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2020 Women to Watch Awards Americas EMEA

Kera McDonald Chief underwriting officer bespoke

Swiss Re Corporate Solutions

Zurich

A thirst for learning has driven Kera McDonald’s career from day one.

“I have always wanted to learn more and have traveled through various functions as I realized I could move on and learn yet more.” Even now, she finds huge satisfaction in facing a different challenge each day at work.

After majoring in math at Cornell University, American-born Ms. McDonald became an actuary for consulting firm Mercer LLC before moving on to General Electric Co., where her division was absorbed by Swiss Re in 2002.

“I have very much viewed my career path as an adventure,” she said, and she encourages others to do the same. “There is always an opportunity to learn something new.”

She shares her experience with five to seven others in an informal mentoring arrangement and said she learns as much from them as they do from her. “I am always willing to help others in their careers, but interestingly it tends to be other women who approach me and ask for help. I think it’s really cool that they feel able to do that.”

Andreas Berger, CEO of Swiss Re Corporate Solutions, the corporate insurance arm of Swiss Reinsurance Ltd., said, “Kera was promoted at a time when we needed to transform our business. She has not shied away from the challenge but used her technical and leadership skills to establish new disciplines and new behaviors that are starting to turn around our underwriting performance.”

Outside of work, Kera and her husband are keen on cross fit and take advantage of the mountains that surround them in Zurich for plenty of sporting activities. She has always enjoyed travel, too, taking part in exchange programs since high school.

And, prior to the pandemic, the extensive travel that is commonplace in the reinsurance sector remained a joy for her. 

“We are always traveling,” she said, “and I still get as much pleasure out of it as I did as a little girl, looking at the departure boards in airports and marveling at all the places I could visit from that one building.”