In the late 1980s, Juan C. Andrade was dividing his time between Colombia, Peru, Bolivia and Panama working against the drug cartels for the United States government to reduce the flow of drugs. It was a dream job for the recent international economics graduate, allowing him to make full use of his degree and his linguistic skills.
But he knew it wasn’t a post for life, and when the time came to transition from the public to the private sector, he contemplated his next steps. “I had languages and an international economics degree, so the question was ‘where next?’’’ he tells The CEO Magazine.
He realized his background would appeal to a multinational company that could take his expertise and train him in the specifics of its business, so he started to explore this avenue.
That’s how Andrade swapped the streets of South and Central America for the offices of AIG in New York. From the global insurance giant, he moved to Progressive Insurance, followed by The Hartford and Chubb.
Then, in late 2019, the opportunity to join reinsurance and insurance company Everest as President and CEO was presented to him, and he assumed the role on 1 January 2020.
Everest, he says, appealed to him because its size was just right. “If it’s too small, there’s not much you can do with it as there’s not enough capital,” he explains. “If it’s too big, the issue is that it takes a very long time to really put your imprint on it.
“It was important that I joined a company that had a good culture, good financial base, good balance sheet and plenty of opportunities to do different things,” he continues.
Everest, Andrade felt, had the winning combination. He explains how the business has grown about US$7 billion since he started, from US$9 billion in 2019 to a figure he projects to tip US$16 billion by the end of 2023, while improving the company’s overall profitability.
Such figures are impressive for a business that is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, and its 27th as a public company on the S&P 500.
Founded in 1973 as the reinsurance arm of Prudential Financial, it went public as Everest Re in 1996. Its half-century has been marked with a rebrand to Everest, a name that reflects both its continued leadership in the reinsurance market and its evolving footprint in the global primary insurance market.
Andrade says he can pinpoint the drivers of the impressive growth realized over the last few years. “We’ve been able to achieve this by diversifying the company by geography and product lines and we see these opportunities continuing,” he says.
“Our vision, and the way we go about doing it, is so much more than just a company – it’s a movement.”
The last two years in particular have seen a significant international expansion of its primary insurance offering, a business that used to be 85 percent based in North America, he explains. “In the last 18 months, we’ve opened up offices in Germany, France, Spain, the Netherlands, Chile and Singapore,” he says. “This year, we’re opening offices in Australia, Colombia and Mexico.”
Add into the picture Everest Group’s positioning as the fourth-largest property and casualty reinsurer in the world, with customers in 115 countries globally, and it’s an upward trajectory he only sees continuing.
Also propelling the business forward are his arsenal of ‘secret weapons’, or a company culture that promotes diversity, inclusion and humility. “It’s important to us, because when you do business in 115 countries around the world, you have to recognize cultural differences and you have to have employees that truly understand them,” he says.
“Ours is also a culture of humility,” he continues. “We’re not arrogant people. This is a fun place to work with the best people.”
He describes Everest as “a net aggregator of talent”.
“People will leave bigger companies to join us because they recognize that what we have created here with our vision, and the way we go about doing it, is so much more than just a company – it’s a movement,” he says.
It’s the same with the global brokers that Andrade counts as partners. “We work very closely with them as an intermediary,” he says. While the ‘what’ of Everest’s business is crucial, what he believes sets the company apart is the ‘how’.
“Our partners like working with us because we’re entrepreneurial, we’re nimble and we can get to a yes or no very quickly,” he says.
These partners agree. “The Everest team is very collaborative, innovative and focused on solving key challenges for clients. They look across the entirety of our business, rather than just looking to solve an immediate need,” Dean Klisura, President and CEO of Guy Carpenter tells The CEO Magazine. “There is nothing transactional about them.”
Klisura explains that this culture starts with Andrade and “how he runs the business”. “Juan is a very hands-on CEO who engages deeply in the business. As a strategic leader, he also understands the importance of key trading relationships. The Everest team is also strategic and focused on service and key trading relationships. The relationship comes first with him, and it comes first with them, and that matters.”
“It was important that I joined a company that had a good culture, good financial base, good balance sheet and plenty of opportunities to do different things.”
“We’ve committed a lot of time to Everest and they have reciprocated, building strategies that help both of our firms meet client needs,” says Aon’s President Eric Andersen. “As Everest has expanded beyond reinsurance, we’ve strategized together about investing in the right insurance lines, teams and clients. It’s a bilateral relationship.
“There are only a handful of truly global insurance firms, and as Everest becomes more global in their strategy, it allows us to do more with them,” Andersen continues. “As the world becomes increasingly more volatile, being able to work with a market partner from North America to Latin America to Asia allows us to accomplish greater, more innovative things together on behalf of our clients.”
The company just hosted its second investor day at The New York Stock Exchange, where Andrade and other members of his management team shared progress in their transformation of Everest over the past several years and outlined their ambitions for the future. As Andrade appropriately summed up in his comments, “Everest is the company to watch.”