The place to succeed

People are what make a company unique. So rather than talking for them, we asked three of Swiss Re’s more than eleven thousand people to tell us about their impressions and experiences.

Tell us about your background and what brought you to Swiss Re.

Christina Ulardic in Zurich (photo)

Christina Ulardic in Zurich

Sameet Shah: I was born in Kenya, trained in the UK, and worked for more than eight years at a large, traditional insurance company: a good employer, but it felt very lethargic… I couldn’t see a way forward. I knew people at Swiss Re who said it was an energetic place, with young teams and a clear purpose to your role, where you could create change. I was enticed to apply — and it has lived up to all my expectations.

Christina Ulardic: I trained as a geologist in Germany and worked on climate change programmes for governments and NGOs — but I wanted to be more hands-on. To see concrete fruits of my training: real projects carried through with the commitment that comes from having a commercial stake in them. In my view Swiss Re is simply more innovative in this area than its competitors. Its people — and data, and expertise, and publications — are really impressive.

Neil Sprackling: I came here on a six-month fill-in job in London between school and university, but when I was about to leave to continue my studies, my managers called me in and laid out a whole career plan for me. It was attractive, it was appropriate for me… so I stayed on. What they promised, they delivered: I’ve now been with Swiss Re since 1997.

Christina Ulardic works for Corporate Solutions in Environmental & Commodity Markets. She develops weather index and crop yield shortfall risk transfer solutions. Africa is her main geographic focus; the clients are investors, financial service companies, corporate and public sector entities. Before joining Swiss Re she worked for the Chilean geological survey, the climate change programme of the United Nations Institute of Training and Research in Geneva, and the German Federal Ministry for the Environment in Berlin. Christina joined Swiss Re in 2004.

What experiences at Swiss Re do you value most?

Sameet Shah in London (photo)

Sameet Shah in London

Christina: What I’m doing, micro-risk in sub-Saharan Africa, is something that didn’t exist — we created it. So I had the chance to be an entrepreneur, develop a whole business, invent new contracts, and work in a place that always fascinated me. It’s pretty cool.

Sameet: You take ownership of your destiny. I wanted to move on from Marketing to Risk Management — from hunter to gamekeeper, you might say. The role wasn’t there at the time, but I discussed it with my manager and it became possible. So now I have a position with a global outlook, but am still in contact with the front lines. I can see real value, not just for me but for Swiss Re, in this mobility: our success depends on people’s ability to change responsibilities and gain new perspectives.

Neil: For me, it’s a whole series of experiences — moving to Spain to set up a new office (and meet the woman who’s now my wife). Going from there to Australia to help turn around a whole line of business. Then, this year, coming to this new position and new opportunities in New York. I’m a committed kind of person; I put everything into it. These new challenges and new cultures keep me learning and keep me energised.

Sameet Shah is Head Risk Assessment & Governance for Reinsurance and a Member of Swiss Re’s Reinsurance Risk Leadership team. Sameet leads a team responsible for reviewing large individual reinsurance transactions, monitoring the accumulation of insurance risk exposure for particular scenarios and reviewing underwriting guidelines. Before moving into Risk Management in 2010, Sameet worked for Swiss Re’s Client Markets as a marketing actuary for life and health clients in the UK and Ireland. Sameet joined Swiss Re in 2005.

Neil Sprackling in New York (photo)

Neil Sprackling in New York

Is there a quality that sets Swiss Re apart?

Neil: We’ve hired people who worked for competitors, and they say what sets Swiss Re apart is the focus on career development. If you’re clear about what you want, you’re supported by training, evelopment, mentoring at an executive level. There are so many roles here: each one is an opportunity to grow as a person.

Sameet: I was very struck by the effort put in to articulate Swiss Re’s values, setting out how we work, not just what we do. It’s encouraging that management has embraced the values so clearly. It’s not just the bottom line; people support each other to do a good job. That’s unusual in my experience.

Christina: There’s a commitment to sustainability — which also means commercial sustainability. We are trying to do good, not in a purely ethical or philanthropic way, but to sustain our long-standing commercial reputation. Business and social agendas converge: if people don’t think we are offering a good service for a good price, they won’t buy. That’s as true for subsistence farmers in Rwanda as it is in Zurich.

Neil Sprackling is President of Swiss Re’s Life & Health US Business. Neil has more than 27 years of reinsurance experience spanning the UK, Spain, Latin America, Australia and New Zealand. His professional experience includes client management, underwriting, and marketing. He has led various business and industry programmes on behalf of Swiss Re and currently serves on committees at the American Council of Life Insurers Financial Services Steering Committee and the Task Force on the Future of Regulation. Neil joined Swiss Re in 1997.

How would you describe Swiss Re to someone thinking of working here?

Christina: Work is two-way: what you bring and what you get. The doors are open here; the opportunities are there for creative people. Be true to yourself. Work with people you respect. Try to be entrepreneurial. Don’t be passive.

Neil: I’ve worked in Europe, in Asia, and now in America — I’ve met Swiss Re people with all sorts of experiences, but the consistent thing about them to me is quality and integrity. They’re bright, trustworthy people. The business culture may be completely different, but the way we do business is the same.

Sameet: Learn the brand, its values and commitments, because you will become part of it. It’s not an easy ride, but you will enjoy it. Expect to be stretched, challenged, and have fun — because that’s exactly what will happen.

For more information about working at Swiss Re see