Mrs Alice G Vaidyan, Chairman and Managing Director of GIC Re, has been ranked seventh on the Most Powerful Women in Business in India by Fortune India. The list is published in this month's issue of the business publication.
In a transcript of her interview with Fortune India, Mrs Vaidyan said that she wishes to see GIC Re in the global Top 10 Reinsurers list. She said that the company is likely to achieve this by 31 March 2018. GIC Re is now the 12th largest reinsurer in the world, up from 14th position last year.
She said: “In quantitative terms, we are on the threshold of achieving the 10th rank globally among the largest reinsurers. The next goal would be to reach among the top five; but reaching even the sixth or seventh rank in the next two years should be satisfactory.”
Mrs Vaidyan, the first woman to helm GIC Re, India's biggest reinsurer, outlined plans for the reinsurer following its successful listing on Indian bourses last month. The plans include geographical expansion in the developing markets of Brazil, China, Myanmar, Bangladesh and in mature markets like the US, as well as establishing a syndicate at Lloyd’s of London. In addition, GIC Re plans to grow its life and liability businesses and venture into space and cyber security lines.
She added: “With our performance now expected to be benchmarked against all other reinsurers globally as also other corporates and public sector companies within India, there will be greater focus and transparency in regard to our performance parameters from the perspective of capital markets. It will be our endeavour to provide the best return for the risk carried by our shareholders.”
She said that the insurance and reinsurance industry is adept at adapting their tools and techniques for new risks such as terrorism and cyber risks. She added: “But the challenge really stems from the metamorphosis of the reinsurance value chain, and to an extent the insurance industry, thanks to its convergence with the capital markets and capital seeking diversification and entering the industry in a major way. Given that capital markets are humongous as compared to the insurance and reinsurance industry, capital flow can be overwhelming. So that brings in a great deal of supply side competition from the other industry players creating pressures on margins. It remains in flux and until the situation stabilises, it continues to throw challenges.
"It is said that the change wrought during the last five years is more than what has happened during last 50 years. And I will not be surprised that the momentum will continue for at least the next few years.”
She said that companies that adapt will emerge the winners.
Mrs Vaidyan also stated that it is a misconception to say that state-controlled GIC Re did not face competition from foreign players earlier. She pointed out that even before foreign reinsurers were permitted to establish branches in India this year, they were already writing business originating in the country.
She said: “I think the real challenge will come from disruptive technologies and the manner in which we do business. Integration of new technologies into traditional models of business and their widescale adoption will take some time. Integration of alternate capital into the traditional capital mix of a reinsurer will also pose its own challenges.
“The global reinsurance industry is currently in the soft phase of the market cycle, which limits our flexibility in pricing of risks and eventually has the potential to impact a reinsurer’s profit margins. Maintaining high solvency levels in such a business environment is a big challenge. However, going forward I expect a favourable shift in this cycle very soon.”
Asked what she would like to change about GIC Re, she answered: “Nothing in particular, GIC Re has a very healthy gender balance in its workforce already in place. The women in the organisation are all professionally qualified and sufficiently empowered in their decision making.
“I encourage all employees, regardless of gender, to perform at their best, and a constant improvement in one’s capabilities and contribution to the organisation is what I seek from all employees.”
She also said: “A leader always owes much of his/her success and achievements to the team.”
There are two women from the insurance industry named on the 50 Most Powerful Women in Business in India this year. The second person is Mrs R M Vishakha, MD & CEO of India First Life Insurance Company who is 38th on the list.