“Where we can give back… then we should do that with open arms”
Not content with the Herculean task that was building out a pure-play reinsurer in the thick of the COVID-19 crisis, the leadership team at Conduit Re founded the Conduit Foundation to run alongside the business as a privately funded Bermuda charity.
Among its London-listed peers, Conduit Re is unusual in that all its business operations are based in Bermuda, noted Stuart Quinlan (pictured) COO and deputy CEO of Conduit Re, and the leadership team have been very focused on the importance of establishing itself in the local Bermuda community, both within the industry and more widely.
How the Conduit Re Foundation came to life
The Conduit Foundation is part of that story, he said, and looking back on how the foundation came to life, he emphasised its mission statement – to support the Bermuda community through engagement in projects focused on the environment, diversity & inclusion initiatives, education and support for the vulnerable. Now three years into his Conduit Re journey and three years into enjoying a new pace of life in Bermuda after decades serving the London insurance market, Quinlan has first-hand experience of what it means to really get involved with the Bermuda community.
“There are only around 60,000 people across the 24-mile-long island of Bermuda, and you’re never more than a mile from seeing the sea,” he said. “You’re really never more than five minutes from seeing someone that you know, particularly as you get more established and it’s a phenomenally friendly place… And I see Bermuda as an almost microcosm of almost anywhere else in the world, but with everything closer together and a small population meaning fewer degrees of separation than elsewhere.
Assessing the wealth divide in Bermuda
In Bermuda, you’ve got examples of tremendous wealth, he said, with a sizable affluent segment of local society engaged in local and international business, while others live in real poverty, exacerbated by high housing costs and the implications of a high dependence on imports.
“For Trevor [Carvey, CEO] and for Neil [Eckert, executive chairman], they were driven about setting up a foundation if we were creating a business here,” he said. “We raised a significant amount of funds to create the organisation, and a significant portion of the initial seed fund of the foundation was donated by the banks who helped us create Conduit. So, the first year was really about establishing the protector committee and setting up all the necessary legal structures for the foundation.
“It was into 2022 that we got more active, but we determined very early on that we wanted our focus to be on Bermuda. And we have some simple goals – supporting the vulnerable, the advancement of education and supporting the health of the Bermuda community.”
In 2022, the inaugural year of donations, the Conduit Foundation donated to 14 local charities – among them the cancer care charity P.A.L.S, Meals on Wheels Bermuda, the Friends of Christchurch and the Bermuda Red Cross. These charities shared in donations of $280,000 but Quinlan noted that the support offered by the Conduit Re team goes far beyond financial considerations.
Supporting communities – why it’s about more than just money
“In some ways, it’s easy to just give out cheques to charities, but for us, it’s about the doing as well,” he said. “We’re looking to foster long-term partnerships with our chosen causes, which includes volunteering from our staff, as well as knowledge and skills sharing. Looking at Meals on Wheels, for example, we’ve taken ownership of delivery route 16 on a Friday and on our intranet, we have a relay system of volunteers who go out to learn and teach the route allowing more and more of our people to get involved.
“The impact of the financial contributions from the foundation is amplified by our staff directly engaging in volunteering with the charities. In 2022 alone, over 2,000 volunteer hours were tracked by Conduit staff. And over 70% of our employees have local roots and are embedded in various community initiatives and activities. Additionally, financial support was given to a number of other local charity groups through specific fundraising event sponsorship and through donations under the staff donation matching program.”
Quinlan highlighted that the foundation seeks to align its contributions both to its objectives and the UN Sustainable Development Goals. During 2022, he said, the organisation supported 15 of the 17 UN categories through the support given to Bermuda charities during the funding review and approval process.
Conduit Re’s ‘Gala of Giving’
While Conduit Re is not unique in supporting local causes, Quinlan noted that he was keen to cast the net more widely and had the idea of a community ‘Gala of Giving’, drawing on his experience of organising similar events in the UK.
The leadership team at Conduit Re endorsed Quinlan’s ambition and the full force of the Foundation’s power was applied raising additional funds for the 14 local Bermuda charities chosen by the Foundation in 2022 to support. Looking back on the event, which was a mammoth undertaking, bringing together people from all over the island and beyond – and linking them up with representatives from the charities being supported, he emphasised the impact having that personal example of where this funding goes made on everybody present.
“It was a great experience to coordinate the organisation of the event, with the active participation of the Bermuda business community” he said, which, thanks to ticket sales and donated auction items, raised in excess of $310,000 which will be split equally to the beneficiary charities of the 2023 event. More than 30 Bermuda businesses contributed to the auction and 340 guests were welcomed on the evening which shows the integral link between business and community – which is so celebrated by Conduit Re.
Understanding the link between insurance and the communities it serves
“I 100% believe it’s important to support the community you serve and the community you live in,” he said. “I feel very privileged to be living here now. Especially having had 30 years of commuting on trains and tubes! To come in and help build and create a business from scratch, to get involved in the community and have the chance to really impact it, and make a difference, it’s such a special experience.
“I also believe that being able to talk about the Conduit Foundation’s impact on the community, perhaps also encourages people to think about our industry as being a good industry to come into. One amazing thing about Bermuda for me, is that nowhere else in the world do you really have children growing up thinking they want to join the insurance and reinsurance industry. We’re so relevant as an industry here, and where we can give back some of our time and money, then we should do that with open arms.”
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