9 June 2023

Insurance legend Denis Kessler dead, aged 71

Denis Kessler, chairman of French reinsurer Scor, died today at the age of 71.

The news was confirmed by Scor in a statement this morning that described him as "an economist and an iconic figure of the insurance and reinsurance world, and more widely of the French business world".

He joined Scor in 2002 as chief executive and chairman, and over the next two decades he turned the business around to become a top five global reinsurer. He became non-executive chairman of Scor in June 2021.

Elected to the learned society Institut de France, Scor described Kessler as "a man of culture, firmly committed to the spread and transfer of knowledge. His own breadth of knowledge ranged from economics to philosophy, literature and music."

Scor's directors said: "We are deeply saddened by the passing of Denis Kessler, with whom we have been fortunate enough to work for many years. He was an exceptional individual, with visionary leadership and incredible intelligence. We have lost a friend. We salute the memory of a great man and an extraordinary leader, who was passionate about the insurance and reinsurance industries, their techniques, their values and their philosophy.

"Denis has made a tremendous contribution to Scor's development over the past 21 years, and more widely to public debate on major contemporary economic and social policy issues. He has left a profound imprint on the group, with the double hallmark of high standards and excellence, which the teams he built will perpetuate. To his family and friends, our company expresses its deepest sympathy, gratitude and support."

Thierry Léger, chief executive, said: "I am privileged to have had the opportunity to work alongside Denis. He leaves us an extraordinary legacy. It is now up to us to carry on his work. The strong foundations on which he rebuilt the group enable us to look to the future with total confidence."

Kessler started his career as an economics researcher and held professorships at leading French universities. His insurance career began in 1983, when he joined the board of insurer Union des assurances de Paris – later acquired by Axa – and in 1990 he took on the post of chairman of the French Federation of Insurance Companies, a position he held until 1997, and then again from 1998 to 2002.

He was appointed senior executive vice-president and executive committee member of Axa in 1997, and in 1999 became the first executive vice-chairman of employers' organisation Mouvement des Entreprises de France, where he remained until he joined Scor in 2002.

Scor's vice-chairman Augustin de Romanet will chair the board for an interim period, until a new chairman is appointed.