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Q&A: Nicolas Aubert, Willis GB

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Nicolas Aubert was appointed CEO of Willis GB, the unit of Willis Group Holdings P.L.C. that includes retail insurance business in the United Kingdom and facultative and specialty London business, in January 2015. He previously was COO of American International Group Inc. in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and held other leadership roles at AIG in Europe prior to that. He discussed challenges and opportunities for Willis recently with Business Insurance Senior Editor Sarah Veysey. Edited excerpts follow.

Q: What are the current opportunities and challenges for Willis in the United Kingdom?

A: Our clients' needs are changing, and we need to adapt our business to stay relevant, competitive and continue to meet these needs. Our vision is clear: We want to be the best global risk advisory, broking and solutions provider. Going forward you'll see a bigger focus on the value we can provide our clients across a whole range of products and services — not just traditional insurance.

Q: How will the upcoming merger with Towers Watson & Co. help Willis?

A: In July, the Willis board together with the board of Towers Watson, unanimously recommended a merger of our two companies. ... Together, we will be greater than the sum of our parts. We have complementary business lines, capabilities and geographic reach. Our consultative approaches to client service are both underpinned by industry-leading data analytics and technology. We believe that the united Willis and Towers Watson will be able to bring our clients an even stronger, more comprehensive offering to address the ever-changing and broadening set of risks facing businesses.

Q: What do you see as the major challenges for risk managers and insurance buyers in the United Kingdom currently, and how can Willis help them?

A: We know that the insurance industry is only covering about 20% of the risks that our clients report. There may not be insurance solutions for the remaining 80%. But with the data we hold, we can provide analytical solutions to help companies understand risk and mitigate it.

Recently, Willis has built a new political risk model, called VAPOR (Value at Political Risk), launched in collaboration with our partners Oxford Analytica. This unique approach to political risk modelling allows global companies to assess and compare the financial implications of exposure to a suite of political risks — in individual countries, regionally or globally. By giving our clients an ability to compare the financial impact of political risk exposure (in dollar-value terms) they can make better decisions about where to invest.

Q: What about your last role has helped prepare you for this one?

A: I think, given my experience of more than 25 years on the carrier side, I am in a unique position to help us to define what it means to be a broker of the future and to evolve what the insurance market is capable of offering its clients through the best relationships with capital pro-viders.

I also bring experience of transforming businesses to generate significant and persistent profitable growth. I have done this in the United Kingdom, southern Europe and France over the last 20 years.

Q: What are the most important lessons from your career so far?

A:To be successful as an organization you need to be able to leverage the skills and expertise of everyone. Success is about teamwork. It is also about creating an inclusive workplace where people's individual contribution is valued, where we leverage their diverse talents and where they can succeed in achieving their full potential. Willis is committed to fostering diversity and inclusion in the marketplace. Another key learning is that people thrive when leaders build a transparent, honest but challenging environment so that we go for real ambitions.