All Smiles: Curtis Dickinson surrounded by supporters at the Warwick Workmen’s Club after winning the June 2018 by-election (file photo)
Curtis Dickinson, a career banker who entered politics in 2018, brought substantial private sector experience, particularly overseas, to his career as finance minister under the progressive Labor Party.
One of his main roles as Minister was to use this experience for the restructuring of Bermuda’s debt.
Mr. Dickinson came to the private sector on the island in 2006 after 14 years in the financial services industry in the US and UK, including on Wall Street.
He spent nearly 12 years at Butterfield Bank, starting as senior vice president of corporate management.
News of Mr Dickinson’s resignation as minister came less than four years after he stood as the PLP candidate in the June 7, 2018 by-election for Warwick North East.
Mr Dickinson won the seat against One Bermuda Alliance candidate Justin Mathias by 375 votes to 300.
Speaking on victory night, Mr Dickinson did not rule out a Cabinet post, but said: ‘I am here to serve, and to serve as best I can.
“I will leave it to the Prime Minister to decide what form this service will take.”
Sworn in as Finance Minister on November 1, 2018, Mr Dickinson highlighted his main positions.
“The budget is next on the agenda,” he said. The Royal Gazette. “I look at the issues of economic substance around the European Union which are topical, and I look at the debt situation. Those are the top three priorities.
Mr Dickinson was also given responsibility for the casino gaming industry later that month.
David Burt, the Prime Minister, took over as head of the Bermuda Casino Gaming Commission in June 2020.
Mr Dickinson’s public service before political life included a stint as chairman of the Bermuda Hospitals Board, where he stepped down in 2019.
Mr Dickinson was also appointed Chair of the Board of Education in 2012.
In a candid 2018 interview, he shared with the Gazette the impact of his modest background.
The father of three was born to a childhood in North Hamilton in a working-class single-parent home.
He recalls: “I was aware of how difficult it was, but in other respects we never lacked for anything”.
“We looked presentable, we were well dressed and my sister’s hair was neat. You would never have known that our mother was struggling to cope.
Mr. Dickinson attributed his work ethic and commitment to higher education to the example of his mother. Avoiding college has “never been an option”.
He studied finance before going to business school, then to the executive world of New York.
Mr Dickinson said his difficult childhood left him with “a fire in his stomach” to move forward and serve others.
He was executive vice president and head of private banking at Butterfield when he moved into politics.
One of the first bombshells for Mr Dickinson as minister was the failure of the Caroline Bay resort development at Morgan’s Point, which was backed by a $165million government guarantee pledged by the OBA.
In September 2019 the loan – which Mr Dickinson had warned was a potential taxpayer liability – was requested by investors.
Mr. Dickinson negotiated bank loans to repay $165 million to lenders.
It also meant he had to raise Bermuda’s debt ceiling by $250 million.
The advent of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020 posed further challenges, including the development of a new unemployment compensation scheme within government, with the help of the private sector, to provide million in emergency cash to people made unemployed by the pandemic.
Mr Dickinson’s overseas contacts and experience came into play early in his ministerial career when he led the refinancing of Bermuda’s debt.
In June 2020, Mr Dickinson returned to the capital markets to refinance more loans with longer-term debt.
The restructuring involved buying back hundreds of millions of government bonds from investors and selling new debt.
Managing the closure of the Fairmont Southampton hotel and negotiating with its owners, Gencom, figured prominently in Mr Dickinson’s work after the resort closed in October 2020.
Station owners have been left with $11million in severance pay to hundreds of laid-off workers – which Mr Dickinson had to clear in November 2020 using government funds.
This decision was criticized by the opposition, but Mr. Dickinson presented it as a moral obligation on the part of the government.
He said afterwards: “Action was required, and the Government of Bermuda has decided that it is unacceptable to allow this situation to continue unresolved.”
He confirmed in February 2021 that Gencom had reimbursed the public funds.
Mr Dickinson switched constituencies for the 2020 general election, running for the seat formerly held by PLP MP Rolfe Commissiong: Pembroke South East.
On October 1, he collected 432 votes against 125 for Gavin Smith, the candidate of the Free Democratic Movement.
A PLP insider said at the time the party was “committed” to Mr Dickinson retaining his seat.
Mr. Dickinson’s resignation comes just before the February 25 delivery of the 2022-23 budget. Last December, he warned of “serious choices” ahead for the country, with more debt rollovers to come.
Mr Dickinson also stressed that he would stick to a budget deficit target of $124.7 million, with government reforms and tight controls on capital spending.