Klaus-Peter Röhler: Playing to win

Win as a team. "When we play, we play to win." The man behind these words – Klaus-Peter Röhler – is not someone who easily accepts a second or a third prize. The bar is always set high, the preparation is careful and meticulous, and the team is united and motivated. It doesn’t matter if the team was put together by him or taken over from someone else.

In Klaus-Peter Röhler, the Allianz SE Board of Management gets a manager who leads by being one of the team members. Someone who doesn't put achievements on his personal scorecard but sees them as a collective win. People are never left behind when he evaluates projects. It is never about profit at any price. "Being ambitious is one thing but it should not come at the cost of the well-being of customers and employees,” says the CEO of Allianz Germany. He does not tolerate the ‘easiest way out’ approach. 

Learning from experience

The trained banker, lawyer and business management graduate knows insurance inside out. After he interviewed at Allianz for a job, he gave up an opportunity to start his career at a major bank without a second thought. So strongly did he identify with the culture of Allianz. “I immediately had the feeling that my colleagues here could as easily be my friends too.” Fresh out of university, he was impressed with the ability of his interviewer to show him the possibilities that lay ahead for turning his theoretical knowledge into practical solutions.

Starting as an assistant to a board director in North Rhine-Westphalia, he went on to learn the ropes in a tied-agent organization. Then he picked up the nuances of broker sales, moving on to establishing sales channels via banks. During those years, Klaus-Peter also did underwriting.

allianz klaus-peter röhler
Klaus-Peter Röhler

Perfecting strategies

"When you have been given the opportunity to learn the entire insurance business from scratch, you feel well-prepared to tackle even larger projects," says the 55-year-old Palatinate native. What he enjoys doing most, is perfecting strategies: "There’s nothing that excites me more than developing a good strategy.”

The opportunities presented themselves quickly.

As the head of the CEO's office at the Allianz headquarters, nestled next to the English Garden in Munich, Klaus-Peter not only handled the day-to-day businesses of two CEOs but also helped conceptualize the "3 + One" strategy: "It all started in a tiny room with Michael Diekmann. Back then, with paper and pencil and just the two of us at the desk."

At the same time, as part of the Sustainability Program, he dealt with process harmonization and other measures to increase the operating profit. These steps later evolved into what is now being rolled out as the Allianz Customer Model (ACM). As head of business for Southern Europe, Switzerland and Austria, he then focused on transferring best practices from one country to another. 

Integrator and accelerator

A completely different task waited for him in Italy as the newly-appointed COO: three companies – RAS, Lloyd Adriatico, and Allianz Subalpina – had to be integrated. It took five years, but the job was done to satisfaction. In the process, Italian was added to his repertoire of languages.

Subsequently, Klaus-Peter took up the position of the CEO of Allianz Switzerland, which was lagging in customer growth and profitability. A new strategy was implemented. And the first successes were seen in customer growth. The profitability of property and casualty business also made good progress.  Not stopping at a performance revival, the unit went on to become an innovator with "Balance Invest", one of Allianz's first hybrid products that incorporated banking and insurance know-how.

Later, Klaus-Peter returned to Italy, this time as CEO. History repeated itself. He was tasked once again with a corporate integration. Due to antitrust concerns, the Unipol Group had to give up part of a newly-acquired insurer. It was a unique opportunity for Allianz. Few expected a new CEO to start off with an acquisition before settling in. But with encouragement from Allianz headquarters, Klaus-Peter seized the opportunity with both arms. In fact, it took his team just six months to close the transaction, including the integration of the two companies’ technologies and agents.  

Digitalization is a hobby

"What I appreciate about Italy is the flexibility and creativity of our employees there,” Klaus-Peter says, flashing his signature friendly smile. He admits to being surprised time and again. Some seemingly unsalvageable situations turned into victories. For example, when there were delays in product or IT development. "People pulled it together and put the project into fifth gear – and before we knew it, we were right on schedule!”

It’s this creativity and commitment that made Italy the pioneer of digitalization at Allianz. During his tenure, ‘fast-track online quote and buy’ applications were developed, the first modular digital products were built ("Allianz One" and "Allianz One Business"), the first Allianz customer app was programmed, automation was pushed forward, and search engine results were optimized.

He brought these learnings to Allianz Deutschland AG. When he took over as the CEO of the company in 2018, he signed up for what he admits to being his most difficult task so far: put the stagnating property insurance business back into growth and profitability mode. Allianz Germany accomplished this in just one year. Accelerated profit growth followed a year later.

Endless possibilities

So what lies in the future for Allianz Germany? “The biggest challenges have been addressed: life insurance has positioned itself early to cope with the low interest rate environment.” And the ACM, which is a global model incorporating a great deal of Allianz Germany's expertise, enables the company to stay close to the customer, however rapid the changes in their behavior.  

To illustrate the effectiveness of the ACM, Klaus-Peter proudly presents the first sales numbers for “Privatschutz”, a modular product based on the model. “Privatschutz”, which offers the most important insurances that an individual could need, was developed in just a year.

The next logical step: the use of fast and simple processes with a high degree of automation, leaving employees free to better serve customers and derive more satisfaction from their jobs.  

Klaus-Peter doesn’t believe in simply sending out a memo to communicate his ideas. Every month, he visits a different location, talking to employees at various levels, taking up their concerns and learning “what it's really like on-site”. “Everything looks good on presentation slides. Reality could be different.”

These visits ground him. “At most, 80 percent of my decisions could be right and 20 percent could be wrong. I think it's important that people tell me clearly where I've fallen short – be it a board member or an employee. Often, great ideas for improvements come alive on these tours.”

He’s convinced that the best of Allianz Germany is yet to come. Because Klaus-Peter and his team are playing to win. 

Beyond business

Getting personal for a bit, how does he find his work-life balance? “Well,” he replies, “it has to be something far removed from work.” Horse-riding, fishing – and during summertime – driving around the countryside with his wife in the family's old open-top Citroën 2CV, a car affectionately called “Tin Snail”, “Dolly” and “upside-down pram” in Germany.

A ride not unlike his professional life. Bumpy, yet exhilarating. 

Written by Andreas Schüler

The Allianz Group is one of the world's leading insurers and asset managers with more than 100 million retail and corporate customers in more than 70 countries. Allianz customers benefit from a broad range of personal and corporate insurance services, ranging from property, life and health insurance to assistance services to credit insurance and global business insurance. Allianz is one of the world’s largest investors, managing 766 billion euros on behalf of its insurance customers. Furthermore, our asset managers PIMCO and Allianz Global Investors manage 1.7 trillion euros of third-party assets. Thanks to our systematic integration of ecological and social criteria in our business processes and investment decisions, we hold the leading position for insurers in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index. In 2019, over 147,000 employees achieved total revenues of 142 billion euros and an operating profit of 11.9 billion euros for the group.

These assessments are, as always, subject to the disclaimer provided below.

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Christian Kroos
Allianz SE
Flavia Genillard
Allianz SE
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