Pandemic can be catalyst for wider change

The industry must partner with clients to address the growing threat of systemic risks, says AXA’s Thomas Buberl in Aon fireside chat

Chicago, IL (Nov. 3, 2020) – Aon plc, a leading global professional services firm providing a broad range of risk, retirement and health solutions, recently interviewed the CEO of AXA, Thomas Buberl, as part of its Virtual Reinsurance Renewal Season fireside chats.

The goal of Aon’s fireside chats is to drive growth across the re/insurance industry in order to bring capital closer to clients’ needs and enable them to flourish in a stronger economy. The series discusses the challenges and opportunities facing major re/insurers and insurance buyers, sharing both perspectives.

As host, Greg Case, CEO of Aon plc, acknowledged that the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is taking a terrible toll: “But it has created a window for change and innovation that the industry has never seen before.”

He asked Mr. Buberl what the insurance industry can learn from COVID-19 and whether systemic risks, including climate change and cyber threats, could transform insurers’ relationships with their clients.

Mr. Buberl said that the lockdown has emphasized the importance of digital interaction with insurers’ customers: “We have invested more in technology to meet demand and we want to continue on this journey. Also, as with others in the industry, we have all seen a call for greater [insurance] contract clarity. Customers, brokers and insurers see the need for clear contracts.”

Mr. Buberl added that the pandemic has underlined the role of the insurance industry as a social actor: “Insurers acting as a catalyst for societal change will be more important in the future.”

Providing adequate coverage for pandemic risk calls for risk sharing between private companies and public entities in a way that is already in place for terrorism and natural catastrophe risk, Mr. Buberl said, adding that cyber risk will likely need the same approach.

Referencing AXA’s recent Future Risk Report, Mr. Case agreed that a cyber security event could pose a systemic threat on a par with the pandemic, yet the market for cyber risk insurance is still underdeveloped. Mr. Buberl said: “Cyber is the next digital pandemic and we have only seen the beginning of what is to come. If we want to crack this market and build better coverages, we need more data and more data sharing – with customers and with government bodies.”

Mr. Buberl reiterated that the industry needs to move from “payer to partner” and renew the focus on helping customers with loss prevention and making a speedy recovery: “Insurance from a customer perspective has always been a necessary evil. Things have started to change hopefully but we must put more ourselves in our customers’ shoes and take a risk management approach to come up with solutions that combine service with insurance coverage.”

Investment in analytics by the industry is unprecedented, Mr. Case said: “But if we do not take action based on new insights it is hard for our clients to take on those new solutions. We all need to think harder about how we use analytics otherwise we will stagnate.”

Mr. Case said that if the industry has been innovating at level three (on a scale of one to 10) for decades, where does it need to be in order to meet client demands? Mr. Buberl said: “At least seven or eight – because if we don’t do it, someone else will…”

“Just signing the policy and giving you the wording is not enough. We need to really think how we can help our customers in this transformation process when it comes to risks and mitigating risks – which is fundamentally different to what we have been doing for the past 50 years.”

To watch the full interview and sign up for future fireside chats, please click here.

Read more about how faster innovation, enhanced technology and greater analytical capabilities will tackle long-tail risk in Aon and Willis Towers Watson’s recently published whitepaper, Helping Clients Navigate an Increasingly Complex World.

About Aon

Aon plc (NYSE:AON) is a leading global professional services firm providing a broad range of risk, retirement and health solutions. Our 50,000 colleagues in 120 countries empower results for clients by using proprietary data and analytics to deliver insights that reduce volatility and improve performance. For more information, visit

Source: Aon

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