Lippe plans to retire early from Swiss Re

City A.M. Reporter
SWISS Re said yesterday chief executive Stefan Lippe (pictured) will take early retirement after roughly three years at the helm, in a surprise move that analysts said added a new element of uncertainty to a company which Lippe had helped stabilise.

No reason was given for the departure, which Swiss Re said would take effect next year. Some analysts saw reinsurance chief Christian Mumenthaler as likely successor, but Swiss Re said it will also look outside for candidates for the position.

The 56-year-old Lippe informed the Zurich-based firm’s board over the weekend of his decision, a Swiss Re spokesman said. In a statement, Lippe cited the turnaround of the reinsurer as the appropriate time to step down.

“The board of directors very much regrets Stefan Lippe’s decision to retire early after almost three decades at Swiss Re,” chairman Walter Kielholz said. A successor will be appointed “soon”, Swiss Re said.

Analysts said the departure was a note of uncertainty at Swiss Re after Lippe ushered in an era of greater stability following a push to take more risk under his predecessor, Jacques Aigrain.

Lippe’s main achievement was steadying Swiss Re after it lost its AA rating in 2009 when risky investments jeopardised its capital base, prompting a SwFr3bn (£2.05bn) loan from Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway.

Swiss Re repaid the Buffett loan late last year and in October won backing from ratings agency Standard & Poor’s, which lifted its credit rating for the reinsurer to AA- from A+.