In photo: Abir Inaugural Scholars (L to R) John Huff (Abir); Maamoun Rajeh (Arch Re); US Consul General Karen Grissette, Kallan Richardson (Abir/Arch Scholar), Premier David Burt, Miguel Simas (Abir/RenaissanceRe Scholar), Shannon Lowry Bender (RenaissanceRe), Dr. Phyllis Curtis-Tweed (Bermuda College) (Photograph supplied)
Kallan Richardson and Miguel Simas are two of life’s go-getters. The shining stars are currently loving life in New York as the first winners of a new scholarship award at St John’s University’s Maurice R Greenberg School of Risk Management, Insurance and Actuarial Science, in conjunction with the Association of Bermuda Insurers and Reinsurers (ABIR).
The Bermuda College reinsurance graduates claimed their golden opportunities thanks to their determination to go the extra mile to make connections and impress key decision-makers.
Mr Simas, 20, a former CedarBridge Academy pupil, is studying risk management and insurance after being awarded the scholarship from RenaissanceRe last year.
He recalled how his first interview with RenRe ended in disappointment. “They said there were other candidates stronger than me,” he said. “I never gave up. I kept speaking to ABIR and trying to push and push. Then RenRe contacted me again. By the time the second interview came around, I had secured an internship, I had a plan mapped out. So, by then I felt pretty confident. That’s when they informed me, after that interview, that they’d given me the scholarship.
“Rejection hurt but I kept pushing and I kept trying and I think that’s why ultimately they decided to reverse their decision and give me a chance.”
Mr Richardson, a former Berkeley Institute pupil, is studying actuarial science after winning the Arch Re award at just 16-years-old. “I managed to get it in a rather unorthodox way because I didn’t apply for it initially. I was at Bermuda College, taking one of my classes about insurance. They had a guest speaker come on who was Marc Grandisson, the CEO of Arch Capital,” he said.
“I reached out to him after the class and was able to meet with him. It was a really good opportunity because I spoke to him and I was able to get an internship. After I was there for maybe a month or so they called me into a meeting and asked if I would like to go to St John’s and they would cover my education!”
That relationship with Mr Grandisson was crucial in opening doors.
Mr Richardson, now 17, said of the internship: “Everyone at Arch is pretty friendly and helpful. It’s really interesting to be able to see what’s happening in the real world. It also helps you solidify what you want to do. It’s been a real opportunity to allow me to get my foot in the door.”
Mr Simas has a similar story about his time at RenRe.
“Even if it’s not in underwriting, getting your foot in the industry is a big plus,” he said. “Because it’s insurance, everything’s linked together and everyone knows each other. In Bermuda, everyone knows everyone. You will meet someone one day and you will run into them at the supermarket the next. That’s how it works.”
He initially had to readjust to life in the classroom after going through remote learning while at Bermuda College, but the experience has not been daunting.
“At St John’s, they don’t always have huge lecture halls. It’s like high school classrooms,” he said. “You get a more personal relationship with the professor – it’s not like you’re just another body in a huge hall.
The work in the US wasn’t much more difficult than in Bermuda. I finished the semester with a 4.0. I never had a 4.0 before! Once you put in the work, you’ll get it.”
Mr Richardson agreed.
“Two classes were harder than my usual classes, and my other three classes were easier than my previous classes,” he said. “At Bermuda College there was a lot more pure math, now it’s starting to focus more directly on actuarial science. I would say it was a little bit less than what I’ve seen before because I was doing six classes at Bermuda College.”
New York, of course, is very different to Bermuda.
“It’s pretty nice, I’m not going to lie,” Mr Simas said. “I’m coming from this tiny island. I go to New York and I walk into Manhattan and you’re just another person. There’s so much diversity. You get to experience so many different cultures in one place. It’s awesome. There’s so much to do – it doesn’t compare to Bermuda.”
But, Mr Richardson noted, it’s not as warm.
“I’m still doing a lot of running which is interesting out here because it’s a bit cold. That takes some getting used to,” he said. “I just bought a bigger jacket to be ready for when it gets really cold!”
The scholarships are part of a strategic partnership between ABIR, Bermuda College and St John’s, and fund the students’ two-year tuition at St John’s. Awardees are also company interns and are guaranteed an entry position following graduation.
John Huff, ABIR CEO, said: “We felt like there was an opportunity to highlight the importance of a world-class risk management school, and highlight the best and brightest students to give them an opportunity to complete their risk management education with the hope that they will return to the island and continue in the insurance and reinsurance field.”
Mr Huff called on young people to make the most of Bermuda’s unique position as a tiny island with access to major international companies: “I would venture to say that per square mile we have more insurance sector talent than anywhere in the world. If this is an area of interest for you, take advantage of those opportunities to meet those leaders on island.”
And it looks like Mr Richardson and Mr Simas will be bringing their skills back to Bermuda when they graduate.
Mr Simas said: “Staying in Bermuda for a career in underwriting is the smart decision. I like Bermuda. It’s nice to be in New York, having a change, but I don’t know that I’ll stay in New York forever.”
Mr Richardson added: “Being close to family is nice and the reinsurance industry in Bermuda is so huge so that’s the perfect place to be.”