Alfredo Arán, General Manager of Global Business and Brokers for MAPFRE IBERIA, shares details of his professional career, the evolution of the insurance market and the importance of risk management in this interview with Juan Carlos López Porcel, president of the Spanish Association of Risk and Insurance Management (AGERS) and Risk and Insurance Manager at ArcelorMittal España, for the Association’s magazine Observatorio.
Alfredo Arán Iglesia was born on August 16, just like other famous people like Madonna and James Cameron.
On a personal level, he’s always shown a brilliant creative energy and has a special talent for facing and successfully solving challenges. Sensitive, receptive, and boundlessly insightful, he is a good friend and is incredibly generous. He’s never indifferent to the pain of others and is always ready to help whoever needs him.
On a professional level, we’re talking about a rock star with 16 management positions with the Mapfre Group
published in BORMA from 2000 to 2017, representing the heart of MAPFRE Global’s International Workshops (the last one, the 25th edition, was held in Granada with more than 500 attendees from 30 countries).
In his own words, his competitive spirit (even against himself) stands out, particularly his ability to overcome challenges and his mental endurance. Honest and resourceful when looking for a solution to any problem, he knows how to surround himself with excellent teams that help him to always achieve the desired level of success.
Although there’s no doubt that he has a Robert Redford air about him (smile included), I see him as more as a Russell Crowe type… a true Gladiator!!!
In the following interview, he shares some of his enriching experiences with us.
Stay fit, Alfredo!
Juan Carlos López Porcel – President of AGERS/Risk and Insurance Manager at ArcelorMittal Spain
No.8 July-December 2018 AGERS
Most of us got into the insurance and risks industry by chance. How was it for you?
Well, it was an interesting situation, like many others are. I was 18 years old, I was studying economics and my passion was windsurfing, a sport which I devoted myself to that summer; I went to a school for it at the San Juan reservoir in Madrid.
In ‘78, I was one of the few doing this sport in Spain, and that summer we collaborated with a Dutch windsurf board brand. It went well— so well in fact, that they offered me the chance to do the winter season in the Canary Islands. Imagine his reaction when I suggested the idea of going to the Canary Islands and studying via distance learning to my father! 15 days later, I was working at La Unión y el Fénix (a now-defunct Spanish insurance company). I can undoubtedly say that windsurfing got me into the insurance world.
You’re saying that you’ve been in insurance for more than 40 years. Can you tell us what your progress was like in the insurance market?
I was with La Unión y el Fénix until 1992. I remember that my first job with the company consisted of visiting Spanish Civil War widows to review the homeowners’ insurance they had with the company and to increase their premium from 3 to 500 pesetas. Now that I think about it, convincing those women to pay a minimum premium of 500 pesetas was more difficult than insuring a satellite is nowadays. It was an excellent learning experience.
In ‘89, La Unión y el Fénix set up the first large clients department at a Spanish insurance company, which showed strong growth; I had the opportunity to join the department and learn a lot there. In 1992, AGF bought La Unión y el Fénix and I switched projects, joining MUSINI, which was the risk insurance for public Spanish companies belonging to the Instituto Nacional de Industria (National Institute of Industry), now called SEPI. I was there for eight years, and in 2000 I started with MAPFRE, in sales management of industrial insurance. Four years later, MAPFRE bought out MUSINI. It all happened perfectly; at MAPFRE, we were starting to develop an important large risks project, and MUSINI invigorated us with its team and clients.
At MAPFRE, I’ve always been associated with large risks, large clients, and the world of brokers. 18 years with MAPFRE isn’t a lot compared to how long an average employee has worked there, but I’ve had a relationship with MAPFRE since the beginning, because even from the outside, I often worked with MAPFRE, as we shared risks, and I knew MAPFRE and its management teams well.
We became a very comfortable insurer for large Spanish companies
How did MAPFRE become the benchmark insurance company for Spanish multinational companies?
Like I said before, the year 2000 was when MAPFRE initiated the development of the large risks project. In Spain, we were the leaders in business insurance for SME’s , but we had almost no business in large risks.
During those years, we started acquiring important clients like INDRA, IBERIA, ENDESA, etc. Later, with the buy-out of MUSINI in 2004, the project’s consolidation was complete. At that point, MAPFRE’s economic capacity and its presence in Latin America was combined with MUSINI’s client portfolio. Many of these clients were experiencing international expansion, and saw the addition of a team that was highly specialized in this kind of risk.
It was the perfect combination to bolster the large risks segment at MAPFRE. With this, we became a very convenient insurer for large Spanish multinational companies; they could work with MAPFRE in Madrid to manage their insurance subprograms around the world.
Nowadays, we insure 27 of the 35 main companies on the IBEX (Spanish stock market) and we still retain and provide service to almost all the clients that came with MUSINI in 2004.
From your years in Latin America, what would you highlight about these markets?
Managing risks for Spanish multinational companies and the multinational companies insured with MAPFRE in Latin America allowed me to travel a lot and become very familiar with the insurance market on this continent. For five or six years, I was in Latin America at least one week a month, and I’ve been lucky enough to get to know all the countries in this region. It’s been an experience that I enjoyed immensely and the main difference between this market and the Spanish one is the need to provide coverage for catastrophic risks.
In February 2010, there was a major earthquake in Chile. It was a catastrophe that affected many of our clients in the country, and we’ve had to compensate 500 million euros from then. This opened our eyes and made us see the differences that exist with the Spanish market, which, as we all know, has the Consortium of Insurance Compensation. These markets are different because they are exposed to catastrophic risk. Later we went through earthquakes, hurricanes, etc. These are major disasters which we are exposed to by working in this region, and it’s very important to have good control of funds and our clients’ risks in the affected areas. At MAPFRE Global we had to create a control department for catastrophic risks; currently, 10 professionals work in this department.
The claim that has undoubtedly impacted me the most has been the loss of the Spanair plane that crashed at the Barajas airport in August 2008
Do you find any similarities between your professional career and your sports career?
I suppose that when you say my sports career, you mean my passion for running, marathons and long-distance races. These challenges really have a lot of similarities with insurance as this business is a long-distance race, one that you need to start out with perspective and vision regarding the medium and long term.
An income statement for large risks cannot be done by only looking at one year; you have to project at least five years. For example, the year before the earthquake in Chile, our income and combined ratio were fantastic, and the next year, the income statement was completely thrown off balance. You must be aware that in this business, you have to face large claims and the profit and loss statement must be thought of in the medium to long term.
What experience has most astonished you in your professional career?
Without a doubt, the most important experiences in my professional career have been the disasters that I’ve lived through and managed. There have been earthquakes, complicated hurricanes, etc., but the disaster that affected me the most was the Spanair plane accident at Madrid’s Barajas airport in August 2008. I remember the day after the accident, I was at Spanair’s headquarters in Palma de Mallorca. It was a great tragedy.
What are your fondest professional memories from all these years?
I have very good memories, among which is having implemented the international insurance programs for large multinational companies. It’s very rewarding to be involved in programs from the beginning for companies such as ArcelorMittal, Repsol, Telefónica, Endesa, Cepsa, Red Eléctrica, Naturgy, and Prosegur, for example, and to be capable of providing solutions for their global risks. And, although it sounds a bit strange, I also have good memories of claims that we resolved satisfactorily. There were many, including Campofrío, El Pozo, and some of the hotels that we insure in Latin America. They are complicated dealings and it gives you a lot of satisfaction to reach an agreement with clients and see that insurance allows them to move forward with their business.
What kind of relationship do you have with AGERS, and since when?
I remember that in 1992 I participated in AGERS’ 1st National Risk Managers’ Conference and I don’t think I’ve missed one since. We’ve had a closer relationship since 2000, which was when I started with MAPFRE and my bosses decided that I should be the company’s representative in this association. I’ve always had a close relationship with its board and its different presidents, and I feel very satisfied to have been able to maintain this close collaboration for so many years.
An income statement for large risks cannot be done by only looking at one year; you have to project at least five years
A piece of advice for the new generation of Risk Managers…
My most basic recommendation is for them not to become mere risk underwriters, but should really help companies improve how they manage risks. They shouldn’t only occupy themselves with transferring them to the insurance market, but should help them improve their assets and protect their income statement.
Give us a suggestion to bolster the development of Risk Management in Spain.
Between all of us, we have to try to promote the role of the risk manager and make it visible in companies. It’s important for companies to realize the value this position has in protecting their balance sheet.
In this sense, MAPFRE considers it fundamental to continue supporting their work to defend the interests of this profession. However, as we’ve said on other occasions, we also believe that Spain would be stronger and better represented if there was one association that represented the interests of all risk managers.
In my opinion, what other market operators (insurers, re-insurers, brokers, lawyers, appraisers, etc.) need to do is continue investing a lot in improving and training future risk managers; this will benefit the insurance market.
What question would you have liked to answer? Will you answer it for me?
Well, the question that springs to mind is “What were you doing on the February 23, 1981, when Tejero burst into Congress?” There are moments in life that are associated with key memories, and for me, this is the case with February 23. On that day, I was writing up a family/homeowners combined insurance policy for a client on Arzobispo Morcillo street in Madrid. This goes to show that I have shared most of the significant moments in my life with my work in the insurance sector.
Full name: Alfredo Arán Iglesia.
Place of birth: Madrid
Family: A wife and three wonderful children.
A city: New York.
A book: Any book about the Spanish transition.
A song: In this case, two. “Streets of Philadelphia” by Bruce Springsteen and “Qué hace una chica como tú en un sitio como este” (What’s a girl like you doing in a place like this?) by Burning, which reminds me of my youth.
A movie: Gladiator.
An actor or actress: For an actress I’d choose Julia Roberts, for her smile, and for an actor, Morgan Freeman.
Main character trait: Well, I would say my smile, although it doesn’t have much merit since I was born with it. I always smile at life.
My biggest flaw: Psh, I have a lot of them… but maybe the one I most recognize is my impatience and not dedicating enough time to the people I love.
In my free time I like to: Enjoy my family and friends, and exercise and play sports as much as possible.
My dream: Right now, my dream is to be the best man at my daughters’ weddings. I know that’s a long way off, but it’s what I would most like in the world.
My favorite writer: Mother Teresa, without a doubt.
My favorite musician/band: Burning, from my youth.
My favorite sport: Running and sailing, which I’m still very passionate about.
My greatest achievement in sports: Well, I’m going to tell you about two: the 10 times I’ve the New York Marathon, which I’ve enjoyed immensely and recommend any athlete to do at least once; and then, I also had the chance to cross the Andes mountains between Argentina and Chile in a 100-kilometer race— it was truly a wonder of nature. It was also amazing because we did it to raise money for ASION, which helps fight childhood cancer in Madrid. In fact, after that adventure, the organization named me volunteer of the year, which is the award that I’m the proudest of in my life.