Keynote Speaker: George Fergusson, Governor and Commander-in-Chief of Bermuda 2012-2016
Date: 30 November 2016
Venue: The Worshipful Company of Armourers and Brasiers, Armourers’ Hall, Coleman Street, City of London, EC2R 5BJ.
Time: Reception: 7.00pm; Dinner: 7.45pm; Carriages: 11.00pm Chair: Robert S. Childs, Chairman of The Bermuda Society and Chairman of Hiscox
(IT SHOULD BE NOTED that the views are Dennis Mahoney’s own rather than reflecting or representing any of the companies or other entities with which he has connections)
George Fergusson thanked the Society for the invitation to speak. He compared the event with even more challenging invitations from Robert Childs in the past, to play cricket against Bermuda’s best under 11 year old players. Having to bowl in public had been an annual entertainment – for others. He reflected on back on a happy and satisfying four years as Governor. Bermuda was genuinely different. Besides its scenic beauty and overall wealth, it had real history and culture, and real business, to a far greater degree than most communities, even far bigger ones. Its long history – it had practically invented devolution, with a devolved form of government even before the creation of the United Kingdom – was reflected in its extraordinary range of sites and artefacts linked to the most dramatic episodes in American history, perhaps more in a small area than could be found in the US itself. These included remarkable items like the royal portraits ‘liberated’ from the President’s Mansion and brought back to Bermuda in 1814. Its contribution to the history of sail was also astonishing – with more history to be added in 2017. And the excellence and scale of the very real business done in Bermuda was also impressive. In many ways, the common thread of Bermuda’s business was exporting probity: its business depended on delivering high standards and being seen to. Bermuda could perhaps be more confident about publicly embracing, adopting – even leading – international campaigns for best practice in financial services.
Bermuda also shared some of the real problems of larger successful societies. For all his genuine affection for and admiration for Bermuda, he found it depressing that so many issues became tangled up with the issue of race. At the same time, overt racial animosity between people was rare, with many mixed couples, easily accepted across the community – healthier indicators than could be seen in much of the US.
But the economic indicators showed consistently, that black people faced relative deprivation, with few signs of this getting better. There was plenty of blame to go round on this, to all parts of the community. The white part of the community in Bermuda could not be held solely responsible for the continuing strength of race issues. But, speaking to a mainly white audience, he reflected that white people often failed to recognise the hurt still felt among others. The common white narrative in Bermuda made light of history as seen by the black community. The form of slavery experienced there was seen as less cruel than on plantations elsewhere; and the forms of segregation less exclusive and rigid. But that wasn’t how it was seen by most black citizens; and was, anyway, a much too comfortable distortion. He had been disappointed how few Bermudians – seemed to have read the “History of Mary Prince”, the very matter-of-fact, but horrifying, account of a Bermudian slave’s career. The recentness of segregation meant that many still active, including in politics, could easily remember when they could not have entered hotels many of those present knew well. More open acknowledgement of this history and measures to redress some of the consequences would help. He had lived and worked in Northern Ireland and New Zealand, both with legacies of community division. Each place was different. But measures taken elsewhere might still be worth looking at. And a first step should be more open awareness.
He also commented on how the UK’s exit from the EU might affect Bermuda. He was currently working on how some of the other jurisdictions within the British Realm, including Overseas Territories and the Crown Dependencies would manage the Brexit transition.. The effects on Bermuda were likely to be small. Bermuda did not get aid from the EU; it did not export significant quantities of goods to the mainland EU. It had Solvency II Equivalence for insurance. There appeared to be two possible effects. Any changes to free movement within the non-UK EU would in theory affect most Bermudians – but not many in practice. The other was vaguer. Bermuda might find the EU a more challenging partner, without the UK’s voice on liberal management of financial services and for the rights of jurisdictions to set their own tax rates. How important this turned out to be was unknown. But it was something worth planning for. Nonetheless, he was sure that the close and cooperative partnership between Bermuda and the City would continue to get closer – maybe even more so as Britain leaves the EU. Referring finally to Bermuda’s motto, ‘Quo Fata Ferunt’ – ‘Where the Fates take us”, he said that Bermuda was in fact not just adaptable but remarkably enterprising. He was sure that the fates, helped by Bermudian ingenuity and effort and continuing partnership with the City and many others, would take Bermuda to pleasant and prosperous places.
Governor and Commander-in-Chief of Bermuda 2012-2016 30 November 2016