Nikolaus von Bomhard's contribution to the insurance industry has been outstanding. He learned about every aspect of reinsurance from the bottom up, and having started as a graduate trainee at Munich Re, he rose all the way up to CEO. As Chairman of the Board of Management, he has set a clear strategic path to ensure that Munich Re could enjoy extraordinary stability, and has guided the Group safely through the stormy waters of financial crises. Under his leadership, Munich Re has been able to generate high profits despite a difficult business environment, and Munich Re has developed a reputation for paying out strong dividends. Nikolaus von Bomhard's contributions to political debate have been credible and made at a high intellectual level. He has been particularly engaged in issues such as ethical corporate leadership, climate change, and sustainable economic development.
Major achievements and contributions
Nikolaus von Bomhard has been a member of the Board of Management of Munich Re for sixteen years, and CEO for the past twelve years. This period of leadership has spanned the dotcom financial crisis of 2000, the banking crisis of 2007/2008, and the sovereign debt crisis of 2010, along with significant loss events such as Hurricanes Katrina (2005) and Sandy (2012), the earthquake and tsunami in Japan (2011), and the terror attacks on the World Trade Center (2001). Munich Re managed to master all these challenges through the strength of its own resources, and sometimes emerged even stronger than before. The reason why Munich Re has remained stable during these financial crises is due in no small part to the strategic management decisions heavily influenced by Nikolaus von Bomhard - and in particular to the strategic focus on insurance business. Investments have only ever had a corollary function. The deliberate focus on the profitability of insurance business under the leadership of Nikolaus von Bomhard was a consequence of losses after the dotcom bubble burst. Nikolaus von Bomhard took a strong and consistent line, persuading the Board to stick with this strategy after other financial market players had long since departed in search of apparently better yields from risky investment strategies. Under the leadership of Nikolaus von Bomhard, the Board of Management of Munich Re resisted the pressure and temptation to risk Munich Re's stability in order to earn easy money with financial transactions, or even speculative financial products. So it was not just a happy coincidence that Munich Re weathered the 2008/2009 financial crisis relatively unscathed, but a consequence of deliberately conservative investment policies and a sophisticated system of risk management. Right at the beginning of his period in office, Nikolaus von Bomhard pressed for the introduction of an integrated risk management system. And under his leadership, Munich Re focussed on comprehensive risk knowledge and the art of underwriting. He changed the underwriting side of the business from a sideshow to the main event, thus creating the foundation for the provision of knowledge-driven insurance and related services that to this day still gives Munich Re a knowledge edge, together with a basis for innovation.
In its 135-year history, Munich Re has always been an innovative company that pushed forward the boundaries of insurability. Nikolaus von Bomhard has once again brought the topic of innovation to the fore, by asking the whole Group to set in motion a comprehensive innovation initiative that has already brought forth numerous new products and services for their clients. Illustrative examples of this initiative include insurance for renewable energy, performance coverage for fuel cells, LED lights or solar parks, exploration risk insurance for geothermal products, and cyber and reputation insurance. Munich Re is also collaborating with the World Bank and other partners to find new ways to protect poor countries against drought, and provide insurance against pandemic risks. In doing so, Munich Re is linking innovative business opportunities with global social responsibility. Nikolaus von Bomhard talks regularly to global decision-makers, in order to promote the adoption of relevant solutions.
As a whole, (re)insurance business takes a long-term perspective, but this approach is accentuated at Munich Re. Under the leadership of Nikolaus von Bomhard, the Board of Management of Munich Re manages the Group with a view to sustainable, long-term success. This also means that Munich Re takes responsibility for society, the environment, and the Group's 43,000 staff around the world. Not only since the financial crisis in 2008/2009, Nikolaus von Bomhard has been actively involved in discussions about the ethics of top managers. He regularly holds lectures on matters of corporate ethics, and most recently gave a speech on the topic during a conference at the Vatican in the spring of 2016. He takes an unequivocal stance against short-term profit-taking and greed, but at the same time draws clear distinctions between the banks and the insurance industry, and argues successfully against blanket judgements about insurance.
Munich Re was one of the first corporate groups to argue vehemently for comprehensive adaptation and climate-change measures. Even before climate change found its way into the news cycle, Munich Re was analysing the risks of climate change and spreading this message amongst politicians and experts around the world. And Munich Re was the first German company to sign the UN Principles for Responsible Investments. Sustainability aspects are taken into account not only with respect to investing the Group's $215bn of assets under management, but also in daily insurance business operations. Sustainability is an integral part of the Group's strategy, and a personal tenet of Dr. von Bomhard is: "Try to act in a way that is not a burden for the next generation": For his commitment to this principle, Nikolaus von Bomhard was singled out by the World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF) in 2007 as "Eco Manager of the Year".
His willingness to get involved in socio-political debates such as climate change, refugee policies or the future of the European Union has meant that Nikolaus von Bomhard has become a valued advisor to politicians. He does not avoid conflict and is also willing to pursue a position that he feels strongly about for a long time, even if this is unpopular - examples would include the low-interest-rate policy of leading central banks or the lack of necessary structural reforms in the eurozone. Dr. von Bomhard is particularly appreciated for this intellectual honesty, and for his readiness to argue on the basis of principle rather than being purely interest-driven. As President of the Geneva Association (2009-2013), Nikolaus von Bomhard represented the interests of the Association with credibility and sincerity, and was able to effectively argue the Association's interests with politicians and regulators at an international level. The high regard that politicians have for Nikolaus von Bomhard was demonstrated when in 2009 the Federal Government of Germany asked him to take up a place on the Supervisory Board of Commerzbank on its behalf. The bank had run into difficulties during the financial crisis and had to be rescued by the German State.
Nikolaus von Bomhard has shown that a sustainable corporate policy and value-based management style are no barriers to financial success. Over the past four years, Munich Re has generated profits of over $3bn each year. Since Nikolaus von Bomhard has been Chairman of the Board of Management of Munich Re, the dividend has been increased ten times, and more than $20bn has been distributed to shareholders in the form of dividends and share buy-backs.
Nikolaus von Bomhard completed his law studies at the universities of Munich and Regensburg with a doctorate. He joined the Munich Re graduate trainee programme in 1985, and afterwards worked as an underwriter in the Operational Division: Fire/Treaty. In 1992, he was appointed Deputy Head of the Operational Division: Germany. In 1997, Mr. von Bomhard took on the task of building up and managing the Munich Re office in Sao Paulo, Brazil. In 2000, he was appointed to the Board of Management, and from 2001 was responsible for the Europe/Latin America Division. He was appointed Chairman of the Board of Management with effect from 1 January 2004.
Awards and honours
- Insurance Leader of the Year (2013)
- WWF: Eco-Manager of the Year 2007
Nominator - Ms Giuseppina Albo, Member of the Board of Management, Munich Re
- Stephen Catlin, Executive Deputy Chairman, XLCatlin
- John R. Strangfeld, Chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial, Inc.