Leigh Watson retires

Leigh Watson
Swiss Re Asia Pte. Ltd. - Head of Life & Health Reinsurance for Australia and New Zealand.
Date: 1 July 2023
Position: Head of Life & Health Reinsurance for Australia and New Zealand.
By Elizabeth Fry

After 43 years working in the financial services industry, Leigh Watson felt it was time to step back from full-time work and spend more time with family and friends.

Watson left the Swiss Re on 30 June after nine years as the head of life & health reinsurance for Australia & New Zealand.

Before that, he worked at National Australia Bank most as executive general manager of financial institutions but also doing a stint as chief operating officer in Asia.

Previously he served as chief executive of Asia at MLC.

Having worked across the life insurance/reinsurance, funds management and superannuation sectors, although he is keeping an eye out for non-executive opportunities.

Accolades poured in from former colleagues who called his career 'stellar' and cited his leadership style and high levels of personal and professional support.

"You've led through some tough times with a high level of integrity and built such a positive culture within the business. We've worked hard, but we have also had a lot of fun along the way," a colleage posted on social media.

"As everyone says when you look back over your working life it's the people who matter most. I've been lucky to work and interact with so many great colleagues, clients and business associates. Thanks for the memories!" he responded.

"Special thanks to my latest team that always made coming to work enjoyable while being consistently ranked the best life and health reinsurance team in Australia and New Zealand.

'It's been a lot of fun."

Speaking on the life industry, Watson said a focus on customer and member outcomes is paramount but needs to be provided so that life companies make money over the medium/long term to reinvest in their business.

"There are opportunities for the industry to become more efficient and pass back some of these savings to customers," he said, adding that uncertainty of claims costs for disability products (both income protection and TPD) remains the biggest challenge for the industry.

As for super funds, Watson stated health and wellness strategies are also key elements of any super fund's services.

"The provision of fit-for-purpose life and disability insurance is just one aspect of these services," he added.

"Understanding members' needs through effective engagement and smart data analytics can help optimise and tailor these services."

Watson noted that this is a whole lot more than group insurance - it could mean access to fitness activities, education on diet, and mental health prevention.