One example of the re/insurance industry’s agility was displayed by the Association of Bermuda Insurers & Reinsurers (ABIR), which held its first virtual board meeting in April with more than 50 executives from member companies participating.
“Of all industries, the data-rich re/insurance sector understands the statistical effectiveness of ‘flattening the curve,’” said Albert Benchimol, ABIR Chair and President and CEO of AXIS Capital. “Our industry has been quick to initiate remote working protocols that support the leading medical advice in controlling the spread of the virus. Remote work reinforces the wisdom of social distancing, which is critical for Bermuda right now.”
“ABIR companies have quickly transitioned to remote working protocols in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The industry’s rapid response demonstrates that technology is enabling business continuity in Bermuda – as it does around the world,” Benchimol added. “The way we are conducting business is becoming a ‘table stakes’ approach. Moving to a remote working protocol, based on global and local best practices and guidance, has been seamless across ABIR member companies.”
Benchimol stressed that the safety and well-being of ABIR team members, clients, stakeholders and the Bermuda community is the No. 1 priority. ABIR members have enacted precautionary policies to reduce or eliminate non-essential travel and adopted new health and safety policies for staff, who have returned from traveling.
ABIR member companies continue to be open for business, just with less physical interaction with clients, stakeholders, vendors and other partners. April 1 renewals have been completed successfully, and companies are now looking ahead to the Florida June 1st renewal season,
“The re/insurance industry excels in time of disruption and catastrophes—managing risk during natural and man-made disasters is our strength,” said John M. Huff, President & CEO of ABIR, noting the Bermuda market is well capitalized and works closely with regulators and policy makers globally on the economic potential of any significant events. “The industry has a proven track record of responding successfully during critical moments in history and we will continue to do so as the world faces and recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Brad Adderley, Partner at offshore law firm Appleby, believes people in Bermuda tend to travel for work more than those in other countries, so they’re used to working outside of an office. “Some people here travel four to six times a year, particularly professionals who travel for work, and are used to working as they travel,” he says. “So, when you tell them to stay at home and work online, it’s not as alien to them in Bermuda as in other countries.”
“At Appleby most of our colleagues have laptops and when the coronavirus crisis started we bought colleagues who didn’t have one, a work laptop, with the IT department travelling from house to house before the quarantine to assist any colleagues that needed help with their setup. Colleagues also had the opportunity in advance to take any equipment they needed home with them. All of our clients have similar remote working set-ups, so in many ways, it is business as usual for us.”
What does the future hold?
Although Adderley acknowledges that there has been a social cost to the lockdown as people cannot interact in person, he also feels that one wider ramification might be that more people might want to work from home in the future, as it’s proven to be a success thus far.
However, he pointed out he would not want to be a commercial landlord at the moment, because people might not want to rent the same sized office spaces after the lockdowns end. According to Adderley in the wake of the various shutdowns people might not want to commute to work the same way they used to before the crisis started, which would again encourage more people to ask to work from home – which would change working practices all over the world.
Commenting on what Appleby has been doing to make online working more efficient, Adderley commented: “As social connection is necessary, we are doing a few things such as daily messages to all colleagues, holding more team calls and using platforms for whole office and team chats, something we are calling our ‘virtual water cooler’ space. We also gifted all our colleagues ‘virtual’ restaurant gift cards early on, so they can enjoy a take-out meal with their family while remote working. This was done to thank our employees and to support the restaurant industry that is deeply affected by the coronavirus.”