Business

Digital shift seen benefiting island

  • Covid aftermath: Curtis Dickinson, the finance minister, believes there will a greater emphasis on the digitisation of activities in the future (File photograph by Blaire Simmons)
  • Craig Swan: deputy CEO of the BMA (File photograph)
  • Kathleen Reardon: CEO of Hamilton Re (File photograph)
  • Sarah Demerling: a partner at Walkers Bermuda (File photograph)

Bermuda has gained increased visibility around the world because of its response to the Covid-19 pandemic and its move to encourage “digital nomads” to live and work on the island for up to a year.

International business executives predicted the island was poised to benefit from an accelerated movement towards digital remote working around the world.

A webinar of business leaders that also included Curtis Dickinson, the finance minister, discussed the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on Bermuda, what lay ahead, and Bermuda’s role in the post Covid-19 world.

The event attracted an online audience of about 300 from around the world.

Mr Dickinson said the island’s performance during the pandemic underlined the importance of the jurisdiction as a leader in the fields of insurance, reinsurance, and ILS.

He added: “Without a doubt the provision of insurance and other financial-services products has been very important to the handling of the fallout from this pandemic and will be critical to the eventual recovery.

“We have a reputation of being an innovative jurisdiction and we are always working to reinvent ourself to remain relevant.”

Sarah Demerling, a partner at legal firm Walkers and chairwoman of the Alternative Investment Management Association, said people from around the world have tuned in to various business webinars from Bermuda over the pandemic, and that had helped increase awareness of the island as a place to do business.

Ms Demerling added: “On the asset management side, more people are hearing Bermuda’s story and setting up capital structures here. If we can attract managers to come and live and work here, that can be a win-win.

“And the digital nomad initiative, to have a one-year residential certificate for people to come work remotely, is a great initiative. Having had so many people listen to us virtually around the world, it has given us a wonderful opportunity.”

The webinar was presented by the Bermuda Business Development Agency, Intelligent Insurer, and Bermuda Re+ILS.

Mr Dickinson also predicted there would be a greater emphasis on digitisation in the future.

He said: “The Financial Action Taskforce had predicted that digital payments would grow by about 12 per cent annually. As a result of Covid that growth rate will change significantly upward. We are positioned very nicely to take advantage of those changes.”

Craig Swan, the deputy chief executive officer of the Bermuda Monetary Authority, said: “Governments witnessed the limitations of traditional payment systems as they attempted to execute Covid-19 stimulus packages, such as paying unemployment insurance.

“So solutions like digital identity and digital programmable money would have been much more efficient.”

He added: “The BMA’s expectation is that we will see a proliferation of products incorporating and combining the internet of things, AI, smart contracts, digital assets, and blockchain.

“The BMA’s experience and expertise in insurtech, digital assets and other business models that incorporate digital ledger technology has us well prepared for the Covid-19 aftermath.”

Kathleen Reardon, the CEO of Hamilton Re, said the pandemic had been a catalyst for change.

She added: “Remote working has accelerated the discussion on flexible working policies, and has a potential knock-on effect for gender parity.

“There’s research that proves women still bear the brunt of caring as a parent, caring for the elderly, and those responsibilities. With everyone working from home these can be more easily shared and managed.

“If flexible working conditions continue, some of those career-advancement hurdles could be removed — this could easily be one of the unexpected positive benefits coming out of Covid-19.”

Ms Reardon said there had also been better use of technology.

She added: “Our industry is very relationship orientated, and the video capabilities of MS Team, Zoom, and others, just kept it going and expanded who could participate.

“Previously, if you were at a strategy day or senior meetings, it was limited to a few people and now you can have the junior staff join and learn as you go.

“It enhances coaching, mentoring, and networking for that next generation. The shift to remote working with Bermuda’s capabilities worked well.”