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2015 Women to Watch: Mary Forrest

2015 Women to Watch: Mary Forrest

Mary Forrest

President and CEO, North America (Life)

Munich Reinsurance Co.


For Mary Forrest, president and CEO of North America (Life) for Munich Reinsurance Co., one of her proudest achievements is turning around the life reinsurer's business in the United States.

Toronto-based Ms. Forrest assumed responsibility for Atlanta-based Munich American Reassurance Co. in 2008. At the time, the company was facing several challenges. She worked with the U.S. team to sharpen its focus on key customer relationships, improve pricing and risk management discipline, and rebuild market share. As a result, the American operation's market share has more than doubled since 2008 and there have been significant improvements in Munich Re's position in industry customer feedback surveys.

“I am very proud about how we have turned around the U.S.,” she said. “We have kept a lot of the positive things about the existing corporate culture while adding more discipline, customer focus and giving back to the industry and our local community.”

“In Canada, we have the largest market share,” she said, noting that the company has more financially motivated reinsurance transactions than any other company. “I'm really proud of the growth and results” in Canada.

“I have known Mary as both a client of Munich Re and as a fellow director on the board of the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association, where she succeeded me as chair,” said Donald Guloien, president and CEO of Toronto-based Manulife Financial Corp., in an email. “She is a remarkable and inspiring person — intelligent, driven and strategic.”

Looking ahead, Ms. Forrest said that life reinsurance is “on the cusp of very big changes in the way that products are sold and underwritten.”

Data analytics is playing an increasingly important role in primary life insurance in terms of product enhancement, the underwriting and sales process and the customer experience, she said.

Regarding her management style, Ms. Forrest said, “We've had to make some tough decisions — it's important for me to seek out the opinions of others, and I rely on my teams for open feedback and debate. I am very results-driven — if you believe in something, then you have to have a lot of perseverance and persistence to take it through.”

Ms. Forrest said that one of things she has attempted to do in order to help other women in the profession is to “try to foster a culture that allows for greater flexibility. You need to start a dialog inside the company to really appreciate why women are not moving up.”

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