Swiss Re’s chief executive for UK and Ireland highlights his 2022 achievements and 2023 plans 

Upon becoming UK and Ireland chief executive for reinsurer Swiss Re in January 2022, Jason Richards was determined to drive a more diverse and inclusive workplace because he feels the industry ”can do much more” in this arena.

Richards has worked at Swiss Re for more than 16 years in total, across global roles such as head of casualty underwriting and head of property and casualty business management, in geographies such as Switzerland and Denmark.

Jason Richards (2)

Jason Richards

Rejoining Swiss Re’s UK and Ireland operation as its leader, however, saw Richards want to step up and deliver change across the business - particularly in terms of diversity and inclusion (D&I).

Speaking exclusively to Insurance Times, he explains: “We already do [D&I] quite well [within] insurance, but we can do much more.

“I’m going to try and drive that in Swiss Re and across the industry.”

For Richards, recruitment is a key way of bringing a “more diverse set of people into the industry”. Swiss Re therefore started to post more part-time jobs last year, while also creating a “more structured” recruitment process.

“[We] make sure we have more diverse panels involved in the actual interviewing process,” he adds. “It’s around just trying to make talent acquisition really good, robust and an inclusive process.”

Richards additionally introduced gender diversity targets in his first year at the helm, to further push forward his D&I agenda. This includes having 30% female representation in A band senior management positions and 40% female representation across B band senior management roles by 2025.

Building strong, in-person relationships

Taking over a business in January 2022 did pose wider challenges for Richards, however, with the UK government still encouraging Brits to work from home due to new variants of the Covid-19 virus.

Despite this, Richards knew his targets and what he wanted to achieve by December 2022.

This included getting people back into the office as coronavirus restrictions eased and clients and broker partners started to surface again.

As part of this, Richards says he strove to be “as visible as he could” while being supportive of employees’ individual choices.

“By the end of year, we had a lot of people in the office and that was really good,” Richards explains.

“We felt we had started to get a really good environment back and the fear of coming back to the office disappeared. We also rolled out a hybrid working environment and it felt really good to get everyone back.

“All of our clients and broker partners also started to come back and the key thing for me in my first year was to get the team back and start to build stronger relationships with our clients and broker partners.”

Having a stronger voice in the UK general insurance and life and pensions market was also on Richards’ to-do list for 2022 – he decided the best way to achieve this was to join the ABI board.

On top of joining the trade body in September 2022, Richards tells Insurance Times that he also became active across a number of industry groups - including ClimateWise part of the University of Cambridge - “to make sure [Swiss Re] can contribute and have a bigger voice in the UK”.

“The UK is a really important market for us,” he adds.

“It’s one of our biggest markets worldwide and we want to continue to provide a lot of value for clients in the UK, while bringing some of the risk knowledge and insights that we have to clients.”

Areas of focus 

Richards says he has a number of focus areas for 2023, now he has one year as chief executive under his belt.

This includes acting on feedback from clients over ways the business can improve.

“I spoke a lot to our clients during 2022 and that was really helpful to get their feedback and [to know] where can we be better.

“We [will] use that to take a look at how we can be a bit more efficient and a bit leaner in our processes.”

Another area of focus for this year is innovation, building on the reinsurer’s work from 2022.

For example, in April 2022, Swiss Re participated in Lloyd’s Lab’s eighth cohort with a prototype to collect and examine private firms’ environmental, social and governance data for insurance companies, to help insurance portfolios decarbonise.

Richards says: “Examples like what we’ve done with Lloyd’s Lab is really important, [as well as] other product development we do with clients. It’s really important we get good traction on product innovation.

“We have a big focus to continue to expand the propositions that we have on the solution side with clients.” 

Summing up, Richards says Swiss Re will continue to be available for its clients - especially as the UK market is “really important” to the firm.

“There’s plenty of demand for reinsurance at this time,” he continues.

“Clients need us - the capital basis for some is not as strong as it was prior to last two or three years.

“They look towards us and we want to be there and support them, particularly on some of the more volatile lines of business.”