CEO describes rise from humble beginnings
His parents were a milkman and a snack shop waitress. They had missed out on educational opportunities, but they were determined their children would see the value of applying themselves to learning.
Today, Marc Grandisson is chief executive officer of Bermudian-based Arch Capital Group.
He shared the lessons that he has learnt from his own career journey, particularly around learning and education, when he spoke to the 19 young recipients of this year’s Association of Bermuda International Companies Education Awards.
Takeaways from his keynote speech were the importance of surrounding yourself with good people and mentors, getting an education, continuing to learn, and being patient and open-minded.
Mr Grandisson spoke at Abic’s 41st Education Award luncheon. Since 1977, more than 630 students have benefited from education awards made possible by the island’s international companies.
“Education is the greatest equaliser of all,” said Mr Grandisson, explaining he was a product of why education matters. He said his parents were not high school graduates as their families had not been able to afford the cost of high school education.
But his parents saw that education was the only way out, having seen their peers struggle and fall into debt when they lost their jobs and were unable to transfer whatever skill they had to another employment opportunity.
Mr Grandisson said his parents drove him and his sister to go to school “at all costs”.
He became an actuary because he was not able to become a doctor, but he was initially far from taken with actuarial studies or the prospect of becoming an actuary. But he stuck it out after his father advised: “You go to school, you get a degree. After you get the degree you can do whatever you want, once you have the paper.”
Mr Grandisson graduated and first moved to Bermuda in the 1990s, swapping the winter cold of Quebec for the sunny warmth of Hamilton. He took a job as an actuary, knowing that it would entail more studies. He failed a few of the exams, but then started to pass, and as he became more successful, he enjoyed the job more.
He got called to work in reinsurance, supporting underwriters and that led him to becoming an underwriter.
“I looked around and realised I still did not have all the skill sets, this was after ten exams and working for six or seven years. I needed more. Education is a lifelong thing, it is not one degree and you’re done,” he said.
Sharing another tip, he said it is important to find trusted mentors who can teach you how a business really works.
He went on to work for Berkshire Hathaway, where he learnt even more from his colleagues. In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, he got a call from two people he had worked with seven or eight years earlier who wanted him to come and work for a new company that was being set up — Arch.
“That leads to another piece of advice; surround yourself with good people, good friends, people who care for you.”
He said Arch had grown to be successful, but in the beginning no one had any real idea where it was heading. Sharing another tip he said: “You have to be patient, you have to have trust. A lot of the things you are doing in life are the result of small decisions you made throughout your life.
“If you keep making more good than bad decisions you are going to stack the odds in your favour and put yourself in that position where you can be that much more successful.”
Mr Grandisson underlined the importance of education. learning, being open-minded and being true to yourself.
He added: “One thing that I look back on is life gave me choices and took me to where I needed to be, every step of the way. Education is very important. Even today I have sent an online course description to our head of analytics because I want to know if I should be taking that course. I’m 51 years old and I’m thinking about going back to do one more year, something additional to learn.”
He congratulated the recipients of this year’s education awards, telling them they are now ambassadors for Bermuda.
Currently, Abir’s undergraduate award to each recipient is $15,000 per year for a two-year period, while the post graduate is valued at $20,000 for a one-year period.
Mr Grandisson and Patrick Tannock, Abir chairman, helped with the presentations, which included two additional special awards.
The Michelle Outerbridge Memorial Award was presented to Rajah Steede in recognition of her leadership, community service and academic achievement.
The Shernelle Outerbridge Memorial Award was presented to Tyrese Coakley, who has served as CEO of Berkeley Institute’s Virtual Enterprises International programme and has been involved in a number of community and extracurricular groups, including the Youth Parliament, Berkeley Student Council, rugby team and school band.
The other Abic Education Awards 2018 recipients were Asia Atienza, Yasser Baia, Blair Blakeney, Nasaj Burgess, Tahirah Cross, Nathanael Fubler, Jameko Gomes, Anthony Howell, Kimika Jackson, Quinnae Outerbridge, Sihlé Paynter, Quinae Santucci, Jahstice Trott, Ezra Turner, Danielle Wall, Nadir Young, and Antonia DeVent who collected the Alumni Award.
Mr Tannock, who is also CEO of Insurance, XL Bermuda, thanked the companies that make up Abir for their continued support.
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