2013 North America CFO Forum: resilience in a mature market

Achieving balancing between a mature market and a business climate that desires growth, while sparking innovative leadership were at the top of the agenda during the first 2013 Swiss Re North America CFO Forum in New York.

The Swiss Re North America CFO Forum brought insurance market leaders together to exchange insights on effective financial management strategies and solutions in light of pressing macro-economic challenges.

"As hard as we think we have it as leaders of our companies, our consumers have it really hard," said Swiss Re America CEO and President Eric Smith as he commented on the role of leaders during mature market conditions at the Forum on 15-16 May.

"The best contribution we can make as leaders is the difference that we make for society - the way we help bring resilience to [consumers] - the ways we help them solve problems." 

Coping with maturity challenging, but possible

According to event host and Group CFO George Quinn, finding growth, along with addressing other issues that insurance companies face during a mature market - a market that lacks significant growth - can be difficult, but doable.

"My view is that there's plenty of room for growth if we have the imagination," he said. "The most important thing is how you see the opportunity. I think for finance people it's important for us to say what leadership role we want to take in that process. I face this challenge every single day."

Widening the focus to include other regions was also seen as a positive move. "There is no doubt that the high growth opportunity is in the emerging or emerged markets," Quinn said. He added that high-quality, local expertise is key to success in high growth markets.

The importance of innovation

Swiss Re Americas Board Chair Phil Ryan also offered advice to the attending CFOs on meeting the challenges of a mature market, touching on the importance of financial alignment, capital allocation and momentum.  Ryan also focused on the role of innovation in finance.

"I teach at NYU and I tell my students it's all about innovation. You have to manage innovation to play out the emergence of trends in the financial services business," he said.

Ryan said that areas ripe for innovation include microinsurance, agribusiness, insurance-linked securities and insurance solutions around climate change.

Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty also spoke at the Forum, along with Benhard Kotanko of Oliver Wyman and Thomas Roberts of Corporate Finance Practice. This was the first year for the Swiss Re North America CFO Forum.

Published 24 May 2013

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