Honouring the Best in Corporate Citizenship Through Volunteerism

For the second consecutive year, The Bermudian is proud to partner with the Association of Bermuda International Companies in presenting the ABIC Community Engagement Award. The award honours excellence in corporate citizenship and is presented annually to ABIC members that demonstrate a strong commitment to corporate volunteerism in the community and whose leaders are actively engaged in supporting and expanding those efforts.

Our panel of judges was highly impressed with the community reach and impact of philanthropic efforts submitted for consideration by all entrants. Congratulations to this year’s award recipients, and a huge thank you to our judges for their time and deliberations.

  • Judges:
    Deborah Jackson
    Gordon Johnson
    Myra Virgil

Overall Winner: Athene

Athene wowed our judges with the commitment and energy the annuities reinsurer pours into its philanthropic endeavours. As a large company employing 97 people in Bermuda, Athene backs up its substantial financial giving with the time and effort of its employees in a shining example of excellence in volunteerism.

Signing big cheques for good causes is within the capacity of all large companies, but corporate volunteerism is about something more — a proactive approach to social responsibility that encourages and inspires employees to get involved in the community.

The judges felt Athene’s expanding philanthropic platform and the way the company continues to build it out, demonstrates what volunteerism is all about. The story of Athene, the large category winner in last year’s inaugural ABIC Community Engagement Awards, offers an example that others can strive to emulate, making volunteerism infectious in the process.

Athene’s corporate social responsibility approach is focused on four pillars – education, human services, health and wellbeing, and the environment. Perhaps the most remarkable impact has been in education, with Athene showing a commitment to developing the next generation of Bermudian talent that goes far beyond what might be expected from a single company. The centrepiece is the Athene Career Development Centre, which provides cutting-edge resources for students including a computer lab, an “active classroom” that caters for a variety of learning styles, and an innovation lab, complete with robotics and 3-D printing. Athene donated $1.9 million toward the cost of building the centre, which opened in April 2022.

This year, the company has built on that theme by spearheading the Athene Life Career Expo, bringing together 15 organisations from Bermuda’s burgeoning life and annuity reinsurance industry to highlight the opportunities for young Bermudians. Nearly 300 people attended, including high school and college students and those seeking a change of career. The event featured young Bermudians sharing their career experiences, panels of industry experts, roundtable discussions, and networking opportunities.

Athene continues to strengthen its partnership with Bermuda College, providing ten students with scholarships annually. The largest programme of its kind at the College, the awards cover the full costs of each student’s associate degree programme and required books. The scholarships are based on financial need and minimum GPA requirements. All ten Athene scholars are invited to the company for work shadow experience during the College’s spring break, adding practical insights to their academic learning.

Athene’s educational activities impressed the judges, particularly the consistency with which employees rolled up their sleeves to participate to add value to the scholarships and events. One judge said: “The Career Expo required participation of their staff, volunteering their time to explain what the career opportunities are, for example. Their financial, as well as in-person commitment to the Bermuda College scholarships, including the work shadowing is impressive.

“I really think Athene gets it, in terms of what I look for when companies are participating in social development. They understand what philanthropy is, and they rely on their employees’ values and commitment.”

In terms of donations and sponsorships, Athene is on track to support 19 charities and contribute about $300,000 to a range of community initiatives in 2023 — up from $270,000 in 2022. Among the events Athene has supported are a holiday-season food and toiletry drive for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Bermuda, for which staff contributed a staggering 21,000 items for families in need in 2022. Athene added a $5,000 direct donation to support the organisation’s activities. The company has a Volunteer Day for staff which this year has an environmental focus, partnering with the Bermuda National Trust in a project to create a stronghold for native and endemic species at the Sherwin Nature Reserve. Athene was also a gold sponsor of the 2023 Convex End to End, the fifth consecutive year the company has backed one of the most popular multi-charity fundraisers. Staff volunteered at the Athene water stand and participated in the walk.

Athene also recognises the value of sport to overall community health. In 2022 and 2023, the company was the main sponsor of the USATF Bermuda Games including “Athene Fastest Kid on the Rock.” It has supported the Bermuda Cricket Board’s T20 League, as well as the Pee Wee Cricket programme. Athene also backs Paget Lions Football Club, a sponsorship that will help the club update its infrastructure and training facilities. Lions, who gained promotion to the Premier Division last season, are aiming to enhance their youth programme with a focus on building their relationship with Paget Primary School’s after-school programme.

One of the defining characteristics of Athene that impressed the judges was the willingness to compound the value of its employees’ charitable donations and efforts. Staff can, through payroll deduction, choose to contribute to The Family Centre, Tomorrow’s Voices, Keep Bermuda Beautiful or The Eliza DoLittle Society, and Athene will match their donations. To encourage further community engagement, Athene runs a “Dollars for Doers” programme to show support for employees who volunteer for charities separately from company-sponsored events. The Athene Charitable Foundation provides a grant proportionate to their volunteer time up to a maximum of $2,000 — plus an additional $1,000 if the employee serves on a charitable board.

For one judge, this aspect cemented Athene’s position as the overall winner. “What really impressed me is not only everything Athene is doing but their Dollars for Doers programme, which seems to be an accelerator to say that if our people are serving, they are going to be gifted funding for the organisation they serve,” the judge said. “So, they stood out for me and hit the centre of what volunteerism is and how the corporation can get behind it.”

The good news for Bermuda is that Athene has pledged to continue on its energetic philanthropic path for the long term. The company stated: “We are honoured to be able to support so many amazing organisations that make a positive difference in the Bermuda community. We look forward to continuing to make an impact through philanthropic giving, volunteer service, and community outreach in the years ahead.”

Small Category Winner (1–19 employees): Relm Insurance Ltd.

Since its start in business in 2020, Relm Insurance has instilled philanthropy and service in its corporate culture. The company’s express desire is to become “embedded into the fabric of the Bermuda community” — and its actions back up those words.

Relm, a specialty insurer that serves emerging industries, has 13 staff. It may not be a heavyweight employer, but it packs a considerable punch in terms of its positive impact on the island. And it earned a thumbs-up from our judges to take top honours in the small category for the second time.

Education and professional development are a major focus of Relm’s community efforts. The firm has a longstanding partnership with the Bermuda Foundation for Insurance Studies (BFIS), a provider of opportunities for young Bermudians seeking to enter Bermuda’s flagship industry. The BFIS RELM Scholarship Award provides not only financial support but also mentorship opportunities. Scholars consequently receive both academic and practical insights, bolstering their readiness to work in the industry.

Relm is also an enthusiastic supporter of the Technology Leadership Forum, which nurtures the next generation of tech-savvy leaders. In addition, it supports future generations through The Berkeley Institute via Nexus Bermuda, a young organisation that seeks to provide academic resources, university preparation, as well as life and career-enhancing opportunities for students in Bermuda’s public high schools.

Some employees give their time throughout the year to nonprofits, including Bermuda Is Love and the Bermuda Debate Society, and help with community projects and educational programmes. They have helped out at Bermuda Cancer & Health’s Relay for Life and joined the Bermuda Sloop Foundation’s “Walk the Plank” fundraiser. Relm staff have also participated and mentored at the Mirrors programme’s “8 Keys to Success” youth camp and provided giveaways and support to the We Bleed Bermuda movement. By leading cleanup drives at Clarence Cove, they also do their bit for Bermuda’s environment.

One of Relm’s commercial roles is as a partner to the fintech industry. Their sponsorships reflect a broader commitment to supporting this growth sector of the Bermuda economy, along with the prosperity and job opportunities it provides for the island. Relm sponsored Bermuda’s inaugural networking reception, for example, at Consensus 2023, the world’s largest gathering of digital asset, blockchain and Web3 enthusiasts. The company was also a sponsor of the Bermuda Business Development Agency’s 2023 Bermuda Tech Summit, described by Relm as a resonant partnership, given that the summit’s emphasis on innovation, creativity, and progress “mirrors the values we champion.”

Relm may not be able to match the charitable financial clout of larger companies, but it makes up for that with the active involvement of its people in a wide range of activities that reflect its philosophy — “to uplift the community that has given us so much.” Employees also benefit from Relm’s community participation, according to the company, which states: “We firmly believe that our team’s well-being and our robust corporate social responsibility initiatives go hand in hand.”

The judges were impressed by Relm’s outsize commitment to volunteerism and to the community. One said: “I feel there’s a generosity of spirit there and that they want to be involved and participate. It’s not about capacity or scale. It’s about decisions and intentions and putting them into practice.”

Medium Category Winner (20–49 employees): Resolution Re

Resolution Re’s approach to corporate volunteerism is centred on its partnership with Transitional Community Services (TCS), a young charity focused on meeting the unaddressed needs of at-risk adult males aged 18 to 34, through advocacy, care management, counselling and employability skill building.

The four-year-old life reinsurer with 35 employees has opted to go in deep with a single organisation, making a multi-year commitment to support TCS’s programme through an annual donation. ResRe backs this up with volunteerism, with staff providing practical help to the charity. Two staff members sit on the charity’s board and one is the chairman.

ResRe staff have given their time to help build TCS’s IT infrastructure and install a videoconferencing system. Regular donations from employees include food and toiletry items to keep the TCS Snacks & Essentials Pantry stocked up all year round. Employees also donate bus tokens to ensure TCS members have transport, and donate older, but still usable, laptops and mobile phones, and gently used clothes and shoes. At Christmas last year, ResRe provided a gift bag and voucher to each TCS member, and it plans to do the same this year, while one ResRe employee prepared a pre-Christmas curry feast for members.

One impressed judge described this tight-knit partnership with one charity as “a different way of showing up. It sounds like it’s really well woven into the fabric of Resolution Re. I think this is unique — it’s a relatively small company saying ‘we’re all in.’” ResRe wants to build on its already special relationship with TCS. It has held social events to enable employees to meet TCS members in the hope that as trust builds, volunteering can expand into other areas, such as assisting with resume writing, interview techniques and IT skills.
As the company states: “We feel that our long-term commitment to TCS in multiple areas maximises our impact and it is rewarding for our staff members to be involved.”

One judge was amazed and delighted by the breadth, as well as depth, of ResRe’s support for TCS, saying: “In every area that Resolution Re could go in and provide help to this relatively new charity, they have attached someone to it — it’s unheard of.” ResRe also gives staff time off to volunteer for other good causes and has an office-wide volunteer day every six months, most recently helping out with a Keep Bermuda Beautiful (KBB) clean-up.

The company is also active in the education and mentoring field. Employees provide weekly math tutoring at CedarBridge Academy, while the company has created a work shadow programme for secondary school students, this year hosting a total of 19 students from CedarBridge and Somersfield. For the past four years, ResRe has also hosted university students on its Summer Internship Programme.
ResRe is also mindful of ensuring that its staff understand Bermuda’s social and historical context. All staff take the “Resilience: Bermudians of African Descent” tour in St. George’s to better understand Bermuda’s history around enslavement and the journey towards equal rights. ResRe also has corporate membership at the National Museum of Bermuda, giving staff free entry and the chance to learn more about Bermuda’s culture.

A donation-matching scheme encourages employees to give to good causes, while ResRe welcomes suggestions from staff for direct donations to local charities. Recent recipients include KBB, Lady Cubitt Compassionate Association, Bermuda Optimist Dinghy Association, ABC Football Foundation, Teen Services and the Christ Church Feeding Programme. Representatives of such organisations are invited into the ResRe office to describe what they do, sessions in which employee engagement is said to be high.

As one judge remarked: “For a new and small organisation, they have put a lot of emphasis on being an excellent corporate citizen.”

Large category winner (50+ employees): HSBC Bermuda

HSBC Bermuda takes seriously its responsibility as a good corporate citizen and is laser-focused on ensuring its community engagement is meaningful, positive and lasting. Not only does the bank donate impressively in terms of financial resources and volunteer time, but its employees proactively share knowledge in forums where it will be of great benefit to the community.

Our judges were delighted with HSBC’s thoughtful and intentional philanthropic approach and the staff’s dedication and participation. One said about the HSBC entry: “Every time they mentioned something they do, they talked about the impact. I like that their staff go out and do many presentations and follow up with mentorship. That’s a deep, ongoing commitment.”

By the end of 2023, HSBC will have donated $350,000 to ten local charities focused on supporting future skills, the environment and social initiatives. Resources are directed by a small team of diverse professionals with passion for the community and sustainability. Young people are a major focus. HSBC was the lead sponsor this year for the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Studies (BIOS) Climate Classroom, which hosted workshops for 194 middle-school children combining mathematics, robotics, and artificial intelligence to provide an innovative way to teach students about BIOS’s climate research and the relationship between marine ecosystems and the climate.

HSBC also sponsored the Bermuda High School SHE LEADS programme, which is designed to build self-confidence and equip young women with vital life skills. Keisha Burgess, HSBC’s first black female head of Premier, was among the inspiring speakers this year at two programmes which hosted 40 girls from Bermudian high schools. For the past three years, HSBC has also been the primary sponsor for the Ignite Youth Entrepreneurship programme, a combination of internships and workshops for entrepreneurs aged 19 to 25. The last one hosted 17 participants.

A whole-hearted commitment to volunteerism is the key element that earned HSBC its place as large category winner. The company itself spelled out that philosophy, saying: “HSBC believes it requires more than a donation to make a meaningful impact on the community. This is why the bank emphasises offering staff opportunities to support charitable partners’ projects through volunteering and speaking engagements.” Being a leading financial institution means that HSBC staff know a thing or two about how to manage money, impactful knowledge given that the forming of good financial habits can be life-changing. HSBC has held interactive financial literacy seminars with partners including Age Concern, BHS SHE LEADS, the Women’s Resource Centre and Transformational Living Centre. This programme really struck a chord with one of the judges who remarked: “They get it, in terms of what you need to do in this community to help build skills and understanding for life and they’re staffing it as well.”

On the environmental side, HSBC is a major supporter of the Bermuda Zoological Society’s Micro Forest Project, for which the bank is the lead sponsor. About 80 percent of the staff will give time to the project, which aims to establish ten micro forests of native and endemic species across the island this year. To date, 99 staff have donated 352 hours to the project during nine volunteer days, helping to create four new plots. These volunteers have culled 3,450 invasive plants, replacing them with 1,119 natives and endemics. The project exemplifies how HSBC backs up its financial donations with the volunteering efforts of enthusiastic employees to maximise its positive impact on the community.

Honourable Mention: Bacardi

Global spirits company Bacardi is not shy in expressing great pride in its home base of Bermuda and it recognises the importance of giving back to the community. Its ‘Good Spirited’ ESG Strategy is focused on having a positive environmental impact, driving employability, promoting inclusivity and inspiring mindful drinking. True to the spirit of volunteerism, Bacardi’s “primos” are active participants in a range of good causes from Relay for Life to the Bermuda Hospitals Board’s blood donor drive.

One initiative that earned great praise from our judges was the Bacardi Shake Your Future programme, in partnership with the Bermuda Government Department of Workforce Development. Bacardi describes Shake Your Future as a transformative “life-changing programme that provides opportunities for unemployed young Bermudians to gain valuable skills and knowledge in bartending and mixology, ultimately leading to full-time employment in the hospitality industry.” Successful applicants enrol in a free, 10-week training programme, which includes four weeks of training at the European Bartending School in London, followed by a four-week job placement in Bermuda’s bars and restaurants. Their employability is further strengthened by two weeks of personal branding and marketing workshops. This year, six graduates received an internationally recognised diploma and offers of full-time employment.

One judge described the Shake Your Future programme as intentional and committed. “This is going to have true impact. They’re employing people — and the end of the day, you want to see people employed, to move them onto a better way of being able to live, to elevate them. I like that.”

In partnering with organisations such as PRIDE Bermuda and CURB, the judges said that Bacardi earned high marks on commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. As one judge remarked: “Not all volunteering is painting and cleaning up — some of it is about committing time to learning and understanding about this community.”

Honourable Mention: Deloitte

Deloitte, the global professional-services firm that employs 190 people in Bermuda, has as its vision “Making an impact that matters, together.” In two particular areas, according to our judges, Deloitte Bermuda’s volunteerism is achieving just that in the community, earning the firm an honourable mention.

Firstly, Deloitte employees volunteer to provide weekly mathematics tutoring at two primary schools, Harrington Sound and West End. Deloitte has been participating in the Guided Math Programme since 2019. One judge said: “I know they have been solid and committed math tutors to the two schools and I know the impact of that has been great. That is not a light lift, they are doing their bit on an ongoing basis.”

The second area that caught our judges’ attention was Deloitte’s partnership with the Non-profit Alliance of Bermuda (formerly known as the Inter-Agency Committee), an organisation that works to strengthen, unify and champion the island’s non-profit sector. During “Impact Week,” Deloitte staff provide four educational seminars to non-profit leaders and employees, covering topics including recruitment best practices, risk advisory, budgeting, and understanding financial statements. As one judge said: “They must put a lot of work into this — it’s so time-consuming to prepare a course for people and then go deliver it and then prepare a series of four workshops, and go and deliver consistently over the years. It doesn’t show up on paper in the same way as a list of 20 things, but there is so much to be said, for this deep, deep work.”

The firm also allows employees 16 hours annually to volunteer for a non-profit during the work day. And Deloitte hosts multiple “Impact Days” when groups of 30 to 50 staff go out to volunteer for a charity — among the beneficiaries have been WindReach, Bermuda National Trust, BAMZ, Living Reef Foundation and the Adult Education School.

We recognise the following companies which participated in our second annual ABIC Community Engagement Awards.

AXIS Capital
At AXIS, employees on the Bermuda Philanthropy Committee choose areas of focus for the company’s giving and volunteering: protecting the planet, fostering inclusion and investing in communities. Staff participated in events including the Bermuda Youth Climate Summit, KBB clean-ups, the PRIDE march and Relay for Life. Other charities AXIS have worked with include Big Brothers Big Sisters of Bermuda, Bermuda Zoological Society and Tomorrow’s Voices.

Carey Olsen Bermuda
Carey Olsen staff have had a strong environmental focus in their volunteering efforts this year. They have adopted two beaches in Warwick through KBB’s We-Love-Our Parks programme, worked with Beyond Plastics Bermuda to help their efforts to reduce pollution, and as top-level sponsors of the Bermuda Zoological Society, they’re looking forward to “scrubbing turtles as a team.”

Convex is the title sponsor of the Convex End-to-End charity fundraiser and was nominated by the event’s board. The company is praised for going beyond financial support to help develop, promote and execute the End-to-End, which generated proceeds of $215,000 for five local charities this year. Convex employees get kudos for their whole-hearted, End-to-End volunteer support and participation.

KPMG in Bermuda
Over the past year, the value of KPMG in Bermuda’s financial giving, scholarships and pro bono work has amounted to $1.1 million. Additionally, its staff have donated 960 service hours to support the community. KPMG employees put their expertise to good use with many non-profits and volunteer at entrepreneurial accelerator Ignite, as well as supporting multiple events from KBB clean-ups to Relay for Life.

Willis (Bermuda)
WTW’s Give Back Committee maintains a consistent flow of philanthropy through its Quarterly Action Events and Monthly Giving Initiatives, with a focus around pillars of education, food severity, homelessness, family and environment. WTW has made donations to multiple non-profits, while employees have volunteered their time for organisations including BAMZ, KBB and WindReach.