Swiss Re’s McGrath: Faster decision-making and reducing complexity key to successful leadership

Insurance leaders “will never” have all the answers or be fully satisfied with the data points, according to Katie McGrath, North America CEO at Swiss Re Corporate Solutions.

“But in order to win together with our partners and customers, we've got to decision faster and reduce some of that complexity across the industry,” McGrath told The Insurer TV.

One path toward that goal is giving customers access to Swiss Re’s tech products, such as those around property exposure.

“How do we allow our customers to take control of their risk? It’s their risk, at the end of the day, it's not ours. We enable their commerce and success, but they really need to understand it,” said McGrath.

Using their own information allows customers to spearhead their own loss prevention, she added.

Similarly, sharing sustainability and supply chain data modules also helps Swiss Re customers harness their own data and analytics to access advanced tools and prevent losses, helping to stem supply chain challenges like those that arose during the pandemic.

“What if they could map all of their suppliers and see what type of redundancy they should have in order to protect their businesses?” said McGrath.

“Because at the end of the day, they're not in the insurance business, they're in some other business. And so, we want to make sure that they're up and running and creating profitability for their key stakeholders.”

Tackling emerging risks

The first and foremost emerging risk on McGrath’s mind right now is climate.

“We at Swiss Re have spent so much time trying to address this not newly emerging risk, but certainly key risk in our industry.

“And if you just look at 2023, at the halfway point, we were already at $50bn in global insured losses. We'll finish out the year with another $100bn year, which will be the fourth consecutive year.”

Of those totals, about 68 percent is connected to convective storms, said McGrath, meaning that secondary perils are a top issue for Swiss Re customers.

Other emerging risks that are top of mind for McGrath include geopolitical unrest, economic and social inflation, legal abuse and misuse of data and technology, such as generative AI.

“We want to use it in the right way. We want to address pain points for our customers, we want to automate antiquated processes. But our customers really need to consider new risk frameworks around this,” said McGrath.

Most exciting opportunities in 2024

The most exciting piece of next year’s journey for McGrath will likely focus on alternative risk transfer opportunities.

“And this is not something new. It's just, I think, certain ideas that are coming into their own, whether that be because of the hard market, or just you know, the sophistication level of our customers.”

Swiss Re’s innovative risk solutions team focuses on addressing customer needs via pioneering solutions.

“It could be the use of a parametric solution where you're able to complement a traditional risk transfer with something that's a bit easier to understand, has an external trigger, and the payment can be used,” said McGrath, offering up a few examples of the team’s work.

One key to continued innovation for McGrath is a focus on empowering her team leaders to allow their charges to take the reins.

“People are complicated. We're not managing widgets here. And what motivates one person is not necessarily what will motivate another. So, it's really getting to know people, it's not you know, how much they know, it's how much they care,” said McGrath.

Getting people to care sometimes means enriching the narrative around what insurance is, while grounding it in accountability.

“I had a customer share once [that] we need to stop saying that we fell into the industry, that doesn't sound deliberate. And I think there's a lot of truth to that,” said McGrath.

New risk management and actuarial course offerings have made the path to an insurance career more intentional, according to McGrath. And newly opened positions are going to a broader talent pool of promising recruits that McGrath said will make the industry smarter.

She’s excited to welcome these new recruits to an insurance industry in the midst of a renaissance.

“What is more fulfilling than standing up a global economy, which is what, really, the insurance industry has done.”

Watch this 14-minute video to learn more about:

  • Why faster decisions and less complexity are essential to serving customers
  • How Swiss Re is taking an innovative approach to helping customers achieve goals
  • What McGrath considers the key risks in 2024
  • Where McGrath sees the most opportunities emerging next year
  • Key strategies for motivating teams and their leaders
  • Why the industry must uplift new diverse talent