Women in Reinsurance Panel Discussion

March 13, 2012

Reinsurance industry networking group WiRe [Women in Reinsurance], last Thursday hosted a leadership panel discussion titled “Building Your Bench.”

The industry leaders who have each successfully led a start-up reinsurance company were asked: how they chose their teams; what competencies, experience, skills, and personalities they sought in their starting line-ups; their business goals and strategies; and how they felt their starting benches would help them achieve these goals.

Panelists included industry veteran Don Kramer, founder, Chairman & CEO of ILS Capital Management Ltd. who has a long history in the insurance and reinsurance business; John Berger, Chairman and CEO of Third Point Re, who has over 30 years of experience in the reinsurance industry; Susan Patschak, CEO of Canopius Bermuda Limited and Canopius Underwriting Bermuda Limited since their start-up in 2007, with over 25 years experience in the industry; and Conan Ward, CEO of Validus Reinsurance, with 20 years of experience in the insurance and reinsurance industry.

Women underwriters, brokers and other professionals working within Bermuda’s reinsurance industry were invited to the event as one of WiRe’s ongoing professional development opportunities aimed at women in the reinsurance field. The event coincided appropriately with International Women’s Day.

The Panel discussed their thoughts on what it takes to build a starting “bench”. Panelists all agreed that when building a company you don’t typically have the luxury of time, looking to people you know or recommendations from people you know is critical. The audience take away was to be sure to continue to network throughout your career.

As Susan Patschak said “I have always been of the opinion that you can never meet enough people”. Building relationships so you can have resources for career advice is also important. John Berger thought that the being a member of WiRe is a great way to build these valuable relationships.

Other topics discussed were career advice and tips, the importance of corporate culture, career breaks, mistakes and what the panel learned from them, starting a company in the current environment and women in the C-Suite.

Conan Ward said, “Do what you enjoy. If you like it enough and are good at it you will be successful”. Don Kramer added, “Liking what you do is why I keep starting companies and why I am such a miserable retiree”. John Berger agreed, “You will know that it’s the right job when it doesn’t feel like work”.

Mr Kramer quipped that he has never really “worked his way up” in an organization. He suggested that his real skill is hiring great people and allowing them the freedom to do what they do best.

MsPatschak offered the following explanation as to why there are not as many women in the C-Suite as some of us would like, “Reinsurance is tough. Travel, long hours, and entertaining. Its tough to do it all and many women decide it just isn’t worth the sacrifice. But if you are willing to make the sacrifice then there are opportunities, but you can’t expect to be nine to five and get to the C-Suite”.

The membership that attended enjoyed the panel’s relaxed and open approach. One of our younger members pointed out, “Having this kind of direct access to experienced professionals in the industry is a unique and valuable opportunity”.

WiRe – Women in Reinsurance is a networking group for professional women working within Bermuda reinsurance industry including underwriters, brokers and other professionals. WiRe’s mission is to provide a platform for the professional development of women in the field of Reinsurance through networking, education, and informal mentoring. WiRe has 57 members currently and over 100 women on their distribution list.

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  1. Michelle Crawford says:


    Great article. Do you have contact details for someone at WiRe as I’d like to get involved.