There was a time when Allianz didn't cut such a fine figure in the industrial insurance area, and anyone who attempted to drag the business into the black was forced to admit defeat sooner or later. Eventually, it was a lawyer of all people who pulled off the feat, which had almost been given up as a lost cause. Axel Theis has brought out the shine in industrial insurance, wrote the Börsen-Zeitung recently. Today, an entire industry is guided by the example set by Allianz.
Axel Theis has had an exemplary career at Allianz. The PhD law graduate started work at Allianz in 1986 in Stuttgart, and over the years gained a thorough view of the company. After diverse placements, including working as a member of Allianz Australia’s Executive Board in Sydney, in 2004 the native Berliner, who grew up in Swabia, became Head of Allianz Global Risks Rückversicherungs-AG, the predecessor of Allianz Global Corporate & Speciality (AGCS), which was founded in 2006. Under his leadership the company grew to become one of the world's leading industrial insurers, active today in over 150 countries with 3,600 employees from 65 nations.
Those who know Theis describe him as quiet, conscientious, upright, down-to-earth. He isn't one for a grand entrance. His comments on his promotion to the Holding Board are also rather matter-of-fact. “The tasks that you're given must be done well,” he says. “Everything else will come out of that – or not. There are many different sides to the world; if you place all your focus on your career, you won't be happy.”
“What bothers me are claims that slip below the radar and catch us unawares.”
The father of three is able to express complex issues in simple words – always a good sign. The secret of his success, however, lies partially in his “mantra”, which, as he says, every AGCS underwriter can recite in his sleep: “Our goal is profitable growth. Growth at any cost makes no sense.” To this end, one has to know and understand what risks you're taking on. “Claims themselves don't bother me, claims are our business,” the AGCS boss says. “What bothers me are claims that slip below the radar and catch us unawares.”
Theis is taking over from Clem Booth, who will retire from the Board of Management at the end of December. In his new role he will take on responsibility for global industrial lines, Group-wide reinsurance, credit insurance and the insurance business in Ireland and the UK. As of May, he will also be responsible for the global P&C insurance area.
His first major test will be the integration of Fireman's Fund's corporate business into the American AGCS subsidiary's portfolio. Theis knows his way around transactions like this: as Head of AGCS he successfully implemented the 2009 transfer of Fireman's Fund's marine insurance business to AGCS. Today, the Allianz subsidiary is the world's largest provider in the marine area.