Economic issues that continue to affect the reinsurance industry may be a top priority for two reinsurers that have made changes to the highest-ranking corporate officer in charge of total management of their organizations.

Announced this morning, Michel M. Liès has been appointed by Swiss Re's board of directors to the position of group chief executive officer, succeeding Stefan Lippe as CEO.

Swiss Re said in December that Lippe, 56, decided to retire early after serving three years in the chief executive spot and bringing Swiss Re’s balance sheets back to par, which allowed the company to repay a loan from Berkshire Hathaway Inc.   Earlier, the Wall Street Journal speculated that his likely successor might be Christian Mumenthaler, head of the flagship reinsurance division, although company sources confirmed a search was underway that would include the evaluation of both internal and external candidates.  Mumenthaler was named CEO of reinsurance in October after the company formed a new holding company that overarches its reinsurance operations, which accounts for about 80 percent of Swiss Re’s business.

"The Board of Directors is delighted that Michel Liès will assume the position of Group CEO as of Feb. 1, 2012,” says Walter B. Kielholz, chairman of the board of directors. “Liès' proven track record in reinsurance and broad international experience will support our mission in the wholesale re/insurance industry, while ensuring strategic and operational continuity. He brings with him in-depth knowledge of all facets of the business, an excellent reputation with clients as well as with governmental organizations and tremendous insights into the growth area of emerging markets, one of our main strategic pillars."

Liès has held various positions at Swiss Re for more than 30 years, including his current role as Chairman, Global Partnerships, where he maintains relations with public sector stakeholders, governments and NGO’s. He has also served the company as head of client markets, head of Europe division, head of Latin America division and as a member of the executive committee.

Also this morning, news coming from Willis Group Holdings named John Cavanagh the new CEO of Willis Re, where he will be succeeding Steve Hearn, who was promoted to Chairman and CEO of Willis Global last month.

In contrast, while boasting similarly extensive experience in the industry and two years as EVP and managing director of Willis Re, Cavanagh found most of his prior experience outside of his current company—with 21 years at RK Carvill contributing to his 36 years overall in the London insurance market. Cavanagh’s promotion, as well as Hearn’s, is effective immediately.

The naming of Cavanagh to his new role comes at a time when Willis Group Holdings PLC has been generating new business and reporting some organic growth, yet, say analysts, the parent company to Willis Re has not been immune to declining premium rates as the insurance sector continues to struggle with weak pricing largely attributed to increased competition and slow economic recovery.

“Since joining us in 2009, John has made an enormous contribution and has had an extremely productive working relationship with the Willis and Willis Re executive management,” says Peter Hearn, chairman, Willis Re. “His extensive experience of the market and his familiarity with our clients and prospects has been invaluable, and the continued growth and success of Willis Re are undoubtedly assured under his leadership as CEO.”


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