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Special report: women in hamilton

Successful, influential women have an obligation to motivate, teach and provide a strong support system, says Alison Dyer-Fagundo, Managing Director at Estera in Bermuda, a company at which 65 per cent of the global team is female, 22 per cent higher than the industry average.

Is there still a shortage of female risk professionals in the Bermuda re/insurance market?

The answer is, quite simply, yes. Although we have seen some positive increases in the overall workforce population, the continued disparity in senior and executive level positions held by women does still exist.

What initiatives have you seen to encourage local talent on Bermuda to join the market?

It’s a really interesting question, and isn’t the easiest to answer. There are now many successful Bermudian women in the financial services industry which leads, logically, to a general assumption that good work is being done to encourage participation of young women entering the workforce and suggests that employers are actively engaging in diversity.

However, is it enough? If I’m honest, it isn’t and more can be done to actively engage young people, particularly young Bermudians, to enter the financial services industry and continue the foundation that has been established in the jurisdiction.

Is it enough to focus solely on women? One of my personal perspectives, having spent as much time as I have in Canada, is the need to place focus and attention on promoting and encouraging not only women, but all those who have traditionally not been in positions of power or influence.

This is a definite focus now particularly on boards of directors — it’s no longer good enough to have only one perspective voiced at the level of seniority. It is of vital importance for a board to have a variety of perspectives and lenses through which the company views its obligations and develops and executes its strategic vision.

It is vital that women, and others who have succeeded — no matter how you define success — support and encourage talented, motivated people, particularly young Bermudians to enter the market, and to learn, succeed and continue to shape the jurisdiction in a positive, inclusive manner.

Recent initiatives in Bermuda are galvanising the positive: two organisations specifically that I applaud for driving these initiatives are the Institute of Directors (IoD) and WeSpeak. The IoD recently held a conference focusing on corporate governance, titled A New Era of Board Excellence.

The conference discussed methods to develop higher-performing boards, focusing on the need, and in an increasing number of cases, demand for diversification on boards. Without a doubt, it is no longer acceptable for decisions to be made by one gender, race, sexual orientation or otherwise — we need diversified representatives to fill the seats at the table.

Another newly-created organisation I believe will make a significant contribution to developing female professionals in the industry is WeSpeak. It’s an organisation developed to promote coaching and increasing opportunities for professional women in the industry. Its aim is to coach women on such important topics as public speaking, confidence-building and developing tools. 

Bermuda is definitely not afraid of diversity in the workplace, indeed it was a key theme of last year’s Bermuda Captive Conference. The conference spoke to the importance of women in the industry and the impact women have as professionals in Bermuda.

How else can any such shortage be addressed?

From my perspective, so much of the mindset needed to challenge the norm, to develop the pathways for Bermudian women to want to join the financial services industry, starts in the education system.

It is essential that schools actively encourage a sense of empowerment for women and give young people the information and tools to make informed and conscious decisions to enter the workforce and in particular, the financial services industry, where many of us reside. To be absolutely clear, not everyone wants to work in, or is suited to, financial services, but young women should be given the right information and education to make those types of choices for themselves.

It is a duty of companies to actively seek out diversity. In the trust industry, there is a definite movement towards the younger generation, who are either uninterested in traditional investing, or actively demanding that trustees ensure investment in entities and industries that demonstrate diversity on their boards.

Last and most important, we have an obligation as successful, influential women, to motivate, teach and provide a strong support system. It’s not an us-against-them theory at all, it’s a recognition that our young people deserve this support system.

At Estera, diversity is extremely important to us as part of our culture. Sixty-five per cent of our global team is female, which is 22 per cent higher than the industry average; 39 per cent of our directors are women, with a female managing director in Bermuda and a femaleCEOofthegroup.

Companies who understand the need for diversity are essential in addressing any shortages of women in the industry. 

What is your view of the current state of the re/insurance market in Bermuda?

M&A can be seen as a negative concept: the bigger fish swallowing the smaller ones. In this market companies are consolidating to become stronger, which in turn strengthens the market and can create better opportunities. 

While it is true that there is a net reduction in market participants, we are seeing fresh market entrants on the Island that are still able to attract talent and capital. I see the Bermuda market as malleable and therefore resilient and influential in spite of, and possibly even as a result of, internal or external forces. 

How well is Bermuda positioned to continue to prosper?

Bermuda is well known for its gold standard reputation, and widely known as a blue chip jurisdiction. It is essential that Bermuda continues its healthy, open partnership between the government, the regulators, and private industry. Historically, the pillars of the jurisdiction have indeed worked together with success, with favourable outcomes such as Solvency II equivalence.

The focus must continue in particular on active consultation, to ensure that policy is not dictated in isolation and Bermuda continues to prosper.

Bermuda is a sandbox for innovation and thought leadership, particularly in the insurance space, given the high levels of talent and sophistication developed through and on the Island. The continuation of this progressive innovation in product, service and offering are key to the longevity and continued relevance of the jurisdiction in a competitive landscape. 

How do you see the industry developing in the next five years?

In the insurance space, we will continue to see contraction in the short term. However, that contraction will be juxtaposed with the expansion of new breeds of market participants—a consistent theme in Bermuda.

We have seen the market evolve for decades and it is the strength of innovation that will ensure Bermuda remains more than relevant in the next evolution. Innovation and talent will attract capital. More fluid and progressive legislation will enable each to thrive.

It is my hope and expectation that women and young professionals will be given a greater opportunity to participate and thrive in the future market.

A version of this article first appeared in Bermuda Reinsurance Magazine. To read the full article, click here.


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