What inspires you?
People who have managed to lead transformation whether in politics, in society or in companies. An example would be Allen Mullaly. A person who combines discipline in execution with courage, empathy and humility in all his interactions.
Which B Team cause are you motivated by most, and how is your company helping to lead on the issue?
Climate change is close to my heart and is also key to our business. As one of the largest institutional investors in Europe, Allianz’s investment decisions today, for example in infrastructure and green energy, are shaping a sustainable path for the future. As insurers, our business is managing risks on behalf of our clients so that they can bring predictability to an uncertain world. We see that many of our clients are starting to re-think their business models and we are actively supporting them in their transition toward a low-carbon economy with our technical and risk expertise.
What convinced you to take on this challenge? Why do you believe that it cannot be achieved without business engagement and leadership?
As the political landscape is polarizing in many countries and debates are no longer shaped by fact but by sentiment, it is important that businesses join forces to work toward topics that will impact the way we live in the future. Those issues that will limit or expand our possibilities as humans living on this planet. Corporations need intentionality to work toward a goal like climate neutrality. They can and should be the voice of current and future generations and use the influence they have to work together.
What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned on this journey?
I think we witnessed a turning point at COP21 in Paris. It was the first time that business seemed to drive policymakers to come up with a clear climate framework. I think this was critical to the success of the negotiations and it makes me optimistic for the future.
What is the first thing you read every morning?
I am usually on the road, so I read our family WhatsApp chat messages first and then move on to major publications like the FT and select German and Asian publications through apps on my iPad.
What advice would you give to a young entrepreneur seeking to start a new company today?
If you want to do business and want to build a company, you need to go out and meet people. Listen and observe. Patience and courage will always be important virtues when you are starting out from scratch. Ultimately, if you are working on something that will pay into a greater good, your chances of success—defined as monetary reward and as a feeling of accomplishment—will be much higher. And the last thing I would advise is to always keep an open and curious mind, never stop learning and remember that practice makes you better.
If there is one big change you could make in the world today, what would it be?
I would change the education systems. People need to be equipped with the right skills so they can contribute to society and receive decent compensation. There is nothing worse than being unable to contribute because you didn’t have a fair chance at a solid education. It’s not only unfair, it creates huge problems which can’t be fixed by simply throwing money at it at a later stage. Like in many other fields, in education, one size does not fit all, so modernizing learning and making it accessible to all will be crucial for safe and prosperous societies.
If you were given an extra day next week, how would you spend it?
That‘s easy: I would spend the extra day with my family, enjoying some outdoor time and cooking a meal together in the evening.
What one thing would you change to help more companies go further, faster, towards sustainable business?
I believe that companies are still a bit confused about their roles. They should accept that they have responsibilities toward society, which go beyond their own shareholders, but that doesn’t mean to do it just for the sake of doing good. Ideally, organizations apply their core competencies in combining economics and sustainability in their daily doing.
This interview is part of a series to help you get to know the B Team leaders, what they are working on and what they are passionate about.
You can read Richard Branson’s interview here, Yolanda Kakabadse’s interview here, Sharan Burrow’s interview here, Bob Collymore’s interview here, David Crane’s here, Christiana Figueres’ here, Arif Naqvi's here, Arianna Huffington's here, Guilherme Leal's here and Mats Granryd's here.