New head of QBE Re, Bermuda seeks ‘diversity in all its forms’
As the new head of QBE Re, Bermuda, Tracey Gibbons’ goal is to make the company as diverse as possible.
“I want to make QBE Re, Bermuda the place that people aspire to work at,” she said.
QBE Re is expanding its Bermuda office to take advantage of regional speciality opportunities.
“We have had a modest presence in Bermuda for a few years but we wanted to develop it as a fully functioning branch office and be a major contribution to the overall corporation,” Ms Gibbons said.
Currently there are four employees. The goal is to expand to five by January 1 and to grow beyond that in the coming years.
“So far all our new hires have been Bermudians or spouses of Bermudians,” Ms Gibbons said.
She is asking to see a diverse group of candidates for each open position.
“That means diversity in all its forms,” she said.
But, Ms Gibbons said, she is not always seeing diversity in the people who actually apply for the positions advertised.
To try and change that she has been working with a number of organisations such as the Association of Bermuda International Companies, Women in Reinsurance and the Association for Corporate Racial Equity.
She was concerned that a study by ABIC found significant racial and gender disparities in Bermuda’s insurance industry.
“At the entry level, men and women hold their own in the insurance industry,” she said.
But further up the management chain, women fell away.
“Black women drop off more than white women, and black men in our industry are a rare commodity,” she said. “We need to attract more black men into our industry.”
She said that while they should be able to increase diversity at the entry level, it is more challenging at the more senior levels.
“It will take time to change that, as we build a pipeline of talented and diverse employees,” she said. “I do a lot of informal mentoring and give opportunities for young people to come in and see what we do, be that for a couple of hours or a couple of days.
“We are committed to bringing in young people, on a temporary internship or full-time basis, to develop their skills and give them a leg up in the industry. The diversity that each individual brings to the team is a key factor in our selection process.”
Ms Gibbons took over the role at QBE Re, Bermuda on September 1 after two years as senior vice-president, underwriting, at Third Point Re (now Sirius Point Re) and 16 years at Allied World.
She said that she was a little naive when she first started in the insurance industry in London 30 years ago.
“There were not many female trailblazers in the industry at that time,” she said. “I joined thinking, okay, I want to be an underwriter, not realising that there were not many women in the industry as underwriters.”
In fact, most women in insurance at the time worked either in administration or in the typing pool. To stop male colleagues from dumping typing projects on her, she had to avoid typing entirely, getting someone else to do it for her.
“Someone once said never let people know you have a talent you don’t want to use,” she said.
Ms Gibbons came to Bermuda in 1986 to work for Freisenbruch-Meyer.
“Then, I thought it might be nice to spend some time in captive management,” she said.
She did that for a few years. Then in the late 1990s reinsurance was taking off so she moved into that sphere.
“Then after 9/11, Bermuda changed dramatically,” Ms Gibbons said. “There was a huge influx of capital coming into the island. A lot of new companies were set up including Allied World.”
She said that in the decades since then, things have got better for women in the industry, particularly in Bermuda.
“There are a lot of Bermudian women who have gone into insurance and reinsurance and captive management and reached senior management now,” she said. “But we are still in the minority.”