Ensuring good governance and compliance

Swiss Re’s corporate governance and compliance regimes aim at safeguarding the sustainable interests of the company and ensuring legal and ethical behaviour.

Corporate governance

Swiss Re considers good corporate governance indispensable to maintaining long-lasting, valuable relationships with its stakeholders. We recognise that transparent disclosure of our governance structure fosters assessment of the quality of our organisation and business conduct.

Swiss Re’s corporate governance adheres to the SIX Swiss Exchange’s Directive on Information Relating to Corporate Governance, including its annex. It is also in line with the principles of the Swiss Code of Best Practice for Corporate Governance (Swiss Code) of September 2014, issued by economiesuisse, the Swiss business federation. Swiss Re, moreover, conforms to the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) provisions on corporate governance, risk management and internal control systems, which came into effect on 1 January 2009. Swiss Re’s corporate governance also complies with applicable local rules and regulations in all jurisdictions where it conducts business.

In our Corporate Responsibility Report, we highlight key elements of Swiss Re’s corporate governance concerning the structure and independence of the Board of Directors and shareholder rights. Comprehensive information following the structure of the SIX Directive is available in the 2015 Financial Report.

Binding AGM votes on Board of Directors and Group Executive Committee compensation

The Annual General Meeting 2014 had approved the amendments to the Articles of Association required to comply with the “Ordinance Against Excessive Compensation at Public Corporations” (Ordinance) which became effective on 1 January 2014. Based on the new provisions, the Annual General Meeting 2015 was asked to vote with a binding effect on the compensation for the Board of Directors and the Group EC. It approved all compensation-related motions with overwhelming majorities. For the detailed voting results of the Annual General Meeting 2015, please refer to: www.swissre.com/investors/events/151st_Annual_General_Meeting.html

Swiss Re’s corporate governance framework

Swiss Re has a dual board structure: the Board of Directors is responsible for oversight, while the Group Executive Committee (Group EC) is responsible for managing operations. This structure maintains effective mutual checks and balances between the top corporate bodies.

Independence of the Board of Directors

Swiss Re’s Group Bylaws stipulate that at least three-quarters of the members of the Board of Directors must be independent. Independence is defined in line with best practice corporate governance standards. To be considered independent, a Group Board member may not be, and may not have been in the past three years, employed as a member of the Group EC, or by any Subsidiary of the Swiss Re Group or may not have a material relationship with any part of the Swiss Re Group (either directly or as a partner, director or shareholder of an organisation that has a material relationship with the Swiss Re Group) other than serving as an independent board member in any Subsidiary. All the members of the Board of Directors meet our independence criteria with the exception of our Chairman. As a full-time Chairman he is not considered independent.

The members of the Board of Directors are also subject to procedures to avoid any action, position or interest that conflicts with an interest of Swiss Re Ltd or the Swiss Re Group or gives the appearance of a conflict.

The organisation of the Board of Directors is set forth in the Group Bylaws, which define the organisational structure and function of Swiss Re Ltd and the responsibilities and authorities of the Board of Directors, its committees and the Group EC and their members.

The Board has established Board committees to assist it in fulfilling its duties and has delegated certain responsibilities, including the preparation and execution of its resolutions, to the following five committees: the Chairman’s and Governance Committee, the Audit Committee, the Compensation Committee, the Finance and Risk Committee and the Investment Committee.

Audit Committee

The central task of the Audit Committee is to assist the Board of Directors in fulfilling its oversight responsibilities as they relate to the integrity of Swiss Re’s and the Group’s financial statements, the Swiss Re Group’s compliance with legal and regulatory requirements, the external auditor’s qualifications and independence, and the performance of GIA and the Group’s external auditor.

All members of the Audit Committee are non-executive and independent. In addition to the independence criteria applicable to Board members in general, additional independence criteria apply for members of the Audit Committee.

They are required to possess such additional attributes as the Board of Directors may, from time to time, specify. Each member of the Audit Committee has to be financially literate. At least one member must possess the attributes to qualify as an Audit Committee financial expert, as determined appropriate by the Board of Directors.

Shareholders’ participation rights Shares

All shares issued by Swiss Re Ltd are fully paid-in registered shares, each with a par value of CHF 0.10. Each share carries one vote. There are no categories of shares with a higher or limited voting power, privileged dividend entitlement or any other preferential rights, nor are there any other securities representing a part of the company’s share capital. The company cannot exercise the voting rights of treasury shares.

Voting right restrictions, statutory group clauses and exception rules

There are no voting right restrictions and no statutory group clauses. Therefore, there are no procedures or conditions for cancelling restrictions and no rules on making exceptions to them. Accordingly, no such exceptions were made in 2015.

Statutory rules on participating in the General Meeting of shareholders

The share whose owner, usufructuary or nominee is entered in the share register as having voting rights on a specific qualifying day determined by the Board of Directors entitles its holder to one vote at the General Meeting of shareholders.

Swiss Re’s Articles of Association allow any shareholder with voting rights to have his or her shares represented at any General Meeting of shareholders by another person authorised in writing or by the Independent Proxy. Such representatives need not be shareholders.

Business firms, partnerships and corporate bodies may be represented by legal or authorised representatives or other proxies, married persons by their spouses, minors and wards by their guardians, even though such representatives are not shareholders.

Defence measures

Swiss Re has not put in place any specific measures to defend against potential unfriendly takeover attempts. The Board of Directors believes that the company’s best protection is a fair valuation of its shares, and that the efficiency of a free market is preferable to artificial obstacles, which can have a negative impact on the share price in the long term.