Complex solutions

Having what it takes!

A major client shows up during crunch season with a complex deal that needs to close before yesterday. You can say no. Or you can say yes – and, given the right talent and a bit of improvisation, end up with something that works to everyone’s advantage.


It’s  New Year’s Eve,  and  David Falk,  Head of Property Underwriting  at NewRe,  has ridden  his Vespa to work  as he does most days. It can be a bit of a slog  getting  up  Flühgasse, especially when the Vespa is carrying two passengers  (David’s wife  usually rides into the city with him). But today he  is  alone.  “So I was very agile!” he  later  recalls.  The office is practically deserted. David is awaiting last-minute details of a deal that has to close today. A deal that materialised only a short time ago. This is how it happened.

Flashback to  autumn

NewRe does 75% of its  renewals  business from mid-November to the end of December.  It’s  typically a  period  of intense activity.  Now, already late into the renewal period,  a  client  visits  NewRe  along with  a  broker.  They are met by David and Florent Sennelier, a senior underwriter.  The client, a large listed company,  has  suffered disappointing  results  and its  shares  have  fallen  sharply.  The  CEO  wants  to  avoid further  earnings volatility.  Because  the  company already has  plenty of reinsurance,  the broker  proposes  filling  the  gaps in the existing cover.  The  new  business  is  a significant opportunity for NewRe.  However,  it’s complex, and  taking it on  will  mean  closing  the deal  by 31 December. That’s less than a month and a half away.  Nonetheless, the NewRe duo  tell  the broker to count them in.

Strategising  a work plan

David and Florent  receive  a  concrete  proposal  from the broker.  They  quickly assemble a  small  team and allocate the necessary resources to it.  Because the company  works  on a pan-European basis,  with some  of the team very busy  and  others less busy,  it’s possible to  shift things around.  The deal  consists  of  several subcontracts,  so David  and  Florent  divide them up.  They work  with  a pricing actuary at NewRe  to be sure they  are pricing all the gaps.  The team also crafts  the details of the complex legal wording  of the contracts  to make  sure everything fits.

13 December - Forging  ahead

NewRe  delivers  a  quote  to  the broker.  The  broker responds  positively  – a major milestone.  When  David  and  Florent  first met with the broker  in November, he told them that they were the 30th reinsurer they’d approached for the cover. “But it quickly became clear that NewRe was the leading market”,  says  David later, “and probably one of the few that has the capabilities to make the deal happen on short notice late in the renewal period”.

20 December - Waiting

In the days leading up to Christmas,  having  now  also gained the full support of NewRe management,  the team finalises  the  pricing  and communicates  it  to the broker.  With the pricing agreed,  all that  is  needed  is  the  actual  contract  wording from the client.  But then things  go  silent.  Part  of the silence  is just an  artefact  of where the working days fall in the calendar,  including the Christmas “bridge”.  But when 27 December comes  and  goes, and the team still hasn’t heard,  the pressure increases.    

28 December - Down to the wire

To the team’s immense relief,  the client forwards  the finalised  wording.  But,  as  frequently happens,  the devil  is in the details.  The actual wording  is not entirely in line with the original offer.  The next day  is the start of the weekend.  And by now,  Florent is on  a  skiing  holiday  in  the Swiss mountains.  There is  only  one working day left.


A tight close!

Which is  why  David is  in  the office when most people are preparing  to  usher  in the New Year.  At lunchtime, he ducks into town to buy  a  black-tie  suit  for the evening’s festivities. Returning to his desk at NewRe, David  alternates  throughout the afternoon  between phone calls to  Florent  and calls to the broker  to fine-tune the contracts.  By  6 o’clock  the deal  is done  and dusted.  David  inks  the  documents  and  sends  them off.  Florent is  on a bus  back  from the slopes  to his hotel  when  David rings him on his mobile  to relay the good news.


The  Vespa is an apt metaphor for  what makes NewRe special. It’s  stylish, small and agile. The NewRe team was able to size up a complex situation  in short order, reallocate resources  effectively, act  quickly  and with skill, and marshal  management  support  efficiently. They  also had  the trust of the broker  – a key player in this case –  which stood them in good stead  during  those  last  critical  days of December.  Indeed, the successful conclusion of the deal further enhanced NewRe’s reputation as a reliable partner. “It was clear to the broker already”,  says  Florent today. “But to the client, we really made a difference.”