Captive sector not resting on laurels
Bermuda leads the way as the world's top jurisdiction for captives, with more than 780 on the island.
But it is not resting on its laurels. It did that before, but learnt a lesson.
Today, vigilance and awareness are uppermost in the mind of Grainne Richmond, who is almost halfway through her two years as president of the Bermuda Insurance Management Association.
The impact of Brexit, potential future policies of US President Donald Trump, and the rise of cyber-risk are all on the industry's radar.
At the same time, Ms Richmond is confident of Bermuda's renewed strength as the world's captive leader, and its ability to navigate challenges and seize opportunities.
She is also enthusiastic towards efforts aimed at increasing knowledge of the sector's importance to Bermuda's economy, and to educate Bermudians and residents about career opportunities.
A study is due to be released by the end of this month showing the economic impact of the sector on Bermuda, and almost in tandem Bima is to step up its efforts to educate Bermudians and other residents about the industry and career opportunities it offers.
Bima, in partnership with the Bermuda Insurance Institute, held a captive education summit at the Hamilton Princess in December. It was sold out with 125 attendees. That annual initiative will continue, but Ms Richmond also sees other opportunities.
She wants Bima and its members to be more involved in educating Bermudians about the captive space. And she would like to see more Bermudians coming into the sector.
“In 2016, we created an education committee which we are targeting with the BII, with the aim to educate the people at Bermuda College and the schools here in Bermuda with the main aim to educate students on captives.”
Bermuda is the world's top jurisdiction for captives, but it stumbled in the 2000s, and for a time saw rival jurisdictions seriously challenge for market supremacy.
“It was boom time and Bermuda as a domicile did not have to go out and market or defend itself to the extent it does today. In those days Bermuda was predominately the number one captive domicile of choice,” said Ms Richmond.
“But things changed. Vermont and Cayman become really strong domiciles both on what they were able to offer and they were very strong in their marketing strategy. This, along with other competition, may have resulted in a slowdown in Bermuda captive formations.
“Because we did not have one co-ordinated voice out there we lost traction.
“But the Bermuda Business Development Agency has been in existence for four years, and we are seeing the benefit of that now. We are back in people's minds.”
The island strengthened its pole position in the captive sector thanks to a number of factors, with multi-agency collaboration the overarching one.
Ms Richmond has high praise for the BDA and the way it has co-ordinated and collaborated not only with Bima, but other segments of the island's international business community, promoting Bermuda through conferences, roadshows, campaigns and networking.
It is something Bima, a voluntary organisation, would struggle to do under its own steam.
“Globally, Bima and other service providers in the captive space have been very busy, predominantly through the BDA, going to captive roadshows and hosting education seminars.”
Ms Richmond, vice-president at Hamilton-based Dyna Management Services, said she could not stress enough how important it is to have the BDA helping put Bima members in front of the right people.
She praised the way Ross Webber, BDA chief executive officer, has build a youthful team “that know all the new marketing strategies, such as podcasts, e-initiatives, and webinars. It's taken us into the 21st century.
“It really has kept Bermuda ahead of the game against some of the other domiciles. They co-ordinate our marketing efforts and cross-selling.”
Last year, Bermuda saw the formation of 13 captives, down from 22 in 2015. There has also been a slowdown in captive formations for other jurisdictions.
“The captive market can have spikes. Last year hospitals were merging in the US. When you have mergers and acquisitions at the parent company level you have M&A at the captive level.
“What we are seeing is that the current captives are actually growing in size.”
About 70 per cent of the island's captive business comes from the US, but Bermuda is always looking at diversifying into fresh markets, and is pursuing opportunities in Canada, Latin America and Asia.
“You have to educate new areas on what captives are, and it's a long process to get to the right people. You have to get out and see the client base, and then bring them back here.”
The island hosted the 12th annual Bermuda Captive Conference last June. The event returns this year in September.
The island's good reputation, sophistication and highly regarded regulatory environment help lift it above competing jurisdictions in the captive sphere.
Ms Richmond said the work of the Bermuda Monetary Authority has proved invaluable in this regard.
The BMA secured Solvency II equivalence with the EU in late 2015, and importantly achieved a carved out space for captives, protecting them from the imposition of additional regulation, while allowing commercial insurers to compete on an even footing in the European market.
“The relationship with the BMA is so important. Industry organisations such as Bima and also Abir and Biltir (Bermuda International Long-Term Insurers and Reinsurers) all work together with the BMA.”
She added: “It's that certainty to market, when you are trying to sell something to a prospect and you are certain what your regulator can give you, it is easier.
“You are dealing with big corporations in the States. They don't want to deal with ‘what-ifs or maybes', they want to deal with certainties, and we can give them that certainty thanks to the relationship industry has with the BMA, and the BMA's long-term experience in the captive space.”
However, uncertainties lie ahead with the changing economic landscape after Brexit, the rise in cyber-risk and the new US administration under President Trump.
Regarding the latter, Ms Richmond said: “It's a concern. We have to wait to see what some of his final decisions are.
“We are all being more vigilant in our decision-making. We are all being more vigilant, more aware and more involved in what is going on.
“More so now, we need to be more engaged with the other bodies, such as Abir, Biltir and Abic.”