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Profile of Dr Edgar Puls

Embracing change - Dr Edgar Puls has gained the reputation of being a man of action at HDI Global SE: someone who can develop a clear vision and does not shy away from the consequent decision-making needed for its realisation. These qualities, coupled with his specialist expertise, are reflected in a rapid career progression that has now taken him to the very top of the industrial insurer and brought him a seat on the Board of Management of Talanx AG.

In 2001 he joined the organisation as a technical risk expert with HDI Sicherheitstechnik GmbH in Essen. Four years later he rose to the position of Departmental Manager at what is now HDI Risk Consulting GmbH, and by 2010 he was Sales Director Industry at head office. In February 2013 he experienced a true baptism of fire, moving to the Netherlands when things there were not going well. He steered the company through troubled waters and his systematic actions put the entity back on the successful footing where it stands today. "Whenever a door opened to me I was always curious enough to go through it", he explains.

At the age of 40 the family man with one son was appointed to the Management Board of HDI Global SE, initially with responsibility for motor insurance and for steering the European entities (excluding the United Kingdom and Austria). This included branches in Spain, France, Italy and the Netherlands. Working in cooperation with his colleagues, he put the business on a broader base by having the industrial insurer devote closer attention to small and mid-sized enterprises, the so-called mid-market segment, hence prompting it to open additional offices in numerous countries located in high-growth regions.

Clean-up of the fire portfolio

Last year, HDI was once again in need of someone to put things right. Fire business was permanently stuck in the red and it was clear that only robust countermeasures could turn things around. The industrial insurer reorganised the areas of Board responsibility, as a consequence of which Edgar Puls took charge not only of Division Europe but also the areas of Property, Engineering, Marine and Multirisk. Two months after assuming this responsibility he launched the strategically crucial clean-up programme dubbed 20/20/20: the goal is to grow premium income in the fire line, which accounts for roughly 20 percent of Industrial Lines business, by altogether 20 percent by the year 2020. In order to achieve this target Edgar Puls is more than willing to visit customers himself on occasion so as to handle pricing negotiations in a manner that is tough but fair. Thanks to their energetic efforts he and the roughly 700 employees around the world who are part of the project successfully accomplished something that after more than ten years of a soft market many believed could no longer be done: they raised prices in HDI Global SE's fire portfolio across the board. "This step was absolutely essential for us. We had to find the courage to go down this path in order to stop the losses in fire insurance, irrespective of developments on the market", Edgar Puls explains. "Rigorous action was needed. And, regrettably, it also meant that in a few cases we parted ways with customers. Nevertheless, since the middle of last year we have taken a major step in the right direction, although there's still a long way to go until we reach our goal!"

His words carry weight

Today, Edgar Puls is 45 years old and he knows HDI Global SE from many different perspectives: through his work at the branch and at head office, in risk consulting and on the sales side, in Germany and internationally, as an employee and as a Board member. "So far I've always had lots of great colleagues at my side. Together, we have looked for new challenges and consistently pushed forward", he adds. Not only that, Edgar Puls is a sought-after voice: in the highly regarded German online trade publication "Versicherungsmonitor" he contributes a regular column putting industry developments into context.

Edgar Puls, who was born in Hamburg, would seem to the natural choice for Chief Executive Officer of HDI Global SE. In reality, though, he came out on top in an intensive selection process involving a number of outside candidates. "I have the utmost respect for the task ahead because we are facing very difficult times. We are living in a VUCA world." The acronym VUCA stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. "The challenge is identifying the key parameters for success and not getting bogged down in complexity. As a further factor, the international business climate is becoming increasingly volatile. You have to be able to quickly adjust decisions when necessary. I am eagerly looking forward to this role because we have a great team and that's why we will successfully manage this change process", Edgar Puls explains.

Vision for HDI Global SE

One of his advantages is having a clear vision of how he intends to lead HDI Global SE into a successful future. "We shall of course build on past strengths and at the same time we will not ease off in our efforts to restore the fire line to profitability", he emphasises. "But we also need to keep evolving as a company." With this in mind, there are a number of changes to be made. "We need an even stronger culture of success and performance, clear management ratios and complete transparency as to when we are successful and when we fall short". He is seeking to advance the corporate culture in order to attain this goal. "I am a friend of flatter hierarchies, I want to engage in a more intensive dialogue with all employees and managers, to actively involve them and communicate openly with them."
In the middle of the year he will present the key points of his agenda. Until such time, he is talking to as many people as possible. "I'd like to use these first 100 days to listen to the organisation more closely." Working in concert with his colleagues, he will then draw up an agenda that modernises HDI and gets it fit for the future. "I simply enjoy giving constant thought to how we can improve for our customers, how we can make them even more satisfied and at the same time generate positive effects for our bottom line."