Convergence 2020 report

Convergence 2020 draws record overseas attendance

ILS Bermuda turned a problem into an advantage with its Convergence 2020 conference, using the need to host its first digital event as an opportunity to expand its reach and attract a record number of overseas delegates. Bermuda:Re+ILS reports.

Insurance-linked securities (ILS) practitioners—like just about everyone else—have become very familiar with the digital conference format in 2020. Many will have been disappointed that their usual trip to Bermuda for ILS Bermuda’s annual Convergence event could not go ahead this year.

There was some consolation to be found, however, in the news that ILS Bermuda had developed a digital conference to run in its place, a little later than it is usually held.

For those ILS-curious executives who struggle to justify the journey, however, it was unequivocally good news. While it may not be possible for everyone to get away for a week to attend this event physically, it was much easier to make time for an event that could be logged into from the office—and at a time of their choosing.

“Content will be more about super-high quality and relevance over sheer volume.” Kathleen Faries, ILS Bermuda

Many did exactly that, with Convergence 2020 drawing a record number of overseas visitors from countries such as Australia, Bermuda, Canada, Cayman Islands, Germany, Guernsey, Hong Kong, Ireland, Malaysia, Netherlands, Singapore, Spain, Switzerland, the UK and the US. In all more than 400 people tuned in for the first virtual event, which ran from October 6 to 8.

Kathleen Faries, chair of ILS Bermuda, noted that event organisers have learned a lot this year from putting on virtual events, arguing that the experience should not be wasted even once social distancing guidelines ease and delegates are allowed to gather in person and shake hands.

“It’s likely that future events in physical locations will also have a virtual element for those who are unable to travel and attend,” explained Faries. “The pandemic has simply accelerated a trend that was already taking place.”

At Convergence 2019 some presentations were given remotely, and Faries says the 2020 event was merely an expansion of the same principle.

“This is something we will undoubtedly continue to do even if all travel restrictions are lifted,” she said. “It improves accessibility for attendees on a budget or for those who are unable to travel in a ‘normal’ year.”

Virtual events will continue to improve as organisers experiment and learn from each other, Faries predicted.

“Content will be more about super-high quality and relevance over sheer volume,” she added.

Networking still possible

“Virtual event solutions are wide-ranging and can vary dramatically based on the event, the content offering and of course the platform itself,” noted Gemma Godfrey, chief operations officer at The Whitfield Group, which helped organise the event.

The ILS Convergence platform sets itself apart from many other virtual events by giving attendees superior virtual networking opportunities, she said. This includes the ability to reach out directly and communicate with colleagues, clients and prospects.

“There is a very good opportunity for attendees to make meaningful connections and for sponsors to use this as a targeted marketing campaign,” said Godfrey.

“We are already looking ahead at concepts for next year.” Gemma Godfrey, The Whitfield Group

“We believe our online platform is robust and will afford attendees the same opportunities to learn about the latest trends in ILS and hear from leading scientists and experts in their fields, as well as network with investors, managers and others in the ILS market.” Technology will continue to improve and open up new opportunities for virtual events, noted Godfrey.

“The virtual conference and meetings space is evolving at a fast pace,” she said. “Companies who work in the event space are innovators by design, so we are already looking ahead at concepts for next year, which could include a hybrid event as one of several offerings.” Nevertheless, physical conferences can offer something that virtual conferences cannot replicate.

“It’s no secret that some of the most valuable connections at events and conferences are made around the event, either in networking sessions or during evening socials,” said Godfrey.

“Each year we have a number of scientists join us on the event agenda and often they remain for the duration of the event to mingle and meet with our attendees which has always been well received in the past.”

ILS showcase

Whether the event is held in person or digitally, Bermuda’s flagship ILS event continues to showcase the Island as the world’s risk capital and centre of innovation for re/insurance, as well as the predominant jurisdiction for ILS.

Greg Wojciechowski, president and chief executive of the Bermuda Stock Exchange (BSX) and sponsor of Convergence, said: “Global issuance of ILS was approximately $42 billion at the end of Q3, 2020 and the BSX is by far the world’s leading exchange for ILS, including listings from other jurisdictions, with more than 500 listed issuers and $39.6 billion in market capital outstanding at end of September 2020.”

He added: “ILS vehicles have been identified as sustainable investments that provide resilience and help communities recover following natural disasters and the effects of climate change.

“Our ability to continue to provide a solid commercial platform, supported by world-class infrastructure and a well-respected regulatory framework, will ensure that Bermuda remains at the forefront of this market and its transformation for many years to come.”

Roland Andy Burrows, chief executive of the Bermuda Business Development Agency welcomed the success of the virtual event which, he noted, had allowed market participants to maintain their connections and conversations with each other.

“The Bermuda market remains the leading jurisdiction for ILS issuances and is perfectly positioned to help drive its continued evolution and growth,” he added.

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October 2020

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