Ten years on, Bevis Tetlow – Chair of North America and Caribbean – recalls his first arrival on a wet and windy Bermuda.
Back in 2005, a former colleague - Adam Alvarez - and I were running our own independent consultancy and building pricing applications for a number of clients including Hiscox. Then Hurricane Katrina happened and we were summoned to see Hiscox's Chief Underwriting Officer (now Chairman) - Rob Childs. Expecting trouble we were more than surprised to be offered the chance to help set up a reinsurance business in Bermuda for Hiscox.
Only a month later, we landed in Bermuda for the first time to be met by a cold and disappointingly wet and dark Bermuda - it was the onset of winter - with a job to get the business up and running for the 1 January 2006 reinsurance renewals.
The most expensive data entry clerk in the world
Adam and I joined up with Chris Sharpe who had already arrived as well as Rob Childs of course and Philip Vandoninck. We started out by renting some space in the IS building on Church Street, sharing the space and meeting rooms with Lancashire and Amlin. There were no systems set up so we had to start from scratch, plugging in our own computers as well as getting out there to find new business to write. Our first risks were written up on a whiteboard until we had our systems up and running. It was all very much hands-on; we all mucked in together. We used to joke that Rob Childs was the most expensive data entry clerk in the world. The great thing was, if you could persuade Rob that something was a good idea, we could make things happen very quickly such was the entrepreneurial spirit at that time.
We're a very different business now as Hiscox Re having formally combined our operation with Hiscox's London and Paris reinsurance teams in 2014, but still like to think we've retained that entrepreneurial attitude to working with our brokers and clients.
The reinsurance business has also changed hugely in that time. Reinsurance capacity back then was a valuable commodity. A US$10 million line on a Florida risk was a big deal and brokers chased for that capacity. But these days, with the market awash, capacity alone is no longer so exciting for brokers. Now it's more about what we can do for the client to make sure they stay with us and how we market ourselves as a value adding business. I also do way more travel than I used to. When we first arrived we weren't even allowed to take a Blackberry to the US such was the regulatory concern about the perception of doing business off the island.
The commute is rather nice
From a personal perspective, I grew up in Tanzania so I'm used to an ex-pat lifestyle and working in Bermuda has always suited me. It's a very friendly island and the pleasurable commute to work - a short scooter ride with views of the ocean - is rather nice. I thought when I started that I'd only be here for a couple of years but ten years later, the office has gone from strength to strength and we now have more than 50 people. In that first year we wrote $166 million of GWP and a decade later, we're a key part of a Hiscox Re business that wrote more than $711 million last year.
(See above, from left to right, Rob Childs, Bevis Tetlow, Adam Alvarez, Philip Vandoninck and Chris Sharpe celebrating New Year’s Eve in Bermuda’s Café Cairo in December 2005).
The original content can be found on the Hiscox Re website