‘Why Swiss Re?’ and ‘Why reinsurance?’ Answering key application and interview questions
Candidates who have taken part in the graduates@swissre recruitment process often report being asked during interviews about their reasons for applying to Swiss Re, as well as what they know about reinsurance and why it appeals. You are also expected to tackle these topics in your covering letter.
How to convincingly answer the ‘why?’ questions
Many graduate applicants know that they should include evidence of having done some research into the company when giving their reasons for applying. For Swiss Re, an environmentally conscious graduate might say something along the lines of:
'I am applying to you because I identify with the importance you place on helping communities become climate change resilient, through developing products and services to reduce the impact of climate change, promoting the importance of taking action on climate change and tackling your own carbon footprint.’
This would certainly show research and gives a solid reason for applying. However, the answer will be more convincing if the candidate either:
a) backs it up with an example of how they have worked to minimise the impact of climate change themselves or otherwise can show evidence of having an interest in climate change
b) can link this reason to their own career ambitions: for example, wanting to contribute to thought leadership on climate change or considering whether to move into climate change analysis (if appropriate to the role).
Essentially, the point is: when answering ‘why?’, bring the answer back to you: your skills, your experiences and your career ambitions.
Expressing your reasons for wanting to work at Swiss Re
This is a main component of the covering letter. You may also be asked about this at interview alongside the question, ‘What do you know about the company?’. This last question partly tests your research skills, but mostly checks that you have made an active, considered choice in applying: you haven’t just applied to ‘any job’.
Your reasons for applying to the bank must be personal to you – after all, as we mentioned above, you need to link them back to yourself. But Swiss Re is a large company with a complex website. To help you narrow down possible reasons for applying, here are some considerations that resonated with us as particularly interesting:
Are you applying to Swiss Re because of the international experience available?
Swiss Re is a global organisation that’s based in Zurich, with offices in 25 countries. The firm has said: ‘We’re looking for successful graduates who distinguish themselves not just in terms of academic excellence, but in international experience.’
Write about what attracts you to working within an international business and why you’d be suited to the international environment. If you have done any of the following, refer to them in your covering letter (and include them on your CV):
- extensive travel
- study or voluntary/paid work abroad
- research involving foreign countries or international communities
- projects exploring multicultural or international topics, or involving an intercontinental team.
Make sure you mention the skills you developed through the experience that are relevant to the role – such as communication, research and teamwork – and state how that would help you at Swiss Re. For example, if you intend to apply for a graduate position in the reinsurance division, which would see you working with colleagues from different nationalities, you could mention an interest or activity that involved engaging with a wide range of people.
Are you applying to Swiss Re because the company will allow you to make the best use of your skills?
Many of the roles at Swiss Re require the ability to analyse and think conceptually. A junior actuary at Swiss Re told TARGETjobs Finance: ‘One of the main tasks of my team is to estimate ultimate losses, premiums and costs every quarter. These calculations lead to the reserves needed to pay the future liabilities of Swiss Re, which represent an important part of the organisation’s balance sheet.’ The team will have to analyse data to be able to make such estimations. If this appeals to you, say so and give evidence of your previous analytical and lateral thinking: for example, through your degree.
Or do you want to work for Swiss Re because of the chance to further develop your commercial judgement? If you state this, be prepared to make some positive, commercial observations about how Swiss Re works. For instance, since the banking crash the firm has put a lot of work into building up its cash reserves: what do you think of this? Similarly, any evidence you can give Swiss Re of how you have personally made commercially astute decisions (perhaps as part of a business or entrepreneurial student society or course project) will be sure to be gratefully received.
Perhaps it is the chance to use your language skills that interests you instead. The business language across Swiss Re is English, so speaking another tongue isn’t a prerequisite unless this is indicated on the job posting. However, one Swiss Re human resources associate told TARGETjobs that being fluent in an additional language is an advantage due to the global nature of the business.
When talking about the opportunities to develop your skills, it would also be advantageous to talk about what attracts you to the range of training opportunities available on the programme.
Are you applying to Swiss Re because of the level of responsibility you are likely to receive?
Does the idea of being in a role in a firm that expects a high degree of personal accountability attract you? Swiss Re makes it clear that you must be able to accept responsibility for your own decisions and actions. This means understanding the requirements of your role, taking ownership of your responsibilities, and making informed choices that you believe in and will stand by. Similarly, Swiss Re wants you to be able to ‘deliver high-quality solutions, even under pressure’. If this attracts you, focus on giving evidence of how you have taken on responsibility and developed competencies such as problem solving and initiative-taking.
Are you applying to Swiss Re because of its work on climate change?
Swiss Re has long been a champion of tackling climate change – it describes itself as a ‘climate change pioneer’. For a reinsurer, climate change is a key risk factor because it can lead to an increase in the frequency and severity of catastrophes such as floods, storms and drought, particularly as populations are increasingly concentrated in cities. Thoroughly research Swiss Re’s climate change strategy and actions.
Tackling the reinsurance questions
You will, of course, need to do some detailed research into reinsurance. At interview, the broader questions of ‘Why are you interested in reinsurance?’ and ‘What do you understand by the term reinsurance?’ may be followed up with questions confirming your understanding. One candidate reports being asked to identify the main factors that influence the cost of reinsurance contracts and what their typical workday would look like.
What is reinsurance? Start with our basic introduction
Reinsurance is essentially insurance for insurance companies: insurers enter into reinsurance agreements with reinsurers to cover their losses in the event of large (or a large number of) insurance claims by policy holders; for example, in the event of unforeseen natural disasters. It is used by large insurers to spread risk and as back-up by smaller and specialised insurers whose pockets are not so deep. The very existence of reinsurance and its ability to absorb unexpected risks introduces some safety into markets and facilitates innovation and long-term planning. As well as simply protecting people, businesses and markets against the unknowable, it can stabilise long-term products such as pension funds for an ageing population during the course of whose lives markets may be buffeted by many negative, unanticipated events.
For more information, turn initially to a PDF published by Swiss Re ‘The essential guide to reinsurance’ before widening your research: for example, read the news in the insurance-specialist press and the TARGETjobs Inside Buzz survey results for Swiss Re.
Why reinsurance? Use our checklist to narrow down your options
- Do you ‘believe’ in the purpose of reinsurance or the benefits that it brings to the insurance industry and the wider economy?
- Think about the overarching purposes of the job role and the functions you’d likely carry out. What appeals to you about them? What would interest, challenge and stretch you? What is it about analysing portfolios and assessing their risks that interests you, for example?
- Are there any developments within the world of reinsurance that interest you or would lead to career opportunities for you? PwC, for example, suggests that ‘cyber insurance’ is a growth market: is that something that makes you want to work in reinsurance?