Change of leadership at AGCS in Germany. On January 1, 2012 Klaus M Przybyla took over from Wolfgang Faden as the CEO of Germany and Central Europe. The new head of the German division talks about his impressions and his plans...
Mr. Przybyla, the end of last year was marked by the Euro crisis and a high claims burden as a result of natural disasters - as the new regional head of AGCS, would you have preferred an easier start to the job?
Without a doubt the entire economy is in a particular situation. However I think the starting conditions for me are not really difficult. In 2011 AGCS had some considerable successes, especially in Germany and the Central European region. My predecessor left me a well-kept house. Furthermore I was able to prepare for my new role by working closely alongside Wolfgang Faden for more than two years, which I'm very thankful for. Besides, I always try to adopt a positive attitude when dealing with people and issues. That's part of my nature and so far it mostly served me well. As a result I'm feeling quite positive.
What general approach do you take?
If you have a look around my office, you'll find three small sculptures. Each of them stands for a particular idea: "Opening up new dimensions", "Together we're strong" and "He who dares...". The sculptures are there for a reason - they reflect my basic attitude in both my private and professional life.
Which goals have you set yourself in your new role?
Our business model is that of a leading insurer. It is my aim that we are in principle the first place to go for our clients, thus their first choice insurerer. That is my guiding principle. The consolidation of our regional processes within the scope of our global IT-strategy is by the way on top of the agenda.
Where do you see the challenges, opportunities and development potential for AGCS?
My first thought is our IT landscape. It's well known that IT changeovers in companies never take place without some surprises, and certainly not, as is the case here for AGCS, when several countries with different systems are involved. This of course poses a real challenge since our customers quite rightly expect outstanding service from us. Good and quick processes are part of the foundation for this. This does however offer us a great opportunity. Once we've fully come to terms with the global process world we'll be able to take advantage of our international opportunities more than we do now. For our customers this primarily means better service, for example in the reporting area.
The increased transparency of our portfolio offers us even more advantages. Because this offers us optimal control and the opportunity to develop sustainable strategies. Our customers in turn benefit from this because we remain accountable to them as a result. Furthermore, an improved database also supports the product development process. In the individual lines of business we're already on the right track. Generally speaking, development potential practically always arises from the ever-changing demands and expectations of our customers.
Are there other topics which are important to you?
If we want to successfully deal with ever more complex risks in the future, we have to focus more intensively on further training and the development of employees. In all this our sustainable profitability is naturally at the forefront of our thinking - it forms the basis of everything we do.
Will the Key Account Management (KAM) be built up further as indicated by Wolfgang Faden?
The KAM Model has established itself and receives positive evaluations from customers without exception. As a sort of "navigation system" it provides guidance on the broad product landscape of the Allianz Group. As a result it's only consistent to develop the model further. It's not just about expanding our staff but also about extending our scope of responsibility in terms of global Key Account Management, which incorporates and manages international activities beyond the scope of international programs.
What's your opinion on the current market situation - from the perspective of an insurer?
The air is obviously getting thinner. If you look at the development of combined ratios by insurers from the industrial and large-scale industrial sectors, you'll notice a clear trend towards the 100% mark. In addition investment income is being kept within moderate limits by the low interest rate so that we can hardly expect any relief from that side. Should enough capacities continue to be available in the market and assumed that the claims development remain at an acceptable level, prices can’t at least spiral further downwards. This applies particularly against the backdrop of a high claims burden due to natural disasters.
Keyword Nat Cat. High loss ratios in 2011 are putting the property market under enormous pressure. What position does AGCS take on this?
The claims as a result of last year's natural disasters are indeed burdening us. Even the frequency of fires was greater than in previous years. Both these factors affected our results in the region Germany & CE. Volatility is of course part of our business and therefore we must make sure that it remains manageable and that the overall portfolio is consistent with our business model. Ultimately we want to continue justifying our leadership role. In 2011 we started to be more focused in the property sector. In this respect we'll continue our dialog with our customers this year in order to remain accountable. That is to say that our customers have a right to know what we stand for and what they can expect from us.
A short time ago you were paraphrased in the press as saying that Allianz wanted to become "more transparent". What does this mean in concrete terms?
Here we come back to the idea of accountability. The financial soundness of Allianz is well known and is confirmed by ratings. But ratings aren't everything. Our customers have the right to know more than what's publicly available. Therefore we, together with our colleagues from Finance, are offering them insights into our investment strategy at their request. It goes without saying that, depending on the amount of detail, such an exchange can only take place on a bilateral level.
Is the AGCS beginning to grow out of its infancy in its 6th year of existence? Is it now about consolidation above all else?
The idea of infancy doesn't quite hit the nail on the head. When AGCS was founded, we weren't creating something out of nothing. The merging of Allianz Global Risks and Allianz Marine & Aviation and the development of a new, shared identity as AGCS did of course not take place over night. And providing our global processes a stable foundation is, as I said, a real challenge. Let's put it this way: requirements change and grow, therefore we find ourselves in a permanent process of further development which incorporates just as much improvements in the quality of services as it does in the expansion of our operations, even on a regional scale such as in Asia or South America.
Where do you see AGCS in two and in five years' time?
I think that by 2014 we'll have made considerable progress at the global process level and will have further demonstrated our willingness to innovate. Furthermore, I hope that our customers will see us as an organization that works in a passionate and dedicated manner to achieve solutions. And in five years' time I think it's possible that we'll have become the first choice insurer for our customers.
In the last twelve months Allianz set up the "One" advertising campaign across the world which allows customers or employees to submit a piece of advice or a motto. What would be your one piece of advice?
That brings me back to my three sculptures: "Dare to explore new dimensions together".