“Willis Re – How alumni in NYC are managing catastrophic risk in the reinsurance industry”

Bentley students who attended this week’s “Success in the City” trip to NYC got a first-hand look at the reinsurance industry with a visit to Willis Re.  Alumni Brad Sforza, ’00 SVP, Amisha Patel ’12 and Kelly Brown ‘13 provided 23 Bentley students with a primer on the reinsurance industry. Reinsurance firms insure traditional insurance firms against outsized or catastrophic losses from such rare events as natural disasters (CA wildfires, mid-west tornadoes, east coast hurricanes). Recent Bentley graduates have joined Willis’ reinsurance analyst program – a rigorous 18-month development program that hones analytical skills and that educates students to assess and manage reinsurance risk.

Sforza, who regularly recruits math, actuarial and finance majors from Bentley, highlighted the many challenging opportunities that Willis offers to Bentley students and the global career progression that can follow. It was no surprise that strong analytical and quantitative skills, particularly excel modeling expertise, are in high demand by the firm. Equally important, however, are “softer” competencies including platform skills (presentations to executives are part of the training program), the ability to collaborate (Willis’ structure is team-based), organizational skills and a strong work ethic.

In response to a student question, Sforza dove into the topic of catastrophe bonds to demonstrate how hedge funds are now competing with reinsurance firms in the current low interest rate environment.
Sforza detailed how hedge funds, in pursuit of high (and uncorrelated) investment returns are issuing catastrophe bonds to protect firms against global natural disasters (hurricanes, tornadoes, cyclones and tidal waves) resulting in downward pressure on reinsurance rates. To compete, Willis Re, and other reinsurers such as Guy Carpenter and Aon, is venturing into the capital markets by offering its own unique underwriting skills and expertise to generate fee income from these alternative sources of capital.

Less than 48 hours after Sforza’s presentation, Helen Thomas, writing for The Wall Street Journal (8/23/13) covers the exact same issue in “Catastrophe Insurers Must Adapt to Inclement Weather”.

Another example of Bentley students (and alumni) on the cutting edge of a dynamic industry.

Len Morrison

Director, Undergraduate Career Services

By Leonard Morrison
Leonard Morrison Director of Undergraduate Career Services