You can’t just talk about diversity’
Diversity in the insurance and reinsurance sector in Bermuda has improved but it still is “not anywhere good enough”.
If Bermuda wants to continue to be a leader in the sector it needs to be inclusive of all diversity, said Fiona Luck, who was on a panel of insurance industry pioneers at the Association of Bermuda Insurers and Reinsurers’ 25th anniversary celebration.
“So how far have we come in terms of developing Bermudian talent, developing a diverse workforce?” she asked.
Referencing the white-male dominance of the event’s speakers and panellists, she said: “I looked at today’s schedule and we have seven out of 25 presenters representing diversity. That’s better than 25 years ago, but not anywhere good enough.”
She raised the topic to a roomful of attendees, which included David Burt, the Premier. She also expressed sadness at the suggestion that the Bermuda Government is going to appeal a Supreme Court ruling that reversed the island’s ban on same-sex marriage. Ms Luck, who is a director on Lloyd’s Franchise Board, said that diversity has to be all inclusive.
A month ago Jonathan Reiss, a leading Bermudian insurance executive, was a keynote speaker at the Bermuda Captive Conference and spoke out on continuing white-male dominance in executive teams and called for more efforts to increase diversity in workforces, management and boardrooms. Mr Reiss was among the attendees at the Abir event this week.
Ms Luck, former managing director of Marsh & MacLennan, said: “Jonathan Reiss gave a great speech the other day on diversity. There are lots of organisations within the Abir family making this happen. But if you look across your executive management group and there isn’t diversity, you have to ask yourself why.”
Ms Luck said it was important to understand and address the barriers that stop an organisation getting the best diversity.
“I saw a quote that said privilege is sometimes invisible to those who have it. It’s true. I was very blessed to be sponsored by Bob Clements, and I would not have got to the position in Marsh & McLennan without his sponsorship.
“We’ve got to find a way. It’s not mentorship, it’s sponsorship. We’ve got to find a way to sponsor the diverse talent coming to our organisations.”
She led into the topic by explaining the elements of success that have helped the island’s insurance and reinsurance sector to grow from its small beginnings in the mid-1980s to its global status today. What had been required was good infrastructure and attracting the best talent, she explained.
Enticing talent to the island was only part of the solution; developing Bermudian talent was also key. Ms Luck said bringing an employee to the island from overseas carried a degree of risk.
“All of us learnt quite quickly that hiring Bermudians was the way to go. That was the talent that wanted to be there and so we quickly figured out that we needed a way to develop Bermudian talent as well as bring talent in.”
She said when insurers Mid Ocean and XL were brought together in 1998 it led to a commitment to come up with “XL university”. Ms Luck said: “I can’t tell you the difference it made by having one of the most senior executives [Michael Butt] working with me and really pushing to develop talent within the organisation. It wasn’t just the dollars behind it, or putting the programmes together, we actually spent time teaching, spent time with the students as they came through, the graduates, the executive programme and that made a huge amount of difference.”
She said Abir had done an “unbelievable job” by focusing on bringing on Bermudians, and noted that the latest statistics from 2016 showed that 1,019 of the 1,621 staff employed in Bermuda by Abir members are Bermudian.
“Abir has contributed millions of dollars in scholarships, we have intern programmes, graduate training, and the ability for students to go overseas,” said Ms Luck.
“In addition, I know how much time and effort has gone into focusing on talent at the Bermuda Monetary Authority; it is both attracting talent to the island, that is much in demand, and also training.”
She noted that Brian O’Hara, who joined her on the pioneers panel at the event, had five women on his executive management board when he was CEO of XL. She said he was from a large family and had six sisters.
“He is really comfortable with diversity. So I really think we have to challenge ourselves.”
Ms Luck added: “The other thing, and this is a personal view, if Bermuda wants to continue to be a leader in this space — look at this room, full of diversity. If we want to be a leader it means we have to be inclusive of all diversity. So I was saddened to see the suggestion that there is going to be an appeal of same-sex marriage. We cannot pick and choose our diversity, by its very nature it has to be all inclusive.”
Her comment was met with spontaneous applause in the packed conference room at Rosewood Bermuda.
Ms Luck said: “We have got the confidence across all of our diverse talent. I know we have got the confidence, I see it every day; I meet the young people. What we need to do at the highest level is instil confidence in that talent so they know they can make it to the top.
“It is really important for us to challenge ourselves around diversity. You can’t just talk about it, you have to do something about it.”