11(–) Ulrich Wallin CEO, Hannover Re NEW ENTRY
Ulrich Wallin has surely one of the toughest jobs in reinsurance – replacing Wilhelm Zeller, the man who led Hannover Re for
13 years. This is not something he can achieve overnight – and nor is he likely to try. Zeller had a unique style and Wallin will have to carve out his own path. His first job is to build the company’s capital in an effort to appease the rating agencies. AM Best has changed its outlook on the reinsurer to stable from positive, and Standard & Poor’s went a step further, putting the German giant on negative outlook due to its “constrained financial flexibility in a different capital market environment”.
Wallin, 54, acknowledges that his leadership will be different. He is keen to reduce any volatility in the business profile and improve the company’s risk management. He is likely to be a more reserved leader than Zeller. A qualified lawyer, who has sat on the executive board of Hannover Re and E&S Rück since 2001, he does not yet look entirely comfortable with all the attention.
12(9) Maurice ‘Hank’ Greenberg Chairman and CEO, CV Starr
Ask any reinsurance executive who they most admire in the industry and at least half will opt for the 84-year-old Hank Greenberg, leader of the Greenberg dynasty with sons Jeffrey (deposed as CEO from Marsh in 2005) and Evan (president and CEO of ACE) following in his footsteps.
He is admired both for the empire he built up at AIG and for his dogged resolve, particularly during a crisis. Two decades after most senior executives would happily swap their suit for a golf shirt, Hank is still using all his grey matter, matched with a sharp wit and even sharper tongue.
But the past 12 months have not been kind. He has lost a fortune as a result of the collapse and bailout of AIG, a failure that many hold him responsible for. AIG had apparently begun investigating selling credit-default swaps when he was still CEO. Hank of course, blames the current board of directors.
But things may finally be looking up as a decision in his on-going court battle against AIG recently went in his favour.
For more on Hank Greenberg, see page 34
13(16) Peter Zaffino President and CEO, Guy Carpenter
A management shake-up pushed Peter Zaffino to the top of Guy Carpenter at the start of last year. Under his watch the company has tightened its belt, made difficult job cuts and trimmed off any excess. His cuts have resulted in the company showing marked improvements in profitability despite challenging times for reinsurance market, and growth is now on the mind of management.
The Guy Carp boss oversaw the acquisition of broker John B. Collins Associates, a move which gives the New York-based reinsurance broker more scale in the US and allows it to play “catch-up” to now much larger rival, Aon Benfield. Zaffino has also been making a raft of high-profile hires, including former XL Capital number two, Henry Keeling.
The 42-year-old has broking in his blood – his father, Sal Zaffino, served as chairman of Guy Carpenter from 1999 to 2007. Zaffino Jr joined the team in 2001, and quickly made his way up the corporate ladder, holding a number of executive management positions within the firm.
14(14) Dr Richard Ward CEO, Lloyd’s
Richard Ward is either extremely lucky or exceptionally talented – or perhaps he just has good timing. Since taking the helm at Lloyd’s, the once boss of the International Petroleum Exchange (IPE) has seen the market go from strength to strength. First there was the resolution of Equitas, when a groundbreaking £3.8bn deal with Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway was agreed in October 2006. That led to an “A+” and praise from Standard & Poor’s in April 2007, with the rating agency citing “the unstoppable momentum behind improving London market business processes”.
Strong and well capitalised despite the crisis, Lloyd’s is now enjoying the industry’s renewed interest in subscription underwriting.
And the 52-year-old Ward seems set on the same path at Lloyd’s which saw him bring automation to the IPE. It once seemed impossible that the 320-year-old market would ever get to grips with electronic processing. Now, with more than 90% of claims processed electronically, peer-to-peer messaging taking off and the Lloyd’s Exchange in its pilot phase, change finally looks imminent.
15(32) Ed Noonan Chairman and CEO, Validus
Ed Noonan’s profile has risen sharply this year, thanks to his determined pursuit of a merger opportunity. When Max Capital and IPC announced their merger in early March, Noonan felt the deal undervalued IPC. Within a month, Validus offered a higher price – and he pressed on relentlessly, threatening to unseat IPC’s board, if that’s what it would take.
When IPC’s shareholders finally voted on Max’s offer, 72% rejected it. Although that did not mean a victory for Validus, a late bid from Flagstone was quickly seen off. Even an all-cash offer from Berkshire Hathaway was not enough to dissuade the board from a marriage with Validus. The final vote awaits. The merger will catapult Validus to the top five Bermuda reinsurers.
Despite his fierce determination revealed in the fight for IPC, the 50-year-old Noonan is charming and relaxed. Before forming Validus with former Marsh & McLellan chief Jeffrey Greenberg, he had been interim CEO at United America Indemnity. Before that, he had been with American Re for 18 years.
16(19) Neill Currie President and CEO, Renaissance Re
The 56-year-old who led RenRe back from the brink after Wells Notices and losses from Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma threatened its future, has done a great job. No wonder that his contract has been extended to 2014. Proud of its catastrophe roots which began post-Andrew in 1993, RenRe has sustained its original monoline business model through sophisticated modelling techniques and underwriting expertise. The company is keen to share its expertise, regularly backing research into hurricane risk mitigation.
But even the wizards at HQ could not hold back the push to expand. While it maintains all the characteristics of a Bermuda cat reinsurer, Currie has begun to diversify. Now, with its property cat, specialty reinsurance and rebranded insurance business, it has a growing platform at Lloyd’s. In June, RenRe announced it had agreed to buy Spectrum Syndicate Management – the underwriting agency for its Lloyd’s platform. In a tough economic environment, this acquisition – with the company’s recent Florida sidecar deal, Tim Re II – is seen as a sign of continuing strength.
17(13) Michael Butt Chairman Axis Capital Holdings and Axis Specialty
His charm, elegance and wit have made Michael Butt a favourite in the reinsurance circuit.
But don’t be fooled into thinking he is just a pretty face, because he has more than 42 years of experience under his belt and Axis is arguably one of the biggest success stories of the Class of 2001, companies set up after the terrorist attacks on 9/11.
The 66-year-old works hand-in-glove with Axis’ chief executive officer John Charman; the two form one of the most successful Odd Couples in the market.
He joined Axis a little later than Charman in 2002 at the invitation of his old friend Bob Newhouse, who had set up the company.
Butt was president and CEO of Mid Ocean from 1993 to 1998, when it was bought up by XL Capital. He then served as a director of XL Capital until his departure to Axis.
You can feel his hand in the appointments of Thomas Ramey (former chairman of Liberty International) and Wilhelm Zeller (retired chairman of Hannover Re) to its board.
18(22) Denis Kessler Chairman and CEO, Scor
With net income of €315m for 2008 despite the financial crisis and Hurricane Ike, it is clear that 2002 has become a distant memory. A former AXA man, Denis Kessler, 57, was brought in to lead the recovery mission when the French reinsurer lost its “A” rating back in the tough days after 9/11. He succeeded and has not lost any momentum since.
He fought relentlessly to see the merger with Converium go ahead in 2007,
a transaction that put Scor in the big league. More recently, the proposed buyout of
XL Re Life America suggests the buying spree is not yet over. Shrugged off as a “gardening deal”, Kessler used the deal as proof of Scor’s strong position.
It is clear that he revels in every success. When S&P upgraded Scor to “A” from “A-” in March, seriously bucking the trend, it was surely the icing on the cake. “The upgrade is the result of a successful business strategy that is withstanding the current financial crisis, enabling Scor to benefit from its strong market position,” he says.
19(15) Don Kramer Chairman and CEO, Ariel Re
One of the most popular personalities in the reinsurance business,
Don Kramer has a one-liner for every situation and isn’t afraid to speak his mind.
He started his career on Wall Street but soon moved into insurance, showing his entrepreneurial side by building up several ventures, including NAC Re (which he sold to XL Capital in 1999 for $1bn) and Tempest Re (which merged with ACE in 1996). He came out of retirement at the age of 68 to head up Class of 2005 reinsurer Ariel.
The secret to his success is that he has never been allowed to underwrite anything – he leaves that to the experts and focuses instead on running a business.
He admires former AIG boss Hank Greenberg but thinks that he’s allowed his career to dominate his life.
The 71-year-old Kramer, on the other hand, has plenty of interests outside reinsurance. Along with his love for ballroom dancing and charitable activities, he has eight grandchildren and enjoys a busy social life with his wife Elizabeth.
20(–) John Charman CEO and President, Axis Capital NEW ENTRY
Admired and feared by many in the industry in equal measure, John Charman had been planning to step down as CEO at the end of 2008, citing a lengthy and messy divorce. That was resolved when he lost his appeal against his former wife’s record-breaking £48m settlement – the highest ever awarded by a British divorce court.
With this behind him, the 56-year-old Charman has extended his contract to 2013, but he does not expect to renew it again. “I don’t believe in being in one place for too long,” he said last year. “We have an excellent management group who are young but experienced and it will be their time.”
Charman built up a fearsome reputation during his early career at Lloyd’s when he became known as a tough but results-driven boss as CEO of Tarquin, the parent company of the Charman Underwriting Agencies at Lloyd’s. His decision to stay on at Axis will have come as a relief to shareholders after a tough year in 2008, which saw full-year income down 66.7%.