Bermuda: Insurance’s Neverland

Insurance in Bermuda

Living and working in Bermuda might be a great career move if you work in the insurance or reinsurance industry. If you’re looking to move out to Bermuda, this article will give you a little more detail on the island’s lifestyle and what you can expect to find.

Bermuda has been on the cutting edge of insurance innovation and insurance-related capital solutions for years and there are real opportunities to live and work in one of the few places in the world where big business meets island life.  The island initially built a reputation for providing captive insurance products, before moving on to develop into one of the largest centres in the world for property and casualty catastrophe insurance and reinsurance.

If you are considering working within Bermuda’s insurance industry, consider the facts: you could be working with some of the best minds in the industry and on some of the most innovative solutions the industry has to offer; your pockets will be bulging and if you don’t have a complexion like Casper the friendly ghost, you’ll probably end up with a perma-tan Simon Cowell would be envious of.

In 2007 and 2008, I was lucky enough to work for a reinsurance company on the island and I am a huge fan. The lifestyle is incredible and the benefits are fantastic. I’ll try and get passed my bias opinion and set out the pros and the cons so you can decide for yourself if it’s a place you could live and work.

The facts about working in Bermuda’s insurance industry

  • Let’s start with the money – moving to Bermuda is like putting on a pair of golden handcuffs. Most people who move out to Bermuda are already working in reinsurance and will be earning very good money, however, to attract talented individuals away from other insurance centres like New York and London, companies have to pay a price. At a gross level, salaries are often over and above what you would get in the same position in another location. Then consider the tax benefits. Bermuda has no state, social security, or medicare taxes. There used to be no income tax, but that has now changed and there is a payroll tax, however most companies pay this on your behalf. So assuming your company pays the payroll tax on top of your salary, your gross salary is what you get in your bank.

The government collect tax in other ways and most of their tax bill comes from the country’s imports, meaning usually fairly low priced goods tend to be expensive. For example, milk and bread are about three times the price in Bermuda. But you can cope on a Bermudian salary and bonus.

  • Another huge pull factor, is that if you are in a front line job, like an underwiter or broker, you will receive a significant housing allowance from your company. You might not be able to get a Stepford Wives house, but most times this will get you a nice place.

If you’re thinking you would like to buy a house when you get out to Bermuda, think again. If you’re not Bermudian, house prices start at about $1.7 million (with an extra 20% tax to the government). This is basically to ensure expats don’t buy up all the houses.

So financially, moving out to Bermuda could be worth your while. Not only that, the lifestyle is unbelievable for those who are outgoing and generally sporty.

  • Bermuda has the highest concentration of golf courses, per square mile than any other country in the world. It boasts nine of the most idyllic courses I have ever set foot on and on one of the course’s ninth hole tees you can see the Atlantic on both the south and the north sides of the island – I’ll let you discover which one.
  • If you are a sailor, you’re in luck. Buy yourself a boat or get yourself a crew spot on someone else’s boat and start competing at the yacht club on Wednesday evenings or take part in round the island races on the weekend. If you’re not a sailor, it’s a great opportunity to learn; get stuck in and learn the ropes.
  • Kitesurfing is a huge sport on the south shore of Bermuda, with people heading down to Elbow beach in the evenings for a session. You can even find surf on the island at the right time of year.

Aside from sailing, kitesurfing and golf, Bermuda has a very active expat community with dive clubs, beach volley ball, cricket, football, squash, wakeboarding and lots of tennis. Everyone is out there to earn some money and have a great time, and you’ll get integrated into people’s groups quickly and wrapped up in the island life.

  • And have I mentioned the beaches? Bermuda’s beaches are beautiful, and what better way of spending Christmas than to be popping open the bubbly on horseshoe bay.

I said I’d get to the negatives. The three months of winter can drag, you will get cabin fever and need to leave the island at least 4 times a year and if you’re a single guy coming to the island, don’t expect girls on tap. The nightlife is pretty limited as well. But if you can get over that, Bermuda has a lot to offer.

Now for the admin.

Work Permits: Work permits take roughly 3-4 months to obtain and they are basically a formality when you have a confirmed job. The only reason you might not get one, is if you’ve been in jail or have some weird tropical disease.

Children: You cannot move to Bermuda with more than 2 children. If you do have more after your arrival you might get a hard time.

Transport: You are only allowed one car per family, but if I were you, I’d buy yourself a scooter, take the test (a couple of figure of eights) and start living the real island life. Taxi’s are useless on the island and the best thing to do is find yourself a reliable taxi driver, get their number and ring them directly. Buses and ferry’s are available on the island, but they never really get you to where you want to go and their awful if you want to discover the hidden gems of the island, and count out renting a car – the best you’ll get is a two-seater scooter. They also drive on the left.

Connectivity: Generally, there are 10 flights in and out every day. Direct flights fly to London, Atlanta, Boston, JFK, Newark, Philladelphia, Toronto and Charlotte (seasonal only), but anywhere else, you have to connect. Connectivity isn’t great as you have to change if you want to go further afield, and the flight times mean you can end up wasting a day either side if you are.

Weather: Summer starts in about May and ends in September, but it is only really cold in December, January and February. Bear in mind, the winter weather sucks – it’s cold and it rains and there isn’t a lot to do indoors.

Don’t be fooled – this isn’t Jamaica. In the winter the highs are in the 60’s (15°C ) and the lows in the 50’s (10°C ). It isn’t NYC but it can be pretty nippy in the winter evenings when the wind blows. Beach weather lasts from March through to December for people from colder climates or May – September for those that don’t get in the water unless the water temperature is over 80(30°C). In the summer the highs are in the high 80’s (30°C) and lows in the low 80’s (25°C), but it will feel a lot hotter because of the humidity.

Food: The food on the island is excellent, especially the seafood. There are great restaurants and a good range, as long as you don’t like fast food – there’s only one KFC on the island.

Dating: I recommend moving out to Bermuda with a girlfriend or boyfriend, wife or husband. As the islands economy is predominantly insurance and finance, you find a huge imbalance between men and women, so for a single guy, it can be pretty hard going. Also the community is very small and the island has a habit of knowing what you’ve been up to before you’ve even woken up.

Nightlife: Bermuda doesn’t have one. The best you’ve got is Front Street in Hamilton that has 5 or 6 pubs on it. It does get a bit more lively in the summer when the cruise ships come in, but they are gone before you know it.

All in all, I’d say the up sides far outweigh the downsides, and if you want to earn some money for a few years in the sun, and have a great lifestyle at the same time, there really is no better place.

If you’ve worked out in Bermuda, let us know what you thought of it.

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