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Arch CEO: insurers need more young leaders

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Change on their minds: pictured, from left, at the PwC Insurance Summit are moderator Arthur Wightman, PwC Bermuda leader, Kathleen Reardon, CEO of Hamilton Re, and Marc Grandisson, CEO of Arch Capital (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Insurance companies need more young people in leadership positions to better adapt to the modern world.

That is the view of Marc Grandisson, chief executive officer of Bermudian re/insurer Arch Capital, who told delegates at a conference in Hamilton, that there was no one under 45 on in his company’s executive group.

Speaking on a CEO panel at the PwC Insurance Summit, Mr Grandisson recalled how he had been handed great opportunities in his early 30s when he started work in the Bermuda market.

Older executives should not be afraid to give promising young employees opportunities to shine, he argued.

“When I came to Bermuda, I was 34 and working very hard, and was given opportunities to do things I would never have been able to do anywhere else, but this crisis [amid market disruption after 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001] created the opportunity,” Mr Grandisson said.

“When you’re young and you have big opportunities, you really get so involved and so scared, in a way, and push yourself to the limit.

“When I look at Arch, we have a lot of older people — I’ve been there for 18 years. We don’t have anybody in our executive group under 45.

“Over time, I’m trying to bring in people below 40 into our executive group, so we hear where they’re coming from, and to identify these younger leaders.

“As a result of our successful past, there’s a tendency to not want to change things. As the CEO, I’m pushing hard on my executives to say ‘that worked then but we may need something else now’.

He said it was important for the industry to enable millennials to make an impact — and then get that message out to young talent who all too often had a negative image of the industry.

Fellow panellist Kathleen Reardon, CEO of Hamilton Re, said her company had made a conscious effort to diversify its recruitment sources, using different approaches including posting job descriptions on social media, in its efforts to attract young talent.

She added that industry was trying to accelerate the rate of much needed change. “We’ve been saying the industry is at an inflection point for two years — the challenging rate environment will end, we will digitise everything and the talent will come — but truthfully I feel we’re at a stalemate.

“We’re trying to push a behemoth of rock up a hill and that rock is the industry.

“What we are starting to see is an attempt to catapult the rock up the hill. Progress is slow but it’s going to ramp up.”

Looking ahead to the next five years, Ms Reardon said technology would have a significant impact, especially on primary insurance sold direct to a consumer demanding convenience.

“If you take personal lines and small commercial, you’re going to automate everything and reduce or possibly eliminate the role of the underwriter and agent, and we need to embrace this,” Ms Reardon said.

She said there was a data revolution under way and that winners would be those who best harnessed data and made use of it.

Ms Reardon said the industry should embrace technological change, as it had come to embrace alternative capital.

“I think of it often as an assembly line,” she said. “As soon as there’s something available to be thrown on assembly line, then we should do that. If both parties agree on the risk and reward, then package it up, give it to the capital markets, move on and free up the underwriters to work on something harder. We have talent that’s got to be challenged more.”

Hamilton Re was constantly improving through incremental innovations, she said.

“It’s not like ten years ago, when a technology project went into a black box somewhere and came out three years later — it is an agile environment with small ways of improvement that get everybody excited because they see immediate benefits and they can move on to more challenging, value-adding tasks.”

Mr Grandisson said there would always be a need for human interaction and that the experience of those working in the industry would still be needed to help clients find solutions to covering their specific risks. But he added that, at the same time, the industry needed to utilise technology to become more efficient and make smarter use of the reams of data available.

As for opportunities for growth and covering risks that were unwritten or under-written, Ms Reardon saw potential for the industry to collaborate with the public sector.

“If you look at some of the public-private partnerships that have been formed, such as the NFIP [National Flood Insurance Programme] now buying reinsurance, it’s very promising,” Ms Reardon said.

“And if you look at cyber-risk and climate change, these are two things that could fit well into that PPP types of relationship.”

While the industry was awash with capital, it was not ready to commit it to covering cyber-risk in a substantial way — but partnering with government agencies to share the risk burden could lead to more risk being covered, she added.

Change on their minds: pictured, from left, at the PwC Insurance Summit are moderator Arthur Wightman, PwC Bermuda leader, Kathleen Reardon, CEO of Hamilton Re, and Marc Grandisson, CEO of Arch Capital (Photograph by Akil Simmons)