Mar 2020 Interview with Mr. Ross Webber, CEO of Bermuda Development Agency
The Bermuda Development Agency (BDA) is a public-private partnership that encourages investment in Bermuda and helps firms start or expand operations on the island. Its CEO, Ross Webber, provides a background to industry sectors that currently offer potential to new investors.
PR: How can the BDA facilitate new insurance business that is looking to come to Bermuda?
Ross Webber (RW): It is important to acknowledge that our bread-and-butter business of insurance and reinsurance is still the base of our economy. Our captive market continues to grow. Again our staple is solid US business, but we are finding growth in Canada and Latin America. Oil, gas and mining companies who have operations in Latin America are becoming much more familiar with self-retention products and Bermuda-based captives, and importantly, the regulatory regimes and the governments in those countries are becoming more and more comfortable with the fact that this is clear, clean, transparent and legitimate risk transfer. That comfort level is an enabler for more business for us and that is encouraging.
We have our long-term life insurance products represented collectively by a group called the Bermuda International Long Term Insurers and Reinsurers (BILTIR). 60 companies currently make up the BILTIR group and we can only see that growing. The final sector of the risk-solutions pillar is our insurance-linked securities (ILS) market. That keeps growing and we are continuing to see innovation here in Bermuda with new ILS products and derivatives. We believe that it is developing here in Bermuda because of the intellectual capital that is based here, the regulatory environment that is here, the ingenious foresight of setting up special purpose insurance in 2009 and the fact that we have a regulator that comes to the table and listens, learns and adapts as these products are being developed.
PR: What about the development of other industry sectors?
RW: That is correct, JAMPRO is working on an online-one-stop-shop. A portal that will allow online transactions directly with the government for private businesses.
PR: In the midst of a complex global economic scenario, i.e. slowdown of Europe, China and emerging markets, along with depressed commodity prices, diverging monetary policies and depreciation of emerging currencies… What is your vision regarding the economic outlook for Jamaica?
RW: Outside of our normal markets we are looking at greater diversification within international business and financial services. Hospitality and the tourism industry are also growing, which helps to balance our economy, as it is important that we have an international business sector that is not solely dependent on insurance and reinsurance.
Our asset management industry is long established and for several decades we were the leading hedge fund domicile. However, due to the success of our insurance industry, you found a lot of talent drifted towards that and our regulation did not keep pace with customer demand. We are now looking to get some of the business back. What is important is that we do not want bulk business back. We want high-level complex transactional business that adds greater value to our audience, advisors, regulators and law firms. What we are looking at is, for example, insurance-linked hedge-fund business and collateralized reinsurance, and a lot of those fund managers that have become comfortable with our reinsurance platform are starting to gain awareness of the fact that they can launch regular hedge funds from Bermuda as well. We have seen a return of some of the world’s leading asset allocators.
We are constantly tweaking our partnership legislation to make us more interesting for private equity, which has resulted in a growth in that business. And our limited-liability-company legislation was introduced recently and welcomed positively, because it is robust and qualitative. Another big focus for us right now are the biotech and fintech sectors. We are pleased to have a new life science data company that we recently relocated to here from Switzerland. We are using those first-mover companies to spread the word and let the world know there are more companies that can benefit from relocating to Bermuda. We have been doing a lot of research into what type of fintech community we can build here and are in discussions to set up a fintech incubator in Bermuda. We are leaning more towards insurtech and rectech as our niche at the moment, but we will keep on developing.