Now entering its eighth year, the Bermuda U40s tour is an industry event that enables up-and-coming Bermudians to experience other global re/insurance markets first-hand. Taking in Lloyd’s and markets in the US, the event is a unique opportunity to learn and build relationships and one that has over the years attracted considerable, and growing, support from the industry. In the first of a two-part interview, Julia Mather, head of Bermuda at Miller, talks to Bermuda Re about the continuing success of the tour and its benefits to both participants and sponsors.
There has been a long history of ‘touring’ in the London market – how has the idea been received in the Bermuda market?
The Bermuda U40’s was founded by people who moved to Bermuda from London and saw an opportunity for the Bermuda market. The first tour was in 2006, with just eight of us travelling to the US (New York, Boston and Chicago). It was a week of ‘light bulb’ moments for me and so two years later I agreed to organise the next tour, this time making use of mainly London contacts. We managed 16 people that time round and a diverse group.
Since then employers have seen the benefit of sending staff and our last tour to London was fully subscribed within 12 hours. We have aimed to cap the trips at 20 people because beyond that you get into issues with boardroom sizes and crowd control. And we already have people expressing interest in the next tour, which won’t be until 2014.
Why do companies agree to host their competitors?
It’s been an easier sell to the London market as so many of the decision-makers were on these tours when they were younger and are only too happy to reciprocate. It’s a newer phenomenon in the US. That said, once you explain that these tours benefit our whole industry, to have people within it who are educated and knowledgeable about what goes on and how different markets work, they tend to be happy to oblige.
We’re not asking companies to sell their secrets, it tends to be high-level overviews and in some instances it’s merely career advice. This time, for example, Rupert Atkin, CEO of Talbot and chairman of the Lloyd’s Market Association and Tom Bolt, performance director of the Lloyd’s franchise board talked us through their own careers and the defining moments in them. It’s an unusual and amazing opportunity for people starting out in the industry to hear such stories from people who have made a real success of their careers.
What is the purpose of the tour?
It is to open the eyes and minds of young people in the market and enable them to see what they will be competing against on a day-to-day basis and understand exactly how all sides of our industry fit together. If you consider the normal career path, someone may come in as an underwriting assistant and they are expected to learn the ropes within one specialist area. They don’t typically have access to loss adjusters, or brokers, or the ancillary businesses that provide us with the information to underwrite and process the premium.
They also don’t tend to see much beyond their own line of business. Bermuda is a very small island and business is conducted in a very different way to either London or the US. It’s important for people to get a view of other ways of doing things. The more you understand other people’s jobs, the more you can empathise with the issues they face each day, which in turn will make you better at your own job.
How do the tours benefit both tourists and hosts?
For young Bermudians, it doesn’t matter how good they are, the one edge they do not have compared to their expat counterparts is overseas experience, which when you are working in an international marketplace can be invaluable. So the tours serve to give them an overview. They will now know, for example, if they went on a London tour, what a Lloyd’s box is. If they went on a US tour they will have seen that there is no central hub. I have heard the same thing from people who visited Bermuda for the first time, that until they saw it with their own eyes they had not appreciated how big a market Bermuda actually is. For the tourists they are able to put the jigsaw together and it helps give them an edge in their own careers.
The hosts have different motivations. Some will use it as a long-term marketing strategy – the people they are seeing may not be the decision-makers yet, but they are likely to be one day and the more familiar they are with them now, the better they will be regarded when they have some influence. Others could be the overseas platforms of companies in Bermuda so it’s interesting to experience the diversity. Others genuinely want to invest in the new generation and give a little back. In an industry where relationships and networking are paramount, to have a focussed group of 20 young people who have been chosen by their companies as someone to invest in hanging on your every word cannot be a waste of time.
Bermuda, U40s, London, US