Meet a Reinsurance Executive - Peta White
Meet Peta White.
She is currently Co-Head of Global Reinsurance Operations, and Senior Managing Director, Head of North America Property Reinsurance. Prior to 2013, she was Managing Director Head of International Property. She joined the Company (formerly Max Re/Alterra) in 2006, as Senior Vice President, International Property Cat. She started her career in 1994 as a Cat Modeler at CAT Limited which was later acquired by ACE Tempest Re, where her role upon leaving in 2006 was Vice President, International Underwriter.
She has recently joined WiRe's board and also currently sits on the Board of Education for the Bermuda Insurance Institute.
Peta graduated from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1993. Earlier, she attended Gilbert Institute in Paget until she was 12 years old and then went away to boarding school in England and then Switzerland for secondary school.
Tell us about your life outside of work?
I am married to William and we have two children, Skyla who is 11 years old and Cooper who is 9 years old. William and I are both Bermudian and are proud and passionate about our country, Bermuda.
I am lucky enough to have the immense support of my husband who not only manages our home life but gives back to the island/community by donating his time as President of the Bermuda National Trust. We are both sailors, and love sailing – we met racing each other. I represented Bermuda in the Olympics in 2004 and he has had the opportunity to get involved with the Americas Cup as well and is currently serving as the Chair of the Security Committee.
What does it take to become a leader in the reinsurance market?
To be a good leader you need to be proactive with your people. Give guidance and direction but empower them and allow them to demonstrate their strengths. Let them own things and make their job meaningful. Provide goals and further education to help them on where they want to improve. They will feel valued. Also, a good leader has to take point when things go wrong. He/she cannot finger point, the buck stops with them.
If you have children, what tips do you have for balancing family commitments with career/clients?
The dynamic of this balance for each family differs depending on the age/needs of the children, where you are with climbing the corporate ladder and what support you have at home. At the end of the day, something has to give, something has to be sacrificed and if that is appreciated, then it can be less stressful. The balance for me has changed over the years, and the sacrifices are different for each of the different “stages”. For example, my children were both babies at home at the same time I had just moved jobs and was busy climbing some of the middle rungs of the ladder. I was there for the babies, I was there for work so sleep was sacrificed!
My best advice though is to be fully engaged for the moment – At work it is a little easier, to be fully engaged there, but more of a task is to be so when at home with the family. It is so easy to bring work home with you and you need to manage that. I rarely look at the phone or turn on the computer when I am home with the family and I never, ever pull it out at the family dinner table!
What are your biggest career accomplishments?
I am proud to have a couple big accomplishments under my belt. They really came about because I look at change as potential opportunities; you may have to be patient, look for them, work harder than you have before but they are there and it will pay dividends. When Max and Harbor Point merged, it was a big change and I took a step backwards in my role when the teams came together but I worked hard and did the best for the team and the company and soon after I took two steps forward, being promoted to Head of International Property Cat. And then a couple years later, I was asked to Head all North American Property. And a year later, to be Co-Head of Bermuda Property Reinsurance.
What was the best advice you received during your career?
To become invaluable. This has different meanings to different people but for me it is about thinking like your boss/manager, preempting what he/she wants/needs, already having a response ready – provide before they even think to request it! It certainly keeps you on your toes, keeps you thinking and prepares you for the next level - that puts you in good stead for that promotion!
What did you study at university and what would you recommend women study in university nowadays in order to succeed in your profession?
I studied Mechanical Engineering at university. I did not know there was a reinsurance industry out there at the time and in hindsight I might have studied something different perhaps Business or Actuarial . Having said that I don't think doing ME hindered me at all and most likely helped : it taught me a good study ethic which translates to a good work ethic' and if you can demonstrate that, that’s what is important to companies hiring.