The Isle of Man’s Financial Services Authority’s chief executive says she hopes more insurtechs will do ’funky exciting things’ on the island

In a somewhat unorthodox way to end up in insurance regulation, the chief executive of the the Isle of Man Financial Services Authority (IOM FSA) Bettina Roth joined after a friend asked if she had ever worked for an insurance regulator.

Thinking about it, Roth decided it sounded interesting and has been in post for more than a year and a half since joining in October 2021.

Now, she hopes to inspire other women to apply for more senior roles and continue spearheading innovation for the IOM’s regulator.

Speaking exclusively to Insurance Times, she says: “In my career I have mentored so many people – if there’s a position that has ten attributes, a woman will look at those ten carefully and say ‘I’m meeting eight out of the ten – I’m not sure I should apply.’

”[Women] therefore need that push. A man will look at the same ten [job requirements], might meet six and say ‘I am definitely going to apply’ – that’s the difference.

”I try to do everything to give women that confidence – we are so hard on ourselves. I don’t know whether it’s genetics or upbringing, but we will always be harder on ourselves than everybody else.

“We as [women] must ask for things, we must ask for promotions and a career path. I had to learn to ask for more, to be bolder, to say I deserve this.

“As an organisation, that’s what the employer can do to really shape a person’s career path, [and] the business will reap the benefits.”

Roth says she believes that women often have better self-awareness.

“But, sometimes that hesitancy, better assessment and being more self-critical can be a good thing,” she adds.

International whirlwind

Roth describes her own entry into the insurance sector as similar to a storm.

She says: “It’s been an international whirlwind. For me, I love the versatility, everyday [there’s] something new.”

Starting out in 2006, Roth worked for the Canadian regulator’s Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) and then took a secondment in New York at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency between September 2011 and August 2012 before returning to OSFI until 2015.

Following some short stints at Abu Dhabi Global Market and the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority, she joined the IOS FSA.

On the nine-strong board at the IOM FSA, six board members are female – including the chair and deputy chair.

She adds: “My predecessor was also a woman. From that perspective, we have senior woman in executive leadership roles. Whether you are man or a woman is not important – we’re an organisation that looks at everybody as if they are capable.

“[This is] not an industry known to be very male orientated as we’re much more about performance – bringing people in and really letting them showcase what they can do while supporting them with education. We are very forward thinking in that regard.”

Pandemic perks

For Roth, the pandemic has changed working models for the better by popularising remote and hybrid working, which was non-existent for some firms previously.

She explains: “The flexibility has helped because in the past, that was something that was more difficult to overcome for women because they had children or elderly parents or a several things to juggle.”

Roth also believes that every business must compete with others in terms of attracting the best talent, “and insurance is not an exception to that”.

She says: “Every firm is looking for the best talent that can give them that edge or that next thing.

“Companies that excel look at the skills they need and how to energise, innovate and drive business growth. We have so much young talent, sometimes you just have to encourage them and let them fly.”

Bread and butter

The IOM FSA’s objectives include a requirement to meet international standards and ensure that all the firms it oversees are supervised and managed properly.

Roth calls this the regulator’s “bread and butter”, but says it also works on other initiatives such as the inaugural Insurtech Finance Isle of Man Accelerator, which concluded on 26 January 2023.

“It’s a fantastic tool to make sure we are really assisting firms,” she adds.

The regulator’s support for insurtech is no accident, as it sees the potential of implementing automation and innovation in the island’s sector. 

Noting the skills shortage on the IOM for compliance, financial and anti-money laundering professionals, Roth believes that automation has a role to play in plugging the gap.

“If you don’t have the people that can do it, why don’t you have a tool?” she says. 

”Then the professional is just there for the exceptions that the tool throws out.”

The IOM FSA announced a reorganisation of its operation at the beginning of March in an attempt to streamline processes for efficiency. This includes, for example, examining automation processes for simple tasks instead of using time-intensive manual processes.

Roth believes this will function as “futureproofing” and speaks transparently about its benefits.

In February 2023, the IOM FSA revealed plans to launch its innovation hub. In addition to this, it runs a regulatory sandbox, initially launched in February 2022.

“We are open for innovation,” she adds.

“There are rules we must follow because it’s legislation but, where we can, we want to make sure that firms are futureproofing themselves and becoming more streamlined, developing new products – because if they thrive, the IOM thrives.” 

Roth explained that agencies in its hub work together with the IOM FSA so that any response to enquiries is “joined up” and allows them to be deciphered quickly.

For Roth, the hope is that many more insurtechs will want to do “funky exciting things on the IOM”.

She says: “Everybody that I work with across government is keen to ensure that we are doing everything with innovation for growth to fit in with the economic island strategy we have been setting.”

Roth urged insurtechs to reach out to the IOM FSA about the regulator’s innovation hub and sandbox as “regulation [for insurtechs] is not a one size fits all”.