5 June 2024Re/insurance

Women in Hamilton: Janice Weidenborner

Janice Weidenborner began her career as an aviation underwriter and then switched to law, serving as general counsel to several prominent Bermuda re/insurers before becoming group chief legal officer for Fidelis Insurance Group last year. 

She said the industry has moved a long way in terms of diversity from a landscape dominated by "cigar smoke and martini lunches" but can still do more  to eliminate "subtle barriers" facing people from under-represented communities.  

Give us a snapshot of your career to date.

I started out in the industry as an Aviation Underwriter in New York – learning several P&C business lines and the broker model.  During this time I obtained my MBA in Finance, and took a role as Senior Financial Analyst at CIGNA Special Risk Facilities. I obtained my law degree and moved into the law department working on bankruptcy, credit and financial matters. Upon CIGNA P&C’s acquisition by ACE, I assumed a role as junior counsel to the general counsel, moving to Bermuda and progressing through a number of legal roles at ACE (now Chubb). In 2012, I joined Goldman Sachs, as general counsel of Ariel Re.  Following a number of ownership changes of Ariel Re, I joined Third Point Re as group general counsel in 2016, later adding responsibility as head of human resources. I maintained the latter role for a transitionary period, focused on integration of the functions following the merger with Sirius. I spent just over a year as chief operating officer and general counsel at Weston Insurance, a US domestic P&C insurer, and most recently joined Fidelis Insurance Group in January 2023 as group chief legal officer shortly after the bifurcation of Fidelis, joining the leadership in taking the company public, listing on the NYSE.

What attracted you to re/insurance? 

Largely, the financial and transactional aspects of the business. When I was contemplating my ideal first role, I sought to utilise my aviation studies, aspiring to return to New York to work for a large public corporation. Joining CIGNA to underwrite insurance presented a fantastic opportunity and served as a remarkable entry point into the industry.

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

I’ve been fortunate to have had two fantastic mentors early in my legal career: one, a senior bankruptcy practitioner, and the other a female mid-career attorney. Both generously shared their time, knowledge, and support as I navigated my path.  Later, as a general counsel leading legal, compliance and governance functions, I found great inspiration and guidance working with a business leader who was focused on growth and continuous learning, and who embraced new ideas.  

What are your ambitions?

I am currently focused on further enhancing the legal, compliance and governance functions at Fidelis to support our growth plan, as well as growing and developing my team. Looking ahead, I plan to utilise my substantial experience in underwriting, finance and law directed toward the business as a board director or in other advisory capacities.

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

Absolutely! When I started as a young underwriter in NYC, the landscape was dominated by cigar smoke and martini lunches, with very minimal diversity. The market has made substantial progress, especially in more recent years - but there’s still more to be done! 

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

There's a clear recognition and widespread acknowledgment within this sector of the significance of diversity and inclusion. The emerging generation is actively advocating for changes, with mid-level and younger professionals pressing for ongoing enhancements such as expanded maternity and broadened paternity leave. To remain competitive and attract the best talent, it's essential that our industry continues to strengthen its commitment in this direction.

Is there anything you would like to improve or change?

Yes. The market is really starting to pay attention to the very real barriers to entry facing candidates with diverse backgrounds – especially the often subtle barriers impacting those from underrepresented communities. I applaud the organisations that are bringing expertise and programmes to the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), and those inviting students to Bermuda (and other locations) to experience our dynamic market.  We also need to focus on bringing more junior and mid-level women up through the ranks and into senior positions. To get to where we need to be, the market needs articulated diversity and inclusion objectives – and it must continue to clear a path. 

Have you encountered any challenges related to diversity and inclusion?

Early in my career I faced the usual challenges that were the norms of the time. I worked extremely hard to progress - but I cannot say that I’ve been held back.  As the mother of two daughters (now young adults), I managed very short maternity leaves (the first being six weeks!) before heading back to the office. Today, I am extremely proud to be part of an organisation that is growing and driving in the right direction – by way of example, expanding and enhancing its maternity and paternity leave policy. The industry must foster an environment where company policies and attitudes toward parenthood - especially for women – are not the reason one steps off the track. 

Would you encourage other women to consider this sector?

Absolutely, without hesitation! And it must be encouraged, especially now that there is true attention to the issue of female representation and advancement. Women should confidently explore opportunities in this sector, not only for their personal career growth but also to pave the way, drive progress, and enrich the industry as a whole.

Why is this industry great to work in?

Exposure through various stakeholders means it’s not just about insurance, rather it’s about a multitude of industries, the climate, the impact of capital, and in a public company context, the impact of the market and shareholders’ interests. It’s a multi-faceted sector and in terms of participants, there is interaction with professionals from very different areas - from regional insurers in the Midwest to the London head offices of global companies.

Why is Bermuda a great place to be?

A confluence of factors make it a great community for the insurance industry. Bermuda has built a substantial bench of human capital - underwriters, claims professionals, actuaries, lawyers and more - a lot of knowledge and intellectual capital resides here. There is growth and energy, and it’s become a rather nimble jurisdiction. Geographically, it is a location that is tough to beat. Finally, it would be remiss of me not to acknowledge the BMA and the Bermuda Government for all their targeted work addressing numerous stakeholder interests and driving the success of the jurisdiction, and the invaluable contributions of organisations such as ABIR and BILTIR, alongside numerous other associations working tirelessly and engaging with insurer member resources, to move the industry forward.

More on this story

5 June 2024   The Bermudian underwriter has spent her career at AXA XL Re, and is now head of the CEO’s office and a member of the Bermuda leadership team of the company.
23 August 2023   The re/insurer says shift to specialty lines paid off.

More on this story

5 June 2024   The Bermudian underwriter has spent her career at AXA XL Re, and is now head of the CEO’s office and a member of the Bermuda leadership team of the company.
23 August 2023   The re/insurer says shift to specialty lines paid off.