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RenRe at 20: It’s all about serving our customers

RenaissanceRe has been in operation for 20 years today, and they are to enter their third decade with a new chief executive officer and company director at the helm. Kevin O’Donnell will officially become RenRe’s CEO on July 1. He joined as the company first moved into their East Broadway home 17 years ago, which remains an oasis of traditional Bermudian architectural style, cedar detailing and muted refinement. Of those housing the many international businesses domiciled in Bermuda the RenRe offices are still among the most faithful to the Bermudian vernacular The warm elegance of the building throws into relief the cool modernity of RenRe’s business operations — though with old fashioned values intact. Known from its earliest days as catastrophe reinsurer, RenRe has grown and evolved, and today the company is commonly described as a reinsurance industry global leader. The CEO designate gives credit to the man he is replacing for the strong position the company holds in the international market today. Mr O’Donnell said: “Neill Currie has had two important careers — one as our founder, and then he returned in 2005 in response to a lot of market changes. He has done a tremendous job in leading RenRe and building the foundation for its success in the future.” The CEO designate said with visible feeling: “Personally, he has mentored me and prepared me to lead RenRe into its third decade. “He will stay on as a consultant until February 2014 — we wish him nothing but future success and I know he’ll be a supporter of RenaissanceRe for life.” The CEO designate pointed to RenRe’s three priorities when doing business. “Customer relations, risk selection and pricing, and capital management,” he said. “If we do these three things well, everything will fall into place,” along with the development of solid strategy and execution of that strategy. “And,” he said: “we need great people. In 20 years we have built the best team in the business.” In developing that team, it meant incorporating some new thinking to go along with their new building. Unusually for the time, there were no private offices. “I have never had one,” said the new CEO. The result is a cohesive culture — a company that “speaks with one voice,” as the CEO designate put it. Since its earliest days, making the best use of available technology has also been a hallmark of the RenRe operations, and in particular they quickly gained a reputation for superior risk modelling, which they sustain today. The high priority placed on customer relations is another key aspect of their success. “It’s all about serving our customers,” and he said when a catastrophe does strike, that RenRe lives up to their responsibilities. It means those relationships become “stronger and deeper” he said. As a result, RenRe have retained many of their customers over the years. “That is extremely rewarding,” he said. “Since Hurricane Andrew, when we were formed, it’s been deeply ingrained in our culture to always be prepared to help our customers whenever there’s a large loss, not only pay the claims but to continue to build and protect their balance sheet by being there to offer more capacity after the event.” Going forward, Mr O’Donnell said: “The US catastrophe market line is our largest business. We are a US property cat specialist. It is one of many things that we do, though. It often gets overlooked that we’ve made over $1 billion in profit writing speciality lines. “We’re a world leader in retro, and international cat business, and we have a growing Lloyd’s platform. So although we are known as a cat specialist and are often thought of as a US property cat specialist, we have many lines and many areas that contribute to our success.” He added: “Markets change, but the US market will continue to be the largest line in the foreseeable future.” He indicated that RenRe also remains committed Bermuda, where they were first established 20 years ago. “Bermuda is the best place in the world to write property catastrophe and US property catastrophe,” he said. As Mr O’Donnell prepares to take the helm, he reflected: “I started in 1996 as an AVP and I couldn’t be more thrilled and honoured to be a CEO 17 years on. “I couldn’t have done it without the support and trust of Neill Currie. We worked very well collaboratively, and we celebrate his tremendous contribution.” Mr O’Donnell recalled that when he joined RenRe, he came on board as an international and ceded reinsurance underwriter. “I’ve been involved for such a long time I feel a significant ownership in the strategy,” he said. “However the future unfolds, I believe we have the greatest platform to be successful in any way that the market takes us.” About RenaissanceRe: In RenaissanceRe’s promotional materials they describe themselves as “a leading provider of property catastrophe reinsurance and insurance worldwide. “Founded in Bermuda in 1993, the Company has gained recognition for excellence in the industry through disciplined underwriting, capital management expertise, sophisticated risk modelling and responsive client service. “We underwrite our reinsurance business primarily through Renaissance Reinsurance Ltd (‘Renaissance Reinsurance’), DaVinci Reinsurance Ltd (‘DaVinci’) and Top Layer Reinsurance Ltd (‘Top Layer Re’).” RenRe points to: “sophisticated computer modelling and our proprietary technology for risk analysis and management, our seasoned team of underwriters (who) seek to construct a superior risk portfolio, while cultivating long-term relationships with clients who appreciate our problem-solving capabilities,” and they add: “We offer global specialty reinsurance products principally on an excess of loss basis through Renaissance Reinsurance and DaVinci, and on a proportional basis through Glencoe Insurance Ltd. (‘Glencoe’). “As a result of our financial strength, we have the ability to provide significant capacity for select risks as well as participate in market placements. Our coverages include agriculture, aviation, casualty clash, energy, excess casualty, mortgage guarantee, political risk, professional liability, surety, terrorism.”

Kevin O'Donnell will take RenaissanceRe into its third decade as the new chief executive officer (photo by Glenn Tucker)