AXA CEO returns to Lancaster University to receive special award

Thomas Buberl with the Chancellor of Lancaster University, the Rt Hon Alan Milburn.
Thomas Buberl (left) with the Chancellor of Lancaster University, the Rt Hon Alan Milburn.

A Lancaster University alumnus, who is Chief Executive Officer of AXA, the multi-billion-euro French insurance and financial services company headquartered in Paris, received a special award from Lancaster University on Wednesday.

Thomas Buberl, who gained an MBA from Lancaster in 1999, received the Outstanding Alumnus of the Year Award from the Chancellor of Lancaster University, the Rt Hon Alan Milburn, at the winter postgraduate graduation ceremonies this week.

Born in Cologne, Mr Buberl leads an organisation with close to 150,000 staff worldwide, total assets exceeding 775 billion euros, and net operating income of more than seven billion euros.

Under his leadership, the company has flourished and grown, including the $15.3 billion acquisition of Bermuda-based insurance group XL, in 2018, which made AXA a world leader in property and casualty insurance.

Mr Buberl began his career with the Boston Consulting Group, specialising in banking and insurance both in Germany and internationally.

Between 2002 and 2008, he worked for the Winterthur Group as a member of the Swiss-based management board, first as Chief Operating Officer and subsequently as Chief Marketing and Distribution Officer. AXA acquired the firm in 2006.

In 2008, he moved to the Zurich Insurance Group, taking the role of Chief Executive Officer for the firm’s Swiss operations.

A rising star in his profession, with a growing reputation for effective leadership, he came back on AXA’s radar in 2012, when the company appointed him as Chief Executive Officer of AXA Konzern AG in Germany and a member of the AXA Executive Committee.

In March 2015, he joined the AXA Management Committee on being promoted to Chief Executive Officer of the global health business line, followed rapidly in January 2016 by adding the global life and savings line to his portfolio of responsibilities. The same year, he was promoted to his current role as Chief Executive Officer of AXA.

Alongside his responsibilities at AXA, he serves on the boards of IBM and Bertelsmann, while he is a board member or trustee of a wide variety of non-profit organisations, including the World Economic Forum, the Institute of International Finance, the Geneva Association, and Bocconi University.

In 2019, he became a founding member of Michael Bloomberg’s Climate Finance Leadership Initiative, convened to help facilitate the private financing objectives laid down in the Paris Climate Accords that were adopted in 2015, and which seek to limit long-term global temperature rises to no more than one-and-a-half degrees Celsius.

Alongside his MBA from Lancaster, he holds a Master’s degree in Economics from WHU Koblenz in Germany, and a PhD in Economics from the University of Saint Gallen in Switzerland.

His family connection to Lancaster continues, as his daughter has followed in her father’s footsteps to become a student at Lancaster University.

In his acceptance speech Mr Buberl said: “As I reflect on my time at Lancaster, it’s not just the academic excellence that comes to mind, but the vibrant experiences that have shaped part of who I am today.

“I vividly remember late nights at the library – in pubs too – and the camaraderie that comes from embracing challenges together.

“Coming back here also makes me remember how much I enjoyed spending time on this beautiful campus, right in the middle of nature - enjoy it while you can!

“I've shared some great moments here, with classmates who have become lifelong friends, but also moments of true intellectual complicity with caring teachers. Last but certainly not least, I met the woman of my life here on campus. So be careful who you sit next to, Lancaster can bring you so much more than a degree!”

Addressing the ‘class of 2023’ he advised that by being confident they would find their own destiny, to pick an industry with an upside potential, take risks to build experience and to be driven by strong values.

He added: “As you don your caps and step into the world armed with your degrees, know that Lancaster has equipped you not just with knowledge, but with courage and the power of change.”

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