clear to us that we were entering uncharted territory but this is exactly what we in the industry and in Bermuda had been prepared for. We spent a lot of time, effort and resources building business continuity plans.”
The panelists agreed that Bermuda’s pandemic response was notable for the high level of cooperation between market participants, the government and the regulator, and the speed at which all parts of the industry were able to adapt.
“Bermuda is the king of the world when it comes to adaptability,” said Tannock. “We miss our clients in terms of face to face meetings, but it has not impacted the quality of the discussions or negotiations. We are still paying claims and negotiating deals. Every day we are proving our relevance as a jurisdiction. We haven’t missed a beat at all.”
The panelists had plenty more to say about Bermuda’s COVID-19 response and the broader implications for the industry. To listen to the webinar in full, please click here.
Curtis Dickinson, Patrick Tannock, AXA XL, Kathleen Reardon, Hamilton Re, Walkers, Sarah Demerling, Greg Wojciechowski, Craig Swan, BMA, BSX