Global businesses face an increasingly difficult trading environment.
The COVID-19 crisis, rising political tensions, terrorism’s growing threat and an increase in extreme weather events have all served to make the world a more unstable and uncertain place.
That’s why having a robust international program in place has never been more critical.
Swiss Re Corporate Solutions only fully launched its international programs offering five years ago but is already fast-establishing itself as one of the market’s key players, doubling its book year-on-year. Having realized a niche to provide a top-tier program for new and rapidly expanding global companies, it’s now looking to reach an even wider market.
Deliberately starting exclusively with programs for smaller corporates, Swiss Re has built up its capabilities over the last year to now be able to handle every size of customer. Now the programs have been extended to cater to the larger customer that requires a more complex structure, using multiple carriers to provide the coverage.
That increased capability has put Swiss Re on par with established players that have been running international programs for the past 40 years. To provide for its global customers, Swiss Re now operates or has partners in more than 150 countries and produces programs from 15 of those countries, with plans to grow even further with the addition of producing offices in Mexico, Brazil and Colombia.
“We didn’t want to promise too much, too soon,” said William Porter, who was recently promoted to the role of Head of International Programs for the Americas at Swiss Re Corporate Solutions. “That’s because so much of what we do in international is based on the trust the customer and broker place in the front-end carrier to handle their program effectively.”
The approach has worked well for the company. Here’s a look at what it took for Swiss Re to scale its operations so successfully.
Technology has been the key enabler to reach this scale of larger customer, with Swiss Re leveraging its position as a new entrant to deliver the most advanced and effective solutions. Automation is a big part of that, given the sheer number of re/insurers and countries involved on a program, and the need for constant information flow between all systems and parties.
That involves communicating those key facts to the local countries customers operate in, such as type of policy issued, parameters, premium, deductibles and limits. This is accomplished through Swiss Re’s PULSE platform. By automating the process alongside the underwriting system, data only has to be keyed in once, and all the countries are connected on the same program, driving greater efficiency.
This is all overseen by their international financial management team, which ensures premiums are paid to the reinsurers and claims to the customer in a timely manner.
“International programs are all about moving money around the world: From the fronting carriers to the reinsurers and to the customer when they make a claim,” said Porter. “That all has to happen seamlessly with every part of the process fully coordinated, enabling us to make transactions as effectively and efficiently as possible.”
To effectively implement such technology, Swiss Re has assembled a team of dedicated experts with decades of experience in international programs, all of which are well-respected and trusted by the customer and want the challenge of building a proposition from scratch.
As the key decision-makers for their customers, brokers are an integral component too. Swiss Re has actively worked with leading international brokers from the time of first developing their proposition, and that collaboration continues to this day.
Process transparency has been another key driver behind Swiss Re’s success. That has meant being upfront with customers about how the company is selecting the best programs for them.
Typically, Swiss Re provides between 10% and 20% of the primary layer on a customer’s Property program as a lead carrier. Existing risk transfer customers have been Swiss Re’s primary target, as the global team continues to build out strong relationships with these customers and seeks to add value to their programs.
“Ultimately, we want to deliver the most value to them,” said Porter. “That involves taking a deep-dive into their existing program and seeing how we can improve it.”
In line with all this, Swiss Re has restructured its global leadership team, increasing from three to four people to include the leaders responsible for regional production. Porter’s remit is North and South America and being part of the global team gives his customers and colleagues a voice with the company’s executive leaders and a seat at the table when discussing the requirements for international programs in those regions.
Among the biggest challenges Swiss Re has faced in establishing itself is maintaining open communication channels at all times to the relevant parties. That includes communicating the customer’s needs, their program details, how local policies need to be issued and how the money needs to flow from one point to the next.
As far as opportunities are concerned, Porter foresees the chance to win even more business as firms become truly international and established players continue to expand their global footprint. Gone are the days when you could count the potential customers in the single-digit thousands, he said.
“The number of firms going global is increasing every year,” said Porter. “We’re seeing particular growth in the middle market, whether it’s manufacturing facilities, sales offices or whatever it may be.”
Despite property making up 90% of risks within Swiss Re’s international program portfolio, other areas of coverage most in demand, said Porter, include directors and officers and product liability — both of which the company is looking to expand. There has also been a recent surge in interest from energy firms looking to set up fully-fledged international programs too, he said.
An example of this is an energy company that Swiss Re already provided a reinsurance solution for. However, its international program was inefficient, as there was no co-ordination of the local policies issued by the lead carrier in the different countries it operated in, and the customer had no visibility of how the program was being handled.
“After looking at the program they had in place and discussing their risks, needs and mitigation strategies in each individual country, we ended up taking it on for them,” said Porter. “We issued 14 local policies and gave them full transparency as to how the premiums were allocated around the world, based on the risk profile of each country’s operations.”
By their nature, energy firms tend to be hard to secure coverage for, because they often operate in harsh environments where the natural resources they need are located.
“We’ve often had to pivot and work quickly to find and approve carriers in some far-flung places, in a short space of time,” said Porter. “That’s where being a part of one of the world’s largest reinsurers has helped. There is institutional knowledge of carriers around the world, who often already know that side of Swiss Re well.”
Moving forward, the growing political instability and the uncertainty caused by the pandemic remain ongoing challenges for businesses. As does the threat of terrorism and extreme weather events caused by climate change.
“We’re entering unchartered waters with many of these problems, the likes of which we have never encountered before,” said Porter. “It’s going to have a huge impact on international programs for years to come and something we need to keep a close eye on in the future.
“But thanks to our extensive state-of-the-art natural catastrophe models here at Swiss Re, we’re able to constantly monitor and evaluate these emerging risks. It’s one more way we seek to take care of our International Programs customers.”
To learn more, visit: https://corporatesolutions.swissre.com/insurance-solutions/international-programs.html.
This article was produced by the R&I Brand Studio, a unit of the advertising department of Risk & Insurance, in collaboration with Swiss Re Corporate Solutions. The editorial staff of Risk & Insurance had no role in its preparation.