Beating the drum for female leadership

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  • Reinsurance perspective: Mary Forrest, left, of Munich Re, Sioned Evans and Craig Bridgewater, of KPMG Bermuda, Kathleen Faries, of Tokio Millennium Re, and Alison Morrison, chairwoman of 100WHF

    Reinsurance perspective: Mary Forrest, left, of Munich Re, Sioned Evans and Craig Bridgewater, of KPMG Bermuda, Kathleen Faries, of Tokio Millennium Re, and Alison Morrison, chairwoman of 100WHF

  • Helping others: Mary Ellen Koenig, US Consul General, with Audette Exel of the Adara Group, and Margaret Fergusson, head of information risk at the British Council (Photograph supplied)

    Helping others: Mary Ellen Koenig, US Consul General, with Audette Exel of the Adara Group, and Margaret Fergusson, head of information risk at the British Council (Photograph supplied)


Leadership styles and career advice were among the topics discussed by two reinsurance CEOs at a 100 Women in Hedge Funds event in Bermuda.

The key speakers were Mary Forrest, president of Munich Re’s North America (life), and Kathleen Faries, chief executive officer of Tokio Millenium Re.

The Harbourside Chat was one of two events held this month by the island’s 100WHF group.

Afterwards, Ms Faries reflected on the topics discussed, which included leadership and the industry.

“Although Mary is from the life reinsurance side of the business and I represent the non-life arena, we both agreed that the way we transact business is changing and will continue to change rapidly,” she said.

“We also feel that this rapid change, fuelled by technology, means the industry presents an exciting opportunity for young professionals looking to be a part of shaping the future of such an important industry.”

On her leadership style, Ms Faries said: “I focus on providing the team with the tools, confidence and space to do their best work.

“I am also a big believer in celebrating our milestones and successes, which we do regularly and typically involves the banging of the Japanese Taiko drum. At the end of the day, I measure my performance on whether or not the team feels supported, understood and inspired to achieve great things.”

The event was moderated by Sioned Evans, senior manager of KPMG Bermuda. Both speakers were asked what was the best career advice they had received or wish they had been given. Ms Faries said that had led to an interesting discussion.

“From my perspective, particularly for young women, I stressed that they should not pass up stretch assignments or promotions because they don’t feel completely qualified or ready for the challenge,” she said.

“My advice is to go for it — believe in yourself and your ability to grow into the role. In addition, make sure that you build up your ‘financial acumen’ throughout your career, particularly if you aspire to broader leadership roles, especially C-suite.

“Find a mentor that will help you gain an in-depth understanding of what the financial drivers of the company are and how to develop and implement strategy.”

Ms Faries added: “Mary and I agreed that strong leaders should have a good mix of business and financial acumen, and great people skills.”

Earlier in the month the 100WHF group had the opportunity to hear from former island resident Audette Exel, who leads the Adara Group. The group consists of two corporate finance advisory businesses that are the “funding engines” for Adara Development, an international non-government organisation focused on health and education for women, children and communities living in poverty, primarily in Uganda and Nepal.

The Adara Group was formed in Bermuda, under a different name, more than 18 years ago and now annually impacts the lives of 50,000 people in a positive way.

Ms Exel said: “Bermuda has a big place in my heart. I feel like I’ve come home.

“I’m trying to change the world one investment banker at a time. I feel profound gratitude for the support Bermuda has given me.”

She also thanked her presentation sponsor, BCB, the Bermudian-based bank she headed as managing director in the late 1990s.

The Bermuda branch of 100 Women in Hedge Funds was officially recognised in March 2015 when it reached its initial goal of 100 members. It now has 175 members and is looking to reach 200 by the end of the year.

The global association was founded in 2001 and has more than 13,000 professional women.

In a statement, the Bermuda group said: “There are three main pillars that embody the 100WHF philosophy and these are education, peer leverage and philanthropy. In Bermuda, since our launch we have focused our efforts on education and have held some very successful events over the past year.”

In September, and in partnership with the CFA Society, the group will be hosting an event addressing “Winning Women to Asset Management”.

All professional women are encouraged to join 100WHF, which has a broad base of members from all financial services industries.

To become a member and attend our future events, contact Alison Morrison, managing director, Oyster Consulting and chairwoman of the Bermuda group, at alison.morrison@oyster.bm. There is a website for 100WHF at www.100womeninhedgefunds.org.

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Published Jul 26, 2016 at 8:00 am (Updated Jul 25, 2016 at 7:26 pm)

Beating the drum for female leadership

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