As Swiss Re reinsurance CEO Moses Ojeisekhoba marks his 30th year in insurance, he reflects on the industry’s vital role in a risk-laden world
While Moses Ojeisekhoba currently has oversight over one of the world’s leading reinsurance units, he started his insurance career as far away from the world of reinsurance as possible.
In 1990, Ojeisekhoba was a few years out of school and took a job as a life insurance agent in California, selling coverage door-to-door for Prudential. The experience taught him about the technical components of insurance and its benefits for individuals and society, as well as the misunderstandings people often have about insurance. He also discovered that sales wasn’t his passion – so after four years, he took the next step in his career.
“I went to a small regional carrier as an underwriter trainee on the P&C side, where I got into more of the technical details in insurance,” Ojeisekhoba says, adding that his educational background in statistics gave him a leg up in the role. “Then I was headhunted from that company after a few years by Chubb, first to run a regional small-business underwriting shop, where I got into even more details around the technical side of the business and understood the entire value chain more.”
Ojeisekhoba took time off to complete a master’s degree in management at the London Business School; when he returned to Chubb, he knew he wanted to have a role that went beyond underwriting. In 1999, he became the corporate product development manager in New Jersey and later moved to London as strategic marketing manager for Chubb Europe. In 2002, he was appointed international field operations officer for personal insurance before jetting off to Asia to lead the Asia-Pacific region in 2009.
“That’s where Swiss Re came knocking on my door after about 16 years,” he says. “The Swiss Re proposition was very interesting because it got me partly back into life insurance, so I was running both life and non-life, but I also always had tremendous admiration for Swiss Re as a knowledge company.”
Ojeisekhoba’s role as Swiss Re’s reinsurance CEO is more than just a job – it has also been an opportunity to help make the world more resilient.
“I feel extremely proud and privileged to be able to work in this industry,” he says. “When I look at the resilience that insurance and reinsurance is able to provide and the companies that I have worked for, the critical role that they’ve been able to deliver in this regard is one that continues to stand out and one that will keep me interested in the industry for the remainder of my career."
The fact that Swiss Re is a major thought leader gives Ojeisekhoba an opportunity to spend time with world leaders to address resilience as countries across the world face the impacts of climate change.
“They look to firms like Swiss Re to try to formulate policies, come up with the right level of research and generate the right level of knowledge, and that comes back to this concept of trying to make the world more resilient,” he says. “For me, that’s just fantastic about working for a company like Swiss Re.”
Swiss Re’s thought leadership role is critical as environmental changes intensify and risks become concentrated in urban areas prone to natural catastrophes – think hurricanes in Miami, wildfires around Sydney or flooding in Northern England. And these aren’t the only risks that are complicating the work of businesses every day.
“If you look at demographic change and societies aging significantly, if you look at the severity of events from climate change and the impact that has on the industry overall, or if you look more broadly at technological advancement, the greater complexity of business relationships, and the interconnectedness of business relationships – all of these things are [leading to] far greater exposure,” Ojeisekhoba says. “If you look at some of the issues from a geopolitical standpoint or some of the issues such as trade wars, those also have an impact on global growth.”
Insurance plays a vital role in helping societies adapt to these risks. “What we see clearly over the next five years is that exposures will continue to grow,” Ojeisekhoba says, “and because exposures will continue to grow, we have to position ourselves in a way that allows us to come alongside our clients to help them in their business.”
Deepening knowledge about risks
In light of these challenges and the ways the reinsurance environment has evolved – from the impact of technology to the amount of capital that’s flooding into the industry – Swiss Re has a chance to help develop a greater understanding about risk and resilience among primary insurance companies.
“There’s a lot of misunderstanding about what’s happening, and we spend a lot of time and invest a lot of money and resources in understanding some of these emerging risks,” Ojeisekhoba says. “If you don’t price that risk appropriately – if you generate way too much profit or you generate a loss from a risk – you create a situation that’s not sustainable in the long term, which, in our view, harms the resilience of the overall industry.”
Using technology to help insurers become more efficient and reduce volatility in their earnings is another area of focus for Swiss Re. Whether it’s modeling for perils like flood, developing new platforms to help insurance companies offer coverage or investing in research on critical illnesses that have historically been uninsurable, Swiss Re is on the cutting edge of innovation.
“That’s the beauty and excitement of the advancements that exist today around technology, which really force us to challenge some of the paradigms that have always existed in the industry,” Ojeisekhoba says. “In the absence of addressing some of these challenges, what we clearly could see over a 10- to 20-year period was the protection gap continuing to grow. As an industry, if all you do is satisfy the needs of only 10% or 20% of consumers, at some point I think consumers begin to wonder how relevant this industry is in reality, and I think that was a danger for us as an industry if we didn’t address some of these unmet needs.”
Swiss Re’s strategies to drive growth by making insurance companies and their clients more resilient are paying off. “When we look at the results so far,” Ojeisekhoba says, “the growth that we’re experiencing is mainly because we’ve focused on being much more relevant to our clients’ business.”