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Huff aims to build on Kading’s legacy

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Taking over: John Huff will become president of Abir on January 1

John Huff says he will have “big shoes to fill” when he takes over from Bradley Kading as president of the Association of Bermuda Insurers and Reinsurers on January 1.

And Mr Huff, formerly president of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners in the US, takes over at a tumultuous time for the industry.

Abir’s member companies have dealt this year with record natural catastrophe losses, technological disruption, ever-growing alternative capital competition and, to cap an interesting year, US tax reform that will have implications for their businesses.

Mr Kading will retire at the end of the year after 12 years heading up Abir, a retirement that he said was somewhat overdue — his earlier intention was to retire at 50.

“I’ve been working 40 years, I’m 61 years old and three friends died this year,” Mr Kading said. “Now I want to travel a bit and eventually settle down in our place in the Turks and Caicos Islands.”

Mr Kading added that he wanted to “give myself time to get bored”, while pondering what the next chapter will hold.

He joined Abir in 2005, the year that hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma sparked a rush of new capital into the Bermuda market. And he took pride in several accomplishments during those dozen years since.

Expressing the value of the Bermuda market through economic research has been one of his hallmarks. Studies showing how claims paid by Abir members helped to rebuild homes wrecked by natural catastrophes in southern US states, for example, was effective in illustrating the role of reinsurance to consumers, he said. And documenting the economic impact of Abir members in Bermuda also displayed the scale of the industry’s value to the island.

Another highlight, he said, was working with the BMA on the adoption of international regulatory standards and “convincing a sceptical audience in Bermuda that this was a good thing”.

Third-country equivalence with the EU’s Solvency II regulations is especially valuable to the island considering Britain’s impending departure from the EU, as is the qualified jurisdiction status from the Naic.

Working with the community, including talks on industry issues with the Bermuda Government, was another key part of his role, as was lobbying work in Washington.

“US tax issues have been going on for ten years, so I had to defend our position against competitors and figure out how to successfully engage in that political battle,” Mr Kading said.

Mr Huff, whose role will be to win friends and influence people on behalf of Bermuda’s flagship industry, said he aimed to build on the Bermuda market’s reputation — which he views as already strong, thanks to the efforts of Mr Kading and others.

“I look at things as a regulator — as the director of the Missouri Department of Insurance, I was a regulator — and I know that Bermuda is regarded as being extremely well regulated under the leadership of Jeremy Cox [Bermuda Monetary Authority CEO],” Mr Huff said.

“That’s not John Huff’s opinion, that’s the international opinion. What helps to educate people about Bermuda is the wonderful co-operative and collaborative relationship with the US and the EU that we have because of the work going on at the BMA, who continue to raise the bar.”

In his previous roles in the industry, Mr Huff said he had seen the value of the Bermuda market and this year, it had shown its resilience again. Bermuda entities are thought to be dealing with around $30 billion in claims related to this year’s devastating hurricane season.

His goals included illustrating the value of the Bermuda market around the world, to work on opportunities to address the “penetration gap”, the gap between economic and insured losses.

This was a problem in developed countries as well as emerging economies, Mr Huff said.

“Another issue is why are governments using taxpayer resources to cover catastrophe risks when they can do it more efficiently by leveraging marketplace capital?” Mr Huff said, adding that Bermuda reinsurers could be shouldering some of that risk.

Asked for any advice for his successor, Mr Kading said: “Bermuda’s got to show up. At industry events, talking with regulators, seeking out speeches at annual conferences — we have to engage.”

Stepping aside: Bradley Kading will retire at the end of the year after 12 years leading Abir