A value structure for the future

Quote Jean-Jaques Henchoz
Jean-Jaques Henchoz

Why did Hannover Re engage with its self-image and its core values in 2019?

Henchoz: We can look back on a history of success: for ten years we have clearly outperformed the market average. We are proud to have grown our premium and our profits. Yet where does this strong performance commitment in our company come from? And how can we preserve it for the future? I came to Hannover Re as Chief Executive Officer with these questions on my mind – and I was met with open ears: a broad-based desire for a binding statement of our values and corporate purpose was palpable throughout the undertaking. It only made sense, therefore, to motivate all the members of staff to develop these foundations in a spirit of togetherness. After all, having a goal and a vision that extend beyond financial indicators is a fundamental need not only of our employees, but also of our investors and all our stakeholders in society.

Vogel: Looked at from the perspective of my thirty-year career with Hannover Re, I can state with confidence: our actions have always been driven by the self-image of an entrepreneur – and that will remain so going forward. By defining our self-image and codifying our values, we have put a good basis in place.

Henchoz: By defining our company’s purpose we have accomplished something very significant: we have identified the factors in our past success and embraced them on our path into the future.

How do you experience Hannover Re’s self-image in concrete terms? Could you cite an example by way of illustration?

Vogel: There was one situation that left a really deep impression on me: our response to the September 11 attacks of 2001. At the time we were searching for innovative solutions to improve our capital position. We had drawn some of our inspiration from ideas outside our own industry. So we assembled a team, created the first securitisation of reinsurance recoverables and even went on to win an award for the transaction. In so doing, we improved our capital position, boosted our financial strength rating and – unlike some of our competitors – we did not withdraw from the market for aviation risks. That entrepreneurial spirit was our hallmark back then and remains so to this day.

Henchoz: For me, our self-image is tangible on a daily basis. Hannover Re is ruled by a spirit of collaboration, all our employees are real team players. We are there for our clients and we take a thoroughly pragmatic approach – it’s in our DNA, and it’s captured in the phrase “we team up”.

Why is it important for Hannover Re’s future to be clear about the company’s purpose?

Henchoz: In today’s world we are approached by a wide range of stakeholders, no longer just shareholders and customers. We must respond to them with a consistent message. We can best reach them with clear and readily understandable statements about our values and our self-image, and at the same time we thereby establish the basis for our strategic orientation and our corporate culture.

It was wholly intentional that we involved a large number of employees all around the world, since in this case the journey was the destination. This process was extremely valuable in enabling us to condense and concisely define our self-image and our corporate culture.

Vogel: Our days as a start-up are long behind us, even though we perhaps still carry this feeling inside us. Being the number three reinsurer in the world brings obligations and opportunities alike. We now want to draw on our self-image and our values as guidance for the future so as to continue to succeed going forward.

What values particularly set Hannover Re apart?

Henchoz: Fundamentally, Hannover Re’s approach is characterised by credibility, reliability, honesty and an entrepreneurial mindset. We intend to and must retain these qualities. In concrete terms, they are reflected in our guiding values of “Responsibility”, “We-spirit” and “Drive” that we elaborated jointly with our staff around the world.

Quote Roland Vogel
Roland Vogel

How do your employees embody these values in their daily work?

Vogel: We operate based on a self-image that has its roots in our history: when our company was established we entered an industry that was populated by long-established and very conservative players. Hannover Re set about doing many things differently and declined to follow conventions. Since then, we too have become an established market presence. And even though we have successfully retained our original approach to this day, it is by no means guaranteed for the future. By means of our values system we remind our employees of this on a daily basis. We act as a true partner for our customers, and we win them over with a sustainable longterm perspective and the conviction that our business model offers added value for society.