Aon’s Case: Industry has “once in a generation opportunity” to address era of volatility

Standing before the (re)insurance sector is a “once in a generation opportunity” to make a difference to the global economy, according to Aon president and CEO Greg Case.

Greg Case

But success is not a foregone conclusion, Case warned in an address to Rendez-Vous delegates this morning, “and current momentum is not going to get us there”.

Addressing a PwC-hosted breakfast briefing, Case said the current “era of volatility” presented the (re)insurance sector with a “very unique opportunity”.

“We know the challenge of addressing this volatility is monumental, but equal in magnitude is the opportunity. We can have an impact on a scale we have never had before.”

Case highlighted how the issue of volatility – once the preserve of the risk and insurance industry – was now at the top of the agenda for C-suites, governments and society at large.

“We are on a journey that will define the relevance of risk capital for the next 30 years,” he said. “We are at an inflexion point where we could truly make a difference.”


Climate challenge

Of the challenges the industry must address, Case highlighted the need for climate change to be “a priority, in every way, shape and form”.

“Climate change is going to drive the largest relocation of capital in history. Climate change is a certainty, not a probability.”

In order to address the protection gap, Case said the industry would need to reach scale with initiatives in a way it had not been able to achieve before.

“If you chose one word to think about the current path we are on and how we have navigated our journey along that path, I would choose defensive. And I hear this from clients every day.”

Case said one major criticism was that the industry was “leaving the playing field”.

“What they mean is, at a time when these risks are going up, we should be getting bigger as an industry. Instead, we are getting smaller.”

Another criticism is that the industry is “taxing the transition” by opting out of different sectors as they journey towards zero carbon.

“And the one that stung the most for me is why aren’t you doing more around accelerators? This industry should be innovating more to make things happen.”

Scaling up

Case said the industry’s defensive posture was defining its momentum in addressing the climate challenge.

“It limits our ability to add impact in a meaningful and substantial way,” he said.

“If we don’t scale our concepts, we will miss a generational and very unique opportunity.

“The question is how we take this era of great volatility and turn it into an era of great opportunity. We are the players who facilitate the movement of capital. In the end, this comes back to relevance, and where we are in the global economy.

“We do so many wonderful things as an industry. From the 1970s to the mid-1990s, risk placement as a percentage of GDP was growing. As the economy grew, our relevance became greater. But from the mid-1990s till now, risk placement as a percentage of GDP has come down,” Case explained.

“We have trillion-dollar market cap companies now that have issues we are not addressing. The question is how we break that trend. We are better positioned than anyone else in the world to look inside these risks and facilitate capital movement. Capital movement in this area changes everything.

“What will it take to change the momentum? If we collectively keep not thinking about this, we will miss a generational opportunity to make a difference.

“There is a massive opportunity sitting out there. If we can catch it, we can double our industry in terms of the impact we can have over time.”