Active Re COO Luis Antonio Ibáñez: Sound Underwriting, Respect, and an Eye for Opportunity…

Active Re Global Chief Operating Officer: Luis Antonio Ibáñez

Active Re Global Chief Operating Officer: Luis Antonio Ibáñez

‘Our policy? No policy. We have strategy instead,’ quips COO of reinsurance giant Active Re

Active Re, founded in 2007 and headquartered in Barbados, has business development offices in Miami, Panama City, and Madrid.

The company has 54 representatives around the world, covering eight languages and serving 346 insurance companies and 117 reinsurance brokers in 107 countries.

It has a global portfolio of products and solutions, as well as traditional lines of reinsurance and risk management. put a few questions to chief operating officer Luis Antonio Ibáñez

What are your hopes for the future of your business, and for the industry as a whole?

It’s a resilient industry, with the usual ups and downs. Insurance and reinsurance performed brilliantly during recent crises, overcoming the financial crash in 2008 and the recent pandemic.

In recent years, Active Re has detected the right opportunities — providing the services and support that mainstream reinsurers were not in a position to offer. We took some innovative approaches, and earned the trust of our clients. That was the key to our growth and success.

Now we must consolidate these relationships and continue implementing creative business models. I think there are many opportunities ahead.

Can you pinpoint any pitfalls to help newcomers to the industry?

You must stick to one thing in this business, whatever your strategic approach, and that is sound underwriting. You must respect the techniques and rely on people with suitable experience.

The most challenging part is balancing a top-line approach and a bottom-line one. You won’t last long if you focus on the top line and drop the technical fundamentals. But if you’re too wary of risk, you’ll miss opportunities. A good manager must be well advised by underwriters, be proficient in the business, and bring balance to both approaches.

What is the most important requirement to become a global business?

A reinsurer does not have excuses to remain local or regional. Becoming global is essential. Spreading risk is the best technique to protect your capital, and territorial diversification is necessary. A reinsurer does not need to move into new locations to expand its business geographically.

There are three requirements to become global: have a good rating, visit the markets, and trust the right people.

What excites you about the business world in general?

The business world is endless: you can always find new opportunities and people interested in doing business with you. There are people you can help, and people that can help you. I see business as a creative challenge where we must provide more efficient solutions, and work with smart people.

This challenge has a straightforward goal: to improve all participants’ lives by generating profits for everyone.

So, two fundamental aspects of business that excite me: (i) you can always do more, and (ii) there is risk in the decisions, so we must do our best to decide well.

What lessons has your career taught you?

That you must first understand what a business is about, if you intend to manage it. My most admired senior managers were people with strategic and practical views who knew by heart the peculiarities and the details of the business.

I also learned that when you get to a reflected conviction — one based on knowledge, elaborated reasoning and inputs from other professionals — you must try to implement it, even if nobody has done it before. A reflected conviction is not just an idea; drawers are full of brilliant ideas.

What is special about your organisation’s management style?

Our policy is that, aside from our stringent (and essential) compliance rules, we do not have a policy. We do have a strategy, however.

What do I mean by that? We don’t have a predetermined picture of the classes of business we want to grow and which ones we want to reduce, nor a clear territorial target. We want to find good opportunities wherever they are.

If we get an opportunity in a new class, we try to find the right underwriter, or a qualified opinion. We try to find the right broker in that market, or go there. Our business is very much about finding and identifying the right people.

We have a strategy for the company: protect our capital, stay with a lean structure, provide excellent service, and write profitable business. The rest, we can accommodate. I think our business partners appreciate this.

Can you share some management or organisation secrets?

Yes, but don’t tell anyone. They are: (i) work hard, (ii) never stop learning, and (iii) think a lot.

What are the key strengths of the team?

We are few in number, and based in many different countries. Each person is responsible for their tasks; there is no rigid supervision. Our staff is autonomous, accountable, and experienced in the class or territory under their responsibility. There is an element of entrepreneurship in all of us.

How important is your support team?

Luis Antonio Ibáñez: Everyone is essential in an organisation with such a lean structure.

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