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Healthcare reform will take several years, says Wight

John Wight: to retire as group CEO of BF&M on August 31 (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Healthcare reform in Bermuda may be up to a decade away, a veteran insurance executive has advised.

John Wight, the group chief executive officer of BF&M Limited, said that timeline is consistent with healthcare reform that has taken place elsewhere.

The Government first announced in 2019 that it was to reform healthcare, but critics — including Mr Wight — said it had not sought input from all stakeholders in the first phase of the process.

Mr Wight said: “Since then, what I have been very pleased about, is that government has, I think, recognising how interdependent healthcare and how complicated it is in Bermuda, they have hired overseas advisers to work with the local teams to map out a strategy, which will take several years.

“Just from the discussions that BF&M has had with the government advisers, along with other private insurers and other stakeholders, if you look at other countries that have gone through what we are attempting to go through now, this is a very long and intensive process.

“So, I think if we can be successful in perhaps a seven to ten-year term, we will have achieved something very significant.

“The devil is in the detail, so we really haven’t seen a lot of the structure around what this looks like, but what we do know from overseas advisers who have advised other countries like Bermuda is we want to make certain that we get it right and be thoughtful around it.

“That is much more important than being rushed to put something in place that may not serve the best needs of the Bermuda population.

“Based on other countries that have gone through what we are attempting to go through now, typically it has taken up to, and sometimes longer than, a decade to do it successfully.

“We want to do it successfully, so we want to make sure that we do this in a measured fashion with the input from all stakeholders so that there’s no unintended consequences of trying to get something through sooner, because we can’t afford not to get this right.”

Mr Wight, 64, is to retire from the top job at BF&M at the end of the month, but will remain as chairman of the board.

He will also continue to serve as an independent senator, having been appointed in 2020.

Mr Wight said the Upper House played a “critical” role in the island’s legislative process.

“I think the Senate plays a very important role in Bermuda, and I think from the perspective of being an independent senator, it’s even more important because we are not swayed by party politics.

“One of the attractions for myself in becoming a senator was the leeway to express my views in assessing what I think is best for Bermuda and for Bermudians.

“There is sometimes controversy around ‘how important is the Senate’, and that largely comes up when independent senators vote against legislation that has been supported by the government.

“Issues like the cannabis legislation is a perfect example where all the senators did their research, and we all expressed our views whether we were for it or against it, and the legislation was delayed at least a year — and there’s still uncertainty about what that looks like as it stands, going forward.”

He added: “Just raising the profile around all the issues, I think it gives a lot of Bermudians a strong sense of the independence and non-party politics that they want to hear more than just hearing what they might hear through the House of Assembly, which is either your OBA view or the PLP view.

“So, I think the Senate does serve a very useful function, and I am proud to be in the Senate, and I look forward to continuing the work that gets conducted through it.”

Mr Wight, a native of Montreal, earned a bachelor of commerce degree with a major in accountancy from Concordia University before starting his career with Ernst & Young.

He arrived on the island as a 26-year-old in 1984 to join what is now professional services firm PwC.

After serving as the PwC auditor for BF&M, the then-CEO of BF&M, Glenn Titterton, recruited Mr Wight to join in 1992 as group controller.

He recalls: “I joined the company thinking that after a couple of years of further insurance experience I would move on to opportunities in the international business sector.

“What I actually found working for BF&M was that the work was extremely interesting and challenging, and that remains the case to this day.

“I have no regrets, and in fact am so honoured to call myself a “BF&Mer” as I retire from BF&M as CEO.”

Mr Wight became chief financial officer of BF&M in 1995, and was serving in that role when he threw his hat in the ring in 2004 to be considered by the board of directors to succeed Mr Titterton as CEO.

He became CEO in 2005.

Mr Wight said: “I wasn’t entirely sure how successful I would be in that role. I considered myself an introvert, which didn’t align back then with many of the CEOs in Bermuda.

“What I learnt over the coming years was that hard work, good judgment, honesty and treating people respectfully matter more than whether you finished at the top of your class in school — which I never did.

“And even in 2022 with the world so technology driven, I still believe that developing and nourishing strong personal relationships with stakeholders — employees, customers, shareholders, regulators — remain the foundation for a company’s success.”

Mr Wight reflected on how the pace of work was very different, as were work standards, in 1992.

He said: “Back then you could take a two-week vacation and not need to be interrupted once. Today, issues that require a CEO’s attention surface so quickly and often demand responses in real time. And this trend will only continue.

“BF&M has a Christmas lunch each year with its retirees to celebrate the season and catch up with those employees who laid the foundation for the company’s success today. I’m amazed at the stories that the retirees share each year of their working lives at BF&M.

“It is a reminder to me of how the company and Bermuda have changed over the past 50-plus years.”

Mr Wight said the company’s support of the community has been one of the things he has enjoyed most about his time at BF&M.

He said: “BF&M is so embedded in the community in Bermuda and to be able to give back to the community through BF&M’s financial success, to support so many third sector organisations in Bermuda, has been one of my greatest pleasures.”

He added: “Observing the sea of BF&M Breast Cancer Awareness Walk T-shirts, for example, each year in October in support of Bermuda Cancer & Health Centre — well, it doesn’t get much better than that.

“In addition, the organisation is big enough to offer the challenging career I always wanted, while at the same time being small enough that I’m able to know most people in the organisation. This has always been very important to me and getting to know so many wonderful people through my time with BF&M has been another of my greatest pleasures.

“For my entire career at BF&M I have woken up on Monday mornings with the same excitement about starting my work week as I have driving home on my bike on a Friday evening, looking forward to spending time with my family and friends.

“How many people can say that? The adage ‘if you love what you do, you never have to work another day in your life’ applies to me.”

Mr Wight said he has enjoyed “great support” from his wife, Paula, and daughters, Catherine and Sarah.

He said: “My family is always my top priority so balancing my workload and travel hasn’t always been easy, but as a family we made it work.”

Mr Wight has served on the board at BF&M since 2005, becoming group chairman in 2019.

In retirement, he will also continue in his role as chairman of the board at Bermuda Container Line, as well as sitting on the boards of HSBC Bank of Bermuda and Somers Isles Shipping.

There is also the matter of a recent addition to the family.

Mr Wight said: “I have an 18-month-old granddaughter in Bermuda with whom I love to spend time. I’ve been incredibly fortunate in life, which I never take for granted.

“My life has been a labour of love. I can’t wait to experience the next chapter.”

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Published August 24, 2022 at 7:46 am (Updated August 25, 2022 at 7:53 am)

Healthcare reform will take several years, says Wight

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