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Career importance of building board expertise

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In celebration of International Women's Day, which is celebrated on Sunday, we feature the chairwoman of the Institute of Directors and three leading women in reinsurance who have completed their IoD designation, about being on the same board and the importance of this training to increase their influence and effectiveness.

Peta White, Tracey Gibbons and Julia Mather understood the importance of furthering their professional qualifications if they wanted to increase their influence and credibility.

Ms Gibbons and Rochelle Simons, chairwoman of the Bermuda Branch of the Institute of Directors, participated on a Women in Reinsurance panel on the subject of women on boards in January 2018 after Ms Gibbons earned the Certificate in Company Direction designation and as a result was asked to join the board of WiRe.

“The Institute of Directors Bermuda is celebrating International Women's Day by recognising three leading reinsurance professionals who completed the Certificate in Company Direction programme and are applying programme principles and practices to their non-profit board service,” Ms Simons said.

“The Bermuda Branch began hosting director education in Bermuda in 2013. Since then 184 delegates have completed at least one module in the four-module CICD programme, 94 of whom are women. In addition, 41 women of a 66-member cohort, hold the CICD designation.

“I was pleased to learn recently, that Tracey, Peta and Julia, three successful CICD delegates from the reinsurance sector, were all serving as directors on the non-profit organisation, Women in Reinsurance Ltd, and that they were intentional in applying CICD principles and practices to their board service,” she added.

Their stories demonstrate how having a strong appreciation for and working knowledge of governance principles and practices are applicable to personal, professional and community leadership roles.

Ms Gibbons, who is senior vice-president, underwriting at Third Point Reinsurance, said that in her experience of non-profit board service, those who serve usually have the aptitude, skills and talent to sit on boards. However, because of a lack of understanding of the application of corporate governance, they often face challenges in understanding the role they are there to fulfil and the full extent of their responsibilities.

Ms Gibbons was one of the early participants in the IoD training courses and was drawn to the organisation, having sat on a number of non-profit boards and having realised how stagnant a board can become when members, despite good intentions, do not have the tools to effectively fulfil their role.

Ms Gibbons said: “The IoD provides rigorous training across four distinct areas, all of which provide vital skill sets for anyone who takes a board position seriously.

“The IoD also offers additional training opportunities throughout the year to enable members to keep on top of current thinking and trends and there are always lively discussions between members.”

Peta White, chairwoman of WiRe and senior managing director, Markel Global Reinsurance, said: “The WiRe board is made up of people who are passionate about our industry and their role in it, and who willingly volunteer their time. It is important that we maintain this excitement and ambition and continually work to improve board performance and function as effectively as possible.

“We are constantly thinking about what our value proposition is; how to remain relevant to our more seasoned members as well as supporting the next generation of women joining our industry.

“There are almost 300 members from virtually every reinsurance and brokerage firm in Bermuda as well as from local regulatory bodies, associations and service providers.”

Ms White added: “As I advanced in my career, I realised I needed to focus on building out my soft and critical skills. The IoD designation offers a Leadership, Strategy, Governance and Finance module and the training has given me a strong understanding of how boards plan for an organisation's success, how they measure success and how they direct and guide the company.

“As the chairwoman of WiRe, I have been able to implement this training to better structure our board for long-term growth and success.”

Mrs Mather, who is on the board of a protected cell captive company called Falcon Insurance PCC Ltd and a founding WiRe board member, said: “I knew that board work was a part of my present and my future and that re/insurance broking doesn't prepare you for the intricacies and responsibilities of being on a board and what governance really means.

“My early years in broking were in the field of directors and officers insurance and so I have been aware for a long time the pitfalls of not getting it right.

“I now work for a family business and we are looking ahead with succession planning and it seemed imperative to me that I found a way of adding value. The IoD designation helped enormously with that.

“With regard to WiRe, I believe that having the three of us with this training puts us all on the same page which is then helpful in bringing consensus to what needs to be done.”

Ms Gibbons and Mrs Mather said that while they all understood and agreed with best governance principles, they were still able to bring independent ideas and applications to WiRe.

“I think it would be easy to assume that three people having the same qualification would lead to groupthink, but my experience so far indicates that it has led to a greater understanding of our aims and why we are trying to do what we are, but we all have our own experiences and ideas about how to get there,” Mrs Mather said.

Leadership roles: pictured, from left, are Peta White, Tracey Gibbons and Julia Mather (Photograph supplied)
Courses offered: Rochelle Simons, chairwoman of the IoD's Bermuda branch (File photograph)

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Published March 06, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated March 05, 2020 at 11:15 pm)

Career importance of building board expertise

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