FERMA President Jo Willaert joined Germany’s GVNW Chairman Alexander Mahnke and Vice Chairman Hans Jörg Schill to talk about the merger which created this new risk management association and its priorities for the future. 

Risk management conversation in Germany  

Members of Germany’s two risk management associations, DVS and Bfv, drove their merger earlier this year, and the combined new organisation, GVNW, now represents the whole range of risk managers and insurance buyers from SMEs to multi-nationals, according to its Chairman Alexander Mahnke.

He was speaking with FERMA President Jo Willaert on the occasion of the first symposium held by GVNW, which took place in Munich from 7 to 9 September. They were joined by GVNW Deputy Chairman Hans Jörg Schill.

Alexander said: “My impression is people have seen this as such a natural development that we all have to ask ourselves why we hadn’t done this before. I was one of those who at the very beginning said – don’t go too fast. I was sure there were more people opposing that development, which has been proved completely wrong.”

Hans Jörg added: “When we had the elections, DVS was 100% and in our association 99%. That means one was against the merger, or fusion, however you call it, and one who was not decided. So it was perfect. We already had about 40 who were members of both Bfv and DVS.”

Jo commented: “I think it is good for FERMA because now we have one spokesperson from Germany.”

It was not a worry in the past to have two associations, said Hans Jörg: “For representation, Jo, within FERMA, it was not hindering because Bfv was founded for in-house brokers and that is very special for Germany. But for us, now, it is very important that we now have one association.”

Jo commented on a change in the symposium this year. “My first impression is that it is much more international than I remembered. Then it was very German. The topics were German. It was very local.”

Said Alexander: “There is a fine line to walk. We share a lot of topics with our colleagues in other countries, and also we are and will remain a German association focussing on the topics that are of importance for our members.”


Jo wanted to know about GVNW’s priorities for the year ahead. According to Alexander, internally, it has to differentiate what it will do for the different groups of owners. “On the outside from a strategic point of view, there is no order of priority. It is international insurance programmes. It is education, training and finding talent. Those are all highly important.”

Added Hans Jörg: “For captives, Solvency II is a very important subject at the moment.”

In terms of the big picture, Alexander said: “Lobbying is something we have to get a lot better at and getting some of our members understand it is not something fishy! It is something you need, because otherwise you will not be heard. That needs to be done nationally and also internationally. You also need some capabilities to be able to play on the international field. It is also about bringing the association into the next generation.”

FERMA has similar issues, said Jo, having grown from a very small organisation with one staff member to a group with teams. “We need really to adapt the way of working given the new challenges of the market of our members. We did a survey of our members, and I started at the beginning with communication, education and leadership, to look at the mission of our job in the company. The risk manager is supporting the decision making process of the company.

“It is good that you are thinking along the same lines. You have topics – captives, global programmes – but these are specific items, and we are talking about long term strategy. What should we be in two years?”