Tag Archives: Canopius

Incorporated Art

Bermuda is a pretty amazing place for artists – the landscape of vibrant colours passed on the commute into work is almost enough to make anyone stop and pull out a paintbrush. I don’t myself possess a lot of talent when it comes to creating art, at least that’s what I learnt from art lessons at school in the 1970s; but I can appreciate art for both skill and beauty. So I have just visited a small and exclusive art gallery in Hamilton – aka, my husband’s office.


Canopius is displaying some works from 12 Bermudian artists, a project which has mutual benefits – the artists are able to showcase and sell their work and Canopius can expect a 15% increase in efficiency from their staff. (1)

Many offices have an excess of glass windows with movable partitions instead of walls, but the Canopius office lends itself to displaying art with virtually one long wall along the length of the building. I am not sure for how long each display will be exhibited, but the plan is to refresh the artwork regularly.

Canopius Head Office (image: Alan Williams, The Guardian)

Canopius Head Office (image: Alan Williams)

As you can see from the above image, the company has used an artistic flair elsewhere – the London office in the Lloyds Building has an arresting reception area with plush-pink-cushioned chairs, pedestal columns topped with Romanesque busts (2)

So it perhaps a natural derivative for the Bermuda office to branch out into the aesthetics of corporate art.

I will need a larger house if I am going to buy one of these!

I will need a larger house if I am going to buy one of these!

But if decorating the office leads to higher productivity, then one company has taken a risk by selecting a board of 1,200 Lego Minifigures as its corporate artwork. (3)

Reception area

Reception area

Bermudian Artists currently on display in the Bermuda office at Atlantic House, Hamilton:

Artists on display, October 2014

Artists on display, October 2014

Images, unless stated, are my own, taken with permission from Canopius, Bermuda.



1. Knight, C.P., & Haslam, S.A. (2010). The Relative Merits of Lean, Enriched, and Empowered Offices: An Experimental Examination of the Impact of Workspace Management, Journal of Experimental: Applied, 16, 158 – 172.(http://www.identityrealization.com/app/…/2010+JEP+Space+Experiments.pdf )

2. Guardian: Hidden Spaces, June 2008

3. Qubic Tax Project

Charity days

Canopius is in the National Newspaper today:)

staff training?

staff training? (picture from Royal Gazette, Bermuda)

My Bermuda adventure is in part thanks to Canopius, since while I may be having what looks like a prolonged holiday my husband has to work. ( I refuse to discuss the perhaps traditional role-split we have fallen into, but will state I am more than happy to iron some shirts etc. ) You might have read a comment about them in the coffee post – Nathaniel Canopius brewed the first cup of coffee in England in 1637.  June 13th was the second company global community day – all the offices took part in some way or another and the purpose was to support local causes; so Canopius Bermuda found themselves cleaning windows at an elderly care home.

Nowadays many large companies will put a charity day into their corporate calendar.  The format might be that the office closes and everyone volunteers at one particular place, as did Canopius Bermuda, or it might be an in-office collection perhaps associated with casual dress or wearing specific colours. Something like this has been around for years though one British chap seems to be claiming the praise for devising “Giving Tuesday” in the US and is now lauded for bring the idea to England.  If you research the concept (I don’t really recommend this  – the last hour net-surfing has not enlightened me further) there are hundreds of web pages clamouring for your attention and ultimately your money.  I restricted my Googling to “Bermuda Charity Days” – 3,580,000 results.

How far back does it go? 

In 2500BC Hebrews had a mandatory tithe to benefit the poor. Tithing is popular within Christian churches, voluntary but expected to be around 10% of your income. In 387 BC Plato’s Academy set aside days for working to benefit others  – could this be the first instance of a ‘company’ charity day? (The original Plato Academy was more like an exclusive club than a school, men gathered together to solve problems – sounds like an office to me).

In the late nineteenth century corporate support focussed on charities that would benefit the workers directly, such as supporting the local town libraries and schools.  Not until the mid twentieth century was corporate social responsibility highlighted with several changes in US law to simplify the legality of financial donations. It is harder where the company has a responsibility to investors or shareholders as well as to the social environment within which it operates on a day to day basis.

Is it a good idea? 

I am going to risk being controversial here  – I am not convinced that it is necessarily the best way of giving to any particular charity. Before you all jump out of your seats in protest, consider this: last year a certain company closed the office and spent the day painting walls for a small charity, 10 people with variable levels of skill in home decorating armed with brushes (one of them was me and those who recall my attempts at painting my consulting room bright orange or trying out a patchwork tile effect in my bathroom ….)

Would we not have been more charitable to donate one day of combined office salary to a local skilled painter and decorator who would have at least left a professional finish?

Yes, yes, I can hear your defence – team building – but isn’t a day of golf or geocaching more cohesive?  I agree it is an individual choice and I do admire the people who throw themselves into such things and if I hadn’t been off-island on the day I would certainly have been with the Canopius team to clean windows, suppressing my polemical thoughts.

Corporate giving is just one aspect of corporate social responsibility, and would in my opinion be most effective if it is aligned with the overall company strategy.  One obvious way to do this would be to link the nature of the charitable work with the nature of the company, though a computer company giving computers to charity doesn’t somehow seem so worthy.  Lloyds recently held an abseiling event on their iconic building to raise money for disaster relief, that seems well aligned. Canopius head office is in the Lloyds building, were any of their staff brave enough to join the abseiling?


Philanthropic companies are well respected  – Business Insider produces a top ten each year, though they rank on amount given rather than percentage of profit.  Credibility and authenticity are enhanced by a perception of generosity.

But then there is a tax benefit but only if they give actual money it seems – both US and UK enable companies to reduce tax payable on charitable donations, as can individuals.  I cannot find whether donation of a day’s work can be tax beneficial to a company, though the Americans can claim expenses of transport to the charity and any uniform required  (excluding t shirts with company logo).

Bermuda has many charities – 361 as of June 2014. Choosing a charity to support is always going to be an individual decision, and the choices aren’t always predictable – I will laugh out loud at funny cat pictures but probably won’t donate to cat charities. Companies with many employees are not going to reach a consensus in a short space of time.  Employee volunteer programs might answer that dilemma: allow staff paid hours on a regular basis to do charity work in company time, for example spending an hour a week listening to children read at a local school, though maybe an insurance company should spend time helping with Maths instead!


Royal Gazette

Centre on Philanthropy

HMRC Corporate Charitable Donations in UK

Charitable Giving in US


Charities in Bermuda


Shall we meet for coffee?

When a friend asked to meet for coffee this weekend I was thrown into a mad housework mode: steam-mop the floors, hoover the rugs, polish and dust etc.  This friend had helped set us up on the island, passing on to us furniture, kitchen stuff, rugs, TV, dehumidifiers and countless other things so my predominant concern was that she should see we were looking after “her” stuff – that it was ours now faded into the background.  I even considered washing the sheets and emptying the dishwasher – no, I do not entertain in the bedroom and this person is nothing like my Mother so she won’t be checking up on my domestic neatness.

I needed to be rational, this degree of stress was way out of proportion to a coffee with a friend.  Then the obvious realisation came: we could go out for coffee!


It just so happened that in the library I found a book entitled “Best Bermuda Coffee, 2010”

(“Coincidence,” said Hermione airily, pouring herself some pumpkin juice. HP and the Prisoner of Azkaban)

What a cushy book to research, 30 coffee outlets, each serving six or so varieties of coffee and repeated visits to check consistency – why didn’t I think of that?!

You might be surprised to learn that there is no Starbucks on Bermuda.  Over 20,000 branches, even in Romania, but not Bermuda.

Our mission: to inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighbourhood at a time.” ( http://starbucks.com ) but not in Bermuda.

It is a law that only a local company can trade in Bermuda and by definition a local company has to be majority (>60%) Bermudian-owned and Bermudian-operated. Banks and Insurance companies are subject to different rules – we can look at that in a later post. Also The Prohibited Restaurant Act 1997 forbids the opening of food franchises in Bermuda.  How did KFC get in? They were here before the act so subject to a “grandfather clause”.

You can, however, drink coffee bearing a Starbucks label, but I guess this may be a recent development as it is not mentioned anywhere in the book – I did get it out of the library to peruse. The author set out his intention to update his research, but I couldn’t find a more recent edition, maybe he found he preferred tea. The little coffee shop I frequent before the library opens, Chatterbox, is not mentioned in the book so maybe it is a new outlet – it makes nice coffee and serves Starbucks breakfast blend.

Coffee is not grown on Bermuda, it is imported from the large coffee-producing countries, Brazil, Colombia, Ethiopia, mostly via America. In 2010 the most commonly found was Illy, which is 100% Arabica coffee from Italy.

According to the human manual on life (aka wikipedia), three quarters of the world’s coffee is from Coffea arabica with the rest mainly Caffea canephora (previously called robusta ).  The latter has a more bitter taste but is resistant to leaf rust, a form of coffee-blight that has devastated crops this year, so we are looking at a price-hike soon.

I have drifted off topic a little, the aim was to find a place to take my friend for coffee tomorrow.  She will be in the City of Hamilton  – a city by virtue of two cathedrals, but not much larger than a very small town.  Confusingly, the city is not in Hamilton Parish, that is further East along the island.  So I need to find a place in the city for coffee. Most of the hotels and larger restaurants do coffee but none qualify for the author’s 4-cup accolade, so I focussed on the reviews of the 17 coffee houses.

The first coffee house in Britain was in Queen’s Lane, Oxford, established in 1654, though some sources say it was in Oxford Street, London in 1650 or Lombard Street, London, in 1662.

It was an Oxford Scholar, Nathaniel Canopius, who brewed the first cup of coffee in England in 1641. ( http://canopius.com/who-we-are/our-name/ )  He was a “protosyncellus” of the Constantinople Church and later became Chaplain of Christ Church, Oxford.  A coffee house was the birthplace of Lloyds of London – this is a diversion but an interesting one so bear with me …

Edward Lloyd, opened in 1687, a coffee house on Tower Street, London, later moving to Lombard Street as his customer base grew.  Not long before this, the King, Charles II, had tried to shut coffee houses down because he felt they brewed rumour and discontent as much as coffee. The Kings edict proved unpopular – he reversed it 16 days later! Anyhow, Lloyd was an entrepreneur of the seventeenth century and he began “Lloyds List” in 1696, a list of ship arrivals and departures and inside information on the conditions on board these vessels. Before long his customers were talking about sinkings and accidents, from there a small step to selling insurance!  The whole story can be read in “Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk” by Peter Bernstein.

It is probably not surprising then that Bermuda has so many coffee houses given one of its main businesses is re/insurance.

Is coffee bad for you?

I could have easily phrased the question “Is coffee good for you?” and the answer can be both “yes” and “no”.

Probably the first experiment on the subject was carried out by Gustav III of Sweden during the 18th century.  He used a pair of identical twins who had been convicted of a crime.  He commuted the death sentence to life imprisonment with restrictions: one should drink only coffee while the other was given only tea – for the rest of their lives. Two doctors were assigned to monitor the prisoners’ health, but the doctors both died before the experiment ended, as did Gustav III who was assassinated.  As it was, the tea-drinker died first.

For the medical readers, caffeine is an adenosine antagonist.  Adenosine inhibits dopamine.  Caffeine leads to an increase in dopamine in the pre-frontal cortex which leads to higher arousal, faster processing of information and more rapid motor responses.  This leads to some reports that caffeine is an antidepressant, but the real picture is far more complex. while it will increase attention, it does not in itself generate pleasure and does not improve memory.

On the benefits side, caffeine is an antioxidant and soaks up free radicals, and you don’t want those running around.  It can help with headaches, is a frequent component of analgesics sold over the counter, and recently caffeine has been linked with reducing the risks of prostate cancer, the chance of gallstones and some types of heart failure.  But on the other side, it raises blood pressure, is associated with osteoporosis and can contribute to dehydration.

So the jury is out and the pendulum will swing with the vagaries of popular-press-reporting of (mostly) pseudoscientific papers.

I, however, will continue to drink coffee.



And we still haven’t decided on where to go for coffee tomorrow.

Of the places reviewed, one is described as “the ultimate coffee house in Bermuda” .  I feel I should insert a drum roll here. …

Rock Island




For fifteen years this company has roasted coffee beans on site – which is why it smells so good – and they offer home-style baking such things as Courgette Cake and Lemon Cookies.  The furniture is, well, unusual – none of it matches, most of it is old, but I have tried two different seats and both were decently comfortable. The artwork is more interesting than most of what is on the portrait gallery and for people-watching it is a wonderful place.

The coffee is 100% Arabica and offered in the usual variations – espresso, machiato, latte, cappuccino and americano.  They even knew what to do when I asked for a plain black coffee.  I don’t suggest you ask for tea though, as they really do focus on coffee.


It’s on Reid Street, by the way with on the street parking immediately outside which gives you an hour for $2.  If intending on a larger cup you might like to park at Cavendish Road and walk down or City Hall and walk up.  City Hall, although more central to the shops is actually a little cheaper, but still limited to three hours.



So that is my decision made.

Coffee, tomorrow, at Rock Island Cafe, around 2.30. 🙂