Bermuda Director Chris Garrod sat down recently with CXO Magazine to share his insights on how technology is changing the insurance industry, the qualities required to be a successful finance leader in insurtech, future plans, pearls of wisdom, and much more. The following excerpts are taken from the interview.
In what ways do you feel technology is changing the insurance industry?
The insurance industry is very much customer-led, so there are several things. Digital transformation: AI, chatbots, smart contracts, and blockchain are just a few examples. There is a continuing rise of insurtech start-ups. We have our own regulatory environment in Bermuda with a very tech-savvy regulator, the Bermuda Monetary Authority, which has created a framework to attract “innovative” insurers to the Island.
But ultimately, customer service (and policyholder protection) is critical. While, for instance, smart contracts have a role for small claims, technology has its limits. Human input is always going to be required.
What would be the three keys insurance trends to help insurers future-proof their organizations in 2024?
Using algorithms when underwriting, machine learning will be used throughout the industry. That is a trend, but it honestly has been for a while!
Trying to handle the increasing longevity trend will be an issue in the life sector. We are all getting older! That will be a significant trend and, albeit challenge in 2024.
Finally, global property insurers should focus on climate risk and focus on sustainability. The risk that climate change will bring over the coming years is enormous, and – living on a 21 square-mile Island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean – I take it very seriously.
Tell us about your roles and responsibilities as a Director at Conyers.
I’m a Director in the Corporate Department of Conyers, which is Bermuda’s largest law firm, and I advise on all aspects of Bermuda corporate law. Of course, I am also in the Firm’s Bermuda insurance practice, specializing in M&A transactions and reinsurance structures, mainly working with or forming large commercial insurers and life reinsurers. I also handle fintech, insurtech, and digital transformation matters generally. Every day is different, which I really like.
I enjoy serving as an active member of the Bermuda Business Development Agency’s Fintech Legal and Regulatory Technology Sub-committee and am a director of the Association of Bermuda International Companies. I am also a director of the Bermuda Foundation of Insurance Studies.
What has been the challenge you have enjoyed most in your career?
Before I began my insurance practice, I was a general corporate practitioner during my first year at the Firm, for a short while. Then, a senior insurance partner came into the doorway of my office and said, “Chris, would you like to do insurance work?” She was so senior, I couldn’t say “no,” so I said, “Ok.”
We began working on a new large property reinsurance catastrophe start-up, which was going to do a private offering, and I worked with her for the first five or six years of my existence at the Firm. Looking back at that time while I was working and learning so much from her, it was probably not only the most challenging time I’ve had at the Firm but also rewarding.
According to you, what does it take to be a successful finance leader in the insurance industry?
It comes down to being able to manage. Listen to the people who you are working with. Empathy is critical to all of that. It would be best to build a culture within your firm of openness, trust, and willingness to accept different solutions to different problems. Management isn’t a one-way street.
You have spent more than 25 years of your career in the reinsurance market. What has made the industry so special for you?
I love to see how the way it has evolved. People may view the insurance industry as old and creaky, but it’s not. I am fortunate to be in Bermuda, which has a highly cutting-edge reinsurance market.
How do you like to spend your time when you are not working?
Other than with my family, I like to spend time writing. It’s still a work in progress, and I need to do loads to refine it, but www.commfailure.com is where I post my non-work stuff. I mostly do music reviews because that is my main passion… I cannot imagine a life without listening to music.
Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
As much as I’d love to say, “On a beach with a glass of… etc..” I still see myself at Conyers, doing what I am doing and helping our junior associates along the way, just as I was.
If you could have one superpower, what would you like it to be?
This is a tricky question, but I’d have to choose something like time travel! I love the idea of going back and, say, being able to listen to Louis Armstrong live, or possibly The Beatles (in the Cavern Club, undoubtedly!), or moving ahead in time to see what my kids (or grandkids) have to look forward to! When will we have flying cars?
What piece of advice would you give to aspiring professionals wishing to make a career in the insurance industry?
First, think about what you want to do. Underwriting? Legal? Actuarial? Something else? The industry isn’t just “insurance.” And once you have an idea, talk with others in the industry. I will fully admit, I don’t have a mathematical mind, so I knew I’d never want to be an actuary from the start.
But after taking a degree in law and working in London for a few years, returning to Bermuda, doing insurance legal and regulatory work felt natural.
I did two summer internships at Conyers before I started, which helped me decide. As I mentioned, I also was fortunate to have a fantastic mentor not long after I started.
It’s the little things that cumulate.
But just don’t be afraid to ask questions along the way.
This interview appeared on 6 October 2023 in CXO Magazine.