Skip to content

IDF Blog

5 Questions with Denis Duverne, Chairman of the Board of Directors at AXA and Chair of the IDF Steering Committee

In just five years the IDF has become an internationally recognised institution, which is delivering real work.”

In 2020, the IDF turned five years old, following its establishment at the United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP21) Paris Climate summit in 2015 and official launch by leaders of the United Nations, the World Bank and the insurance industry in 2016.

We caught up with Denis Duverne to reflect on progress to date, and the activities that will shape the future of our innovative and proactive organisation.

Q: Please tell us a little bit about yourself and the company/association that you work for.

A:For over 25 years now, I have been working at AXA, a company that transformed itself from a local French company into a global insurance leader in just 30 years. It was a great journey for all of us and especially for me, because I always felt insurance had a noble purpose – we act for human progress by protecting what matters and thereby offering customers peace of mind. This is probably why working at AXA and now with the IDF has always been so enjoyable for me.

Q: When did you begin your partnership with the Insurance Development Forum (IDF) and why did you choose to partner with them?

A: I joined the Steering Committee of the IDF at the request of Stephen Catlin in April 2016. I then took over from Stephen as IDF’s chair in 2018. In the course of my career I have always been concerned with the impact of climate change on developing countries and supported the launch of AXA’s emerging customers initiative. I also recognised that the new challenges, the new risks that we collectively face – and climate change is the biggest of them all – required public-private solutions. The creation of the IDF has been led by the industry but co-created with international organisations including the UN, World Bank and others to do just that. I feel thankful I’ve had the opportunity to chair this great project.

Q: Please explain the work you do with the IDF, including any past or present projects that you are most proud of.

A: It is fantastic that the IDF is now very much up and running, and growing its global reach through new members  joining and the commitment of real resources, people and funding by both the private and public sector members. In just five years the IDF has become an internationally recognised institution, which is delivering real work. For instance, through the innovative and unique Tripartite agreement between the IDF, UNDP and  Germany’s BMZ, we have made great progress. Projects are being brought forward in 21 countries, including in Peru where IDF members are devising solutions to protect 50 000 schools. We all know how demanding it is to transform discussions in international forums into concrete results. The IDF has achieved that.

Q: What do you think are the key elements that make the IDF successful?

A: I believe there are two things.

On one hand, it is public-private by design. This is necessary to address the challenges of our time. The admirable support and sponsorship the IDF enjoys from the UNDP, the World Bank Group (represented through MIGA), Germany’s BMZ, UK DFiD and many others – all of this brings legitimacy and generates occasions to speak with the governments we want to help.

Second, it is wide-ranging. Both from geographic and sectoral standpoints, we cover most of the planet. Our members are present in all parts of the insurance and reinsurance businesses. They provide coverage all over the world. That gives us an unrivalled footprint as well as financial and technical capacities.

Q: What are the key goals that you will be focussing the IDF on in the next 12 months?  

A: The key goal is to keep on delivering concrete results on the ground. I am looking forward to transforming discussions into solutions with as many countries as possible. The COVID-19 environment – hopefully, soon to be post-COVID-19 environment – does not make it easier as many countries are understandably in emergency-fighting mode. But for us at the IDF, Covid also came as a confirmation that risk management is more crucial than ever. But there will be further crises. In particular, climate change will not go away. We should prepare now and develop more resilient solutions. That is what the IDF will be doing over the next 12 months – and even after that.

Bonus question: If you could issue one call to action for improving resilience around the world, what would it be?

A: It would be a simple call to governments and municipalities of large cities: “Let’s talk, we have some of the solutions to the problems you face”. Governments around the world are struggling with similar issues: they face ever larger risks to the wealth and livelihoods of their citizens but they often lack the resources to shield them. In particular, they often have a limited understanding of the exact extent of the risks they are confronted with. And even when they do, they might not have the financial resources. Understanding these risks and providing solutions to these challenges is what insurers do. We stand ready to help.


9th December, 2020