Two years ago, after nearly 20 years of living and working in the reinsurance industry in Bermuda, Stephen Weinstein joined the BIOS board as a trustee. Passionate about the island, committed to business development, and keen to promote initiatives and solutions related to the global risk of climate change, he strives to combine these elements. BIOS, he said, is a key player.
“The world’s biggest problem, once we put the pandemic behind us, is the global risk of climate change. Climate change, apart from the obvious risks to health and biodiversity, entails significant financial risks to businesses and governments,” he said. “At the same time, climate change is giving rise to the world’s biggest investment and business opportunities.”
Bermuda, he said, with its decades of strength in natural catastrophe risk management, has built a critical mass of highly-relevant human capital and talent as well as the ideal regulatory environment to oversee and support this sector.
Weinstein, 52, and his wife, Anne Carmignani, moved to Bermuda from New York City in 2001. For 19 years, Weinstein served as RenaissanceRe’s chief legal officer, with responsibility for legal, regulatory, government affairs, and compliance matters on a global basis for insurance and reinsurance. He also served as chair of the RenaissanceRe Risk Sciences Foundation, supporting engagement and research relating to climate risk, resilience, and natural disasters. Prior to joining RenaissanceRe, Weinstein specialized in corporate law as an attorney at an international law firm. He departed RenaissanceRe as executive vice-president, group general counsel, corporate secretary, and chief compliance officer in December 2020 and now serves as an adviser.
Weinstein is a frequent speaker on legal and regulatory matters and serves on the boards of several industry groups. On island, he is chair of the Bermuda Business Development Agency and serves on the Bermuda Covid-19 Economic Advisory Committee. He began serving on the BIOS board in 2019.
How did you come to know BIOS?
My connection dates back to the early 1990s, as the Bermuda reinsurance market took root after Hurricane Andrew hit the southern Atlantic region in an enormously expensive and disruptive way. At that time, I was an attorney based in New York City with a roster of clients that were active in Bermuda. My favorite client was RenaissanceRe, which I ultimately joined. The scale of Hurricane Andrew disrupted the market at a rate of 10 times what the market had previously estimated to be a probable maximal loss. It changed the way we thought about climate-driven catastrophes, particularly hurricanes, and their impacts on the market.
When the wave of new companies established themselves in Bermuda, they found the world-class scientists at BIOS. Together they founded the Risk Prediction Initiative (RPI) at the Institute. It became for me and others a trusted, academic validator for understanding risk. RPI’s contributions were really significant in the industry advances of that period.
I’ll add that my two children were born in Bermuda and participated in BIOS programs, from studying coral to looking for turtles. Like so many students in the public and private schools, my kids had an opportunity to benefit from the educational opportunities at BIOS.
What sparked your interest in the ocean and climate issues?
In business I have long been interested in climate and aware of the risks we face with climate change. But my interest in this accelerated when I began living in Bermuda and shifted from a life in a downtown Manhattan office. Also, after my children were born, I thought more concretely beyond my own life span to the future of the island and planet that I hope my grandkids will inherit.
What inspired you to join the board?
It came from my roots of arriving on the island in the 1990s and how impressed I had been with BIOS. I fell in love with Bermuda as an ideal place to live and work. It struck me as the best place to study the world’s ocean, because of our island’s location out in the deep ocean. It also stems from my passion of promoting Bermuda on the world stage, especially with the U.S., one of the key jurisdictions that we serve as a business community.
What qualities do you bring to the board?
Reverence for Bermuda. Almost three decades in and around boardrooms thinking about and implementing governance. The ability to promote balance between a globally-important set of scientific missions and our unique status as a Bermuda-based institution.
Many of our trustees at BIOS are from outside of Bermuda, and as a person living here I wanted to offer a connection to the island and also bring the collaboration that I have with businesses in Bermuda and globally.
An aspiration that I have, that I think I share with the BIOS management and leadership team, is to find ways for BIOS to be relevant in the emerging sector of climate-risk finance in the same way that we became relevant for U.S. catastrophe reinsurance in the mid-1990s. As we try to recruit business people to Bermuda, I suspect they will have research needs that BIOS may be uniquely positioned to explore on their behalf.
Extreme heat, ocean warming, wildfires, sea level rise – there are so many ways that the scientific capacity at BIOS can help players in the market, while providing exciting research opportunities to the faculty. As the capabilities of BIOS and our partners expand, our relevance to market participants expands. I think I am well-positioned to help be a bridge to that through government initiatives and fostering business development.
As a board member, where do you focus your energy?
One way I have focused my energies over the last two years has been listening and learning about BIOS, its capabilities, challenges, and culture. I have been exposed to the remarkable research that goes on at BIOS. I see many exciting initiatives that have the potential to be of significant import. I am proud to be associated with the educational opportunities, such as Ocean Academy, for students located on and off-island. I am so proud that we have been able to provide education that is relevant during the pandemic. Going forward, I would like for even more Bermudians to use and appreciate BIOS programs.
From a Bermuda Business Development Agency perspective, once we get through the pandemic, climate risk is our next focus in planning for the future. I call out BIOS specifically and frequently for its important competitive advantage to help us attract investment. Investors and entrepreneurs are increasingly focused on climate and concerned to know that the communities they invest in are aligned with those themes.
Our aspiration is to establish Bermuda as the world’s capital for climate risk finance. Bermuda now has three decades of strength and leadership in natural catastrophe risk management, including climate-driven perils. Our next big step is to build on this strength and expand into new segments of financial services working to address the ever-broader needs of financial exposures arising from climate risk.
We can’t say that we have a depth of expertise in Bermuda in, say, neurology. But in climate risk, we do. I am confident that Bermuda will punch above its weight to help the world study and reduce the risks of climate change. I am certain that BIOS will continue to play an important and inspiring leadership role.