While Bermuda stands as a leader in the lucrative reinsurance industry, with the Island harbouring a litany of captive agencies, many locals, particularly Black males have failed to effectively tap into this career market.
As opposed to the traditional economic pillar that is the tourism/hospitality industry, where Bermudians once flocked to in droves and still venture toward – albeit at a lesser rate than in the bygone tourism heyday – the international business (IB) stalwart, featuring reinsurance as a key element, has largely gone unexploited by locals.
Much of the inability of the masses to explore and makle use of the industry beyond the more menial, low-paying tributary roles revolves around a lack of knowledge and training, according to Bermuda College lecturer Craig Simmons.
And, despite being at a very poignant point in his own life, where he is considering retirement, the economist is spearheading efforts to inform young Bermudians of the financial ‘lottery’ that exists for those able to educate themselves toward entry into the IB arena.
“It’s not just me, we have an organization that’s really spearheading this thing,” explained Simmons, a fixture at Bermuda’s prime institution of higher learning for more than 30 years. “Actually there are a couple of them involved.
“One is ABIR (Association of Bermuda Insurers and Reinsurers). They are sponsoring a course that the college is offering on Monday evenings from 6pm to 8pm and each week we have executives from the reinsurance for life sector come in.
“They basically tell us what it is for to be in that seat. What they do in their days. The kind of education that is needed to get into that particular area.
“So, ABIR have opened the door. I’ll call it the talent pipeline they have to the reinsurance sector.
“Another one is Insurance Linked Securities Bermuda (ILS). They’re also offering our young people opportunities to attend conferences. Opportunities to learn how to write good resumes. How to perform during interviews. So, there’s a lot of positivity, at least a Bermuda College right now.
“I’m just really really proud to be a part of it because it’s going to pay huge dividends in the next two to three to five to ten years.” At present Simmons said there to be up to 100 persons participating in the programme, taking in a wide spectrum, from those seeking to enter the job market for the first time, to the more mature individual seeking a new career path or to upgrade one’s skill level within the industry.
“On Monday evenings there is anywhere from 70 to 100 people on those calls from within the college age bracket, but it would be anyone from 20 up to 60 or 65, so it’s designed so that just about anyone can, sort of, follow what’s going on, although sometimes we get into the weeds,” said the popular economist. “It’s designed for everybody, but at any time we can have top executives sitting in on the calls, because they’re interested in what’s going on in another area of insurance and reinsurance.
“So, it’s really a course for all types, whether your home-maker or a chief executive. Whether you’re working in government as a civil servant. Whether you just want to get a taste for what is driving our economy today, which is reinsurance, so let’s get down into the weeds and understand what that means and what that looks like.”
As has been heavily publicised in recent times and noted during the early 90s, when former Premier John Swan made the infamous “Black males are a problem”, statement, the segment continues to be underserved within IB due to various factors, with the Island’s Black men exponentially affected by lifestyle choices detrimental to learning the skills required for entry and advancement in such complex fields of employment.
A higher than desired drop-out rate among males and failure to match or exceed established standards to finish and/or move beyond the high school level has dramatically hindered progress among this male grouping.
“That’s something we’re looking to do, because we are finding that when they come to college they don’t always have the math skills which are necessary to thrive in this very quantitative and complex environment,” said Simmons. “We are discovering that we really need to catch them when they come into high school and even at the middle school level.
“Outsiders looking in at Bermuda and taking young Bermudian males , they must wonder why don’t more Bermudian males work in reinsurance the median salary is north of $170,000 and everybody should be aiming to hit that lottery ticket.
“I think that the simple answer is that nobody knows about it.
“What I want to do with the rest of my life is basically let our young people know that there is this this other way to to sort of thrive and support families and communities in this country, stuff that 99% of the people on this planet don’t have access to it and we have it in our backyard.
“But, if you don’t know it how can you tap into it?”
One factor inhibiting the influx of Black males into the industry, which was not mentioned by Simmons, but still very much a major stumbling block, particularly for Black males, is the inherent, systemic racism that continues to permeate an industry dominated by White males.
It was back in 2018 that a leading Bermudian insurance executive, Jonathan Reiss, in a compelling speech at the Bermuda Captive Conference called for greater efforts to be made to address the lack of diversity within the private sector, including the reinsurance section of IB.
“We in the private sector need to lead,” said Reiss during his speech. “We control vast swathes of wealth creation, and, more crucially, we control who gets the best opportunities.
“The point I’m making is that the reason there aren’t more Black Bermudians in our industry, particularly at senior levels, is much more complicated than outright discrimination.
“It’s the legacy of white supremacy, slavery, and how this legacy continues to permeate our institutions despite the monumental shift in attitudes and intentions.”
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