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Tributes pour in for ‘unsung hero of re/insurance industry’

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Bermuda’s re/insurance community is mourning the loss of a man who for many years had been considered one of the unsung heroes of the industry — laying the groundwork for the Island’s rise as a leading global reinsurance centre.

For more than 30 years, Bala Nadarajah worked quietly and tirelessly behind the scenes, serving the insurance and reinsurance sector in a legal advisory and regulatory capacity.

The Sri Lankan-born lawyer was involved in every piece of legislation and regulation shaping the sector since the historic Insurance Act of 1978, including the Bermuda Companies Act — both of which paved the way for Bermuda’s insurance industry to evolve from what was primarily a captive domicile into what is now one of the world’s leading property catastrophe reinsurance jurisdictions.

Just a few years ago, Euromoney Expert Guide called Mr Nadarajah “one of the world’s leading lawyers” while the head of the Association of Bermuda Insurance Companies said he had been “invaluable” to the industry and Bermuda.

Mr Nadarajah first came to Bermuda in 1979 at the invitations of the late Shelton Burgess, then Registrar of Companies, to help formulate the regulations without which the Insurance Act could not be implemented.

He was then offered a position with the Bermuda Government.

At the time, Mr Nadarajah had successfully completed a Master’s degree in Comparative Law at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, having moved to the US from his native Sri Lanka where he had practised English-based law for 16 years.

Mr Nadarajah served as a Legal Advisor to the Bermuda Ministry of Finance, the Registrar of Companies and the Insurance Advisory Committee. He also represented the Attorney General’s Chambers in the Private Bills Committee.

From 1986 to 1993, he was of counsel to two Washington, DC law firms, advising Bermuda’s Ministry of Finance on US-Bermuda business issues and captive insurance, insurance, reinsurance, and other corporations involved in international commercial transactions.

In 2002, he joined Bermuda law firm, Attride-Stirling & Woloniecki as senior counsel and head of corporate insurance.

He was considered a leading voice in insurance law and regulation in Bermuda and served as director of the Bermuda Monetary Authority (BMA) from 2002-2006 when it became the industry regulator.

Intending to stay on the Island for just three years, Mr Nadarajah ended up dedicating his life to the largest contributor to the Bermuda’s economy and calling it home for three decades.

In 2008, the Bermuda Insurance Institute (BII) for the first time ever, awarded a special Lifetime Achievement Award to Mr Nadarajah for his “outstanding service to the Bermuda reinsurance industry” and his “tireless work and great personal sacrifices”.

On word of his passing, Chris Fisher, president of the BII’s Governing Council said, “Mr Nadarajah’s important work in helping establish effective insurance regulation and consolidating company law in Bermuda in the 1970s and 1980s was one of the major foundation stones upon which the future success of the Bermuda insurance and reinsurance industry was built. Our condolences go out to his family.”

Mr Nadarajah passed away on April 11 at the age of 78.

He lived the last three years of his life in Florida with his wife, Kristina and though he was technically retired, he still did some consulting work.

Friends and colleagues here in Bermuda remember him fondly both personally and professionally.

“I worked with Bala for many years. He was both a colleague and friend,” Rod Attride-Stirling, senior partner at law firm Attride-Stirling & Wolonieki told

The Royal Gazette.

“I can tell you that his knowledge about company law and insurance regulation where second to none.

He was always available to lend a hand and to give his unique insight into a particular legal problem. And he was so damned nice.”

“I don’t know how he did it, as normally lawyers tend to ruffle at least some people’s feathers, but Bala had a way about him. He was soft-spoken, but people listened to him. He was gentle but no one had any doubt as to how firm he could be on important issues.

“I used to always say, often in his presence that when I ‘grew up’, I wanted to be like Bala. And I was only half joking when I said that. I personally learned a lot from him. Bermuda and the world is a sadder place without Bala. He touched many people, inspired many, helped many. He was a wonderful person and will be much missed,” Mr Attride-Stirling said.

Jeremy Cox, CEO of the Bermuda Monetary Authority said Bermuda “has lost another icon.”

“Many of us knew Bala as one of the key architects of Bermuda’s Insurance Act 1978, a lawyer with the most meticulous insurance applications, as a mentor to many in the market, as the recipient of a special lifetime achievement award from the Bermuda Insurance Institute, and as proud and doting father,” Mr Cox said.

“Bala was a champion for Bermuda’s insurance industry on many fronts, and I was privileged enough to call him a friend. His passing marked a sad day for all his friends and family, and a great loss to Bermuda.”

“His contribution to the vibrant development of the industry was immense,” said Donald Scott, Cabinet Secretary and former Financial Secretary in the Ministry of Finance.

“Even in his retirement years, Bala kept abreast of developments in the industry in Bermuda. He was a true friend and remained fastidious in providing good advice and counsel to policymakers in Government.

“His legacy in the field of insurance regulation and development in Bermuda is a rich one. I offer my sincere condolences to his family.”

“We are deeply saddened to learn of Bala’s passing. His substantial contribution to creating the legal foundation for the Bermuda insurance market cannot be quantified,” said Leila Madeiros, senior vice president, deputy director and corporate secretary of the Association of Bermuda Insurers and Reinsurers (ABIR).

“His vision was to have insurance legislation in Bermuda that would withstand international scrutiny whilst preserving a pragmatic approach that made sense for the Bermuda market and maintaining a platform for innovation to meet the insurance needs of the global economy.

“He was a strong but gentle person who was never too busy to instruct and encourage Bermudians in their own professional pursuits and his determination to have things done correctly spoke volumes about his well respected character and charm,” Ms Madeiros added.

Mr Nadarajah is survived by his wife, Kristina, his son, Stefan and his daughter Nadine. They say while he loved his work, he was, above all else, a family man who loved Bermuda.

“He loved Bermuda which was his home for almost 30 years. He loved the beauty of the Island and the warmth of its people,” his son Stefan said.

His son told

The Royal Gazette that while Mr Nadarajah was very proud of his work and would have been honoured by all the accolades, his father was most proud of the relationships he developed with clients, colleagues, ministers and peers — most of whom considered him a friend.

“He worked very hard, but family was his priority. He also always made time for friends and those in need. He’s consistently described as kind, generous, loving, humble, intelligent, respectful, compassionate, humorous (he had a dry sharp wit) and a man of integrity,” his son said.

“The scores of tributes we’ve received from across the world are testament to his legacy.

“He deeply touched so many people’s lives, from young to old, whether friend, client, colleague or sometimes even stranger and no matter what race, religion or cultural background. He was always willing to help, including advising and mentoring younger generations.”

Mr Nadarajah’s son said above all else, his father will be remembered as “a loving and devoted husband, father and friend, but mostly as a good and decent human being”.

Unsung Hero: The late Bala Nadarajah is considered by many in the insurance industry to be the man who laid the groundwork for the Island's rise as a leading global reinsurance centre.
Considered a leading voice in insurance law and regulation in Bermuda, Mr Nadarajah is remembered by most as a humble, hard-working and compassionate man.

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Published April 25, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated April 25, 2013 at 7:18 am)

Tributes pour in for ‘unsung hero of re/insurance industry’

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