To transform risk management and ensure we are effectively #ChangingRisk, we have to “look in the mirror and ask, what can you do better?” says Alexander Mahnke, president of GVNW and CEO Insurance (Controlling & Finance, Financing) at Siemens


Alexander Mahnke, president of GVNW

If you had the power to change the future of insurance risk management, what would you change and why?

One of our biggest challenges is around our future talent and having the right diversity in people and professions in our market. I know this sounds a lot easier than it actually is because if I look at our market, I still see the same sort of people coming from the same sort of background. So, we could and should become a lot better if we want to attract the right talent in the future.

Many people fall into insurance risk management. I am a lawyer by training and I have specialised in international and European law and when I first met my predecessor at Siemens I really didn’t know anything about corporate insurance. But he managed to tell me the right things, i.e. that this is a very international business where you can meet people from different countries and different backgrounds. And that not one day in this market is like the other. It’s a very interesting industry, but no one had told me that before when I was at school or university.

If I gave you the challenge of writing a risk manifesto for the future. What would be the number one point that you would push?

To be able to phrase what we do in such a way that people understand that this is one of the most interesting and exciting professions that you can choose. I can talk to everyone in my company, in the core business of my company, and they explain to me what they do and it’s my job to understand if this is a risk and if the risk is insurable. So, we are at the interface of everything that can be defined as a risk and that’s quite exciting. There are very few professions within a corporation that are as diverse and as broad as insurance risk management.

What irritates you the most about how insurance risk management is perceived by stakeholders?

There is a tendency to maybe talk a little too much and do too little and this is also a frustration that I can see and hear when I talk to the younger generation in the market. People have great ideas and great propositions to do things differently and make things better. But then the culture of doing things the way we’ve always done them is so strong that it’s sometimes very frustrating to come across that, especially if you have a short patience span.

Is it a profession that has enough of a voice at the senior level within organisations? What could be done better?

I would always tell people to look in the mirror and ask yourself, what can you do better? Because it’s not your CEO’s or CFO’s job to understand you, it’s your job to make yourself understood.

At a GVNW level we are constantly emphasising to our members that they need to be able to understand and to explain the value of insurance to whoever is asking. Perhaps more importantly to explain it to those people who aren’t asking. Because at the end of the day we, as insurance risk managers, are spending money that the companies we’re representing have to earn first. That’s quite a responsibility.

What’s the most important lesson that you’ve learned in your career?

If you do your job right and if you lean on the right people, then you can probably find a solution for every risk your organisation faces, whether that is self insuring, insuring or taking the risk on your own balance sheet. I take that approach and as a result, there is very little that I’m afraid of and very little that keeps me awake at night.