As Managing Partner of Appleby’s Bermuda office and CEO of Appleby Global Services (AGS), could you provide us a glimpse into the company?
Appleby traces its history back to the late 19th century and we have developed with the international business sector, as it has grown up since the 1950s. The sector is open to all businesses of quality and substance, but you could say that insurance and reinsurance has been our longest standing specialty. Presently, we have a half dozen firms in the legal sector who have a significant amount of focus on the international business sector, insurance and reinsurance, banking and investment management, energy and natural resource development, tangible and intangible asset financing, public and private capital markets, private wealth, and digital asset business. AGS is a licensed trust and corporate service provider, operating in Bermuda and other jurisdictions in which Appleby operates. There is a natural connection between the legal advisor of corporate structures and transactions, and the administration of the structures that are set up to do those transactions. For regulatory and other reasons, the two entities are run separately but side by-side to offer clients a holistic solution to their corporate needs in Bermuda.
How did 2020 look for AGS, and where did you see growth for the company this year?
In 2020 we more than doubled the number of structures we support in Bermuda and by our second-year anniversary in the spring of 2021, we tripled our growth globally. For a new business coming in we would expect year two to be better than year one in ordinary circumstances, so the pleasant surprise for us was even though year two was a pandemic, we still saw that trajectory continuing upward. The growth has come from our traditional areas of business. Firstly, we have seen a lot of insurance startups. The pandemic has thrown off new risks that need to be financed through insurance products, meaning new opportunities in new jurisdictions. Secondly, growth has come in the digital asset business sector. Looking forward, we expect more of the same heightened activity that we have already been seeing across the various elements of insurance and reinsurance, namely ILS, life reinsurance, catastrophic risks, large, capitalized companies, small to medium-sized companies, and digital assets as well.
What are your main priorities for the firm going through 2021?
We were successful in 2020 to navigate our way to where we steadily increased business flow, with high employee engagement and productivity. Our number one priority for 2021 remains keeping our people safe and productive as we continue to navigate and change with what the pandemic presents to us. International business for the jurisdiction has been strong through 2020 and 2021 so far. Our focus is to help our staff to continue the transition to what I think is going to be the new way of doing business. How we marketed our business in the past is going to be different in the future. How we engage on a day-to-day basis with colleagues and with clients is going to be different. We have been dealing with that already, but as 2021 continues we will be figuring out which elements are permanent changes, and which were just a function of a temporary crisis period. I think that the pandemic has changed the way people will want to work in the future. There will be more flexibility in the workplace, a greater use of technology to permit real-time interactions. These are good and positive outcomes which have the potential to improve both work-life balance and productivity. I am optimistic of the changes that may come. Working with our staff to transition to that new way of doing business is my key focus for our business for the remainder of 2021 and going into 2022.
What are the main existential challenges for Bermuda and how can thejurisdiction tackle the most recent paradigm changes?
We have operated in a global economic environment where, over the past 20 years, there have been almost constant shifts in terms of the playing field and challenges that have been described as ‘existential’. Whether they be changes designed to shut out the international financial centers entirely from global commerce, or regulatory changes that make it more difficult for insurers or reinsurers to underwrite businesses, Bermuda has faced a steady stream of these challenges in the past and has successfully come through them. I think that we will, as a jurisdiction, look to address emerging challenges in the same way that we have done and had success in the past.
What is Bermuda’s unique value proposition compared to other small island economies and what is it really like to live there?
When I think of Bermuda, three words come to mind: transparency, efficiency, and accessibility. Transparency has always been a hallmark of our jurisdiction. It is a lovely island with warm friendly people. Obviously, I am biased, but even from an objective perspective, I do not think there are many places like Bermuda in the world.
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