Rolling Stones of insurance at Abir event

  • Full room: there was a big turnout at the 25th anniversary celebration of Abir. One panel featured pioneers Brian O’Hara, left, Stephen Catlin, Fiona Luck, Michael Butt and Don Kramer, with moderator Caroline Foulger. The panel was introduced by Michael Consedine, right (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
  • Full room: there was a big turnout at the 25th anniversary celebration of Abir. One panel featured pioneers Brian O’Hara, left, Stephen Catlin, Fiona Luck, Michael Butt and Don Kramer, with moderator Caroline Foulger (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Bermuda has received plenty of satisfaction from its insurance and reinsurance sector during the past 25 years.

A big part of that is due to a group of pioneers who were likened to The Rolling Stones of the industry when they appeared at the 25th anniversary celebration of the Association of Bermuda Insurers and Reinsurers.

Brian O’Hara, Don Kramer, Michael Butt, Fiona Luck and Stephen Catlin spoke about the early days of the island’s international insurance and how it has developed to become a world-leading centre for the industry. They also described lessons they have learnt along the way.

However, the “pioneers” panel was only one segment of the wealth of insurance talent that attended the afternoon event at Rosewood Bermuda.

The future for the industry was the focus of the opening panel discussion, which featured four insurance leaders together with Jeremy Cox, chief executive officer of the Bermuda Monetary Authority.

“There is no reason to doubt that we will be here for the 50th anniversary of Abir in Bermuda,” said moderator Mark Geoghegan, managing director of Insurance Insider, before turning to the panel and asking what emerging classes of risk they see in the future.

Kevin O’Donnell, CEO of RenaissanceRe Holdings, mentioned the protection gap in the developing world and areas that are underserved or underinsured, including earthquake and flood-prone zones in the US.

For Pina Albo, the new CEO of Hamilton Insurance Group, cyber-risk is a key area, but she also noted the potential for run-off business. “I see a lot of players taking advantage of that,” she said.

Picking up on the mention of cyber-risk, Dinos Iordanou, chairman of Arch Capital Group, said Bermuda had a uniqueness as its marketplace had evolved with 25 companies syndicating risk among themselves. “From my experience, when you have new emerging risk, like cyber, you need syndication. We have that in Bermuda.”

He said it was a mistake when a big company decides to shoulder a risk without syndication, adding: “Syndication creates the balance to get multiple points of view.”

Mr Cox, of the BMA, said regulation has to be a key factor, and as the risk industry continues to morph into areas of cyber and other technologies, there has to be adaptation and flexibility. He stated that the BMA has to be the first to understand where the industry is going with technology. The Authority is being proactive by creating a sandbox environment where new products and tools linked to fintech and insurtech can be tested.

Albert Benchimol, president of Axis Capital, praised the BMA and agreed the regulator should be at the forefront of innovations. “Bermuda has to act and stay ahead of developments,” he said, noting that if the BMA is up to speed on innovations it saves time later when new products are ready to go to market. He added: “Let’s explore things together and move together.”

Meanwhile, Ms Albo said technology is going to be a differentiator in the future, and on her wishlist is a desire to have access to people who can enrich her company’s technology. She also spoke about the importance of going out into the wider Bermuda community and helping to educate children about the opportunities available.

On the topic of mergers and acquisitions and how that might impact the Bermuda market, Mr O’Donnell said Bermuda has a future, even in the face of M&A activity. While Mr Iordanou, who has worked within large and small insurance organisations noted that bigger is not always better.

“The smaller the company, the easier it is to manage. Don’t forget this is a decision-making business,” he said, explaining that the larger a company becomes the more difficult it is to command. “You lose something. I prefer small to large.”

David Burt, the Premier, and Sir John Swan, who was Premier from 1985 to 1995, also addressed the celebration event, as did Michael Consedine, CEO of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, Julian Enoizi, CEO of Poole Re, David Altmaier, insurance commission of Florida, and John Huff, the president and CEO of Abir.

The Royal Gazette will tomorrow report on what the panel of “pioneers” had to say about how Bermuda established itself as a world leader in the sector.