Lifestyle Personal Lines the November 2020 issue

Florian Karle, CEO, Südvers

The emotion, the empathy, the dynamics of the industry. It’s really something I love to do.
By Chris Hann Posted on October 29, 2020
Q
How’s it been going during the pandemic?
A
On the business side, I would say we’re doing well. We had a lockdown. I was pretty lonely here in the office—just me, myself and I for quite a while. On the personal side, my daughter, who is turning 18 in January, has been home schooling; I wouldn’t say she’s loved it. The middle one, who is 15, is now riding a small motorcycle and spending lots of time on the computer. The little one, who just turned 3, was coming from pre-kindergarten to kindergarten, so he was home with my wife for many weeks.

Favorite travel destinations: France, Croatia and Thailand (“Thailand has the best food in the world and the nicest people in the world.”)

Favorite movies: John Wick and The Equalizer

Favorite German movie: The Nanny (“It’s about kids growing up with a father who’s never there.”)

Favorite actor: Denzel Washington

Favorite singer: Adele

Favorite restaurant in Freiburg: Hirschen

Favorite dish at Hirschen: Tuna carpaccio

Q
Tell me about Freiburg.
A
We have 220,000 people. It’s a university city, so 35,000 of those are students. The area is the warmest in Germany; we call it northern Tuscany. We’re 60 kilometers to Switzerland, 20 kilometers to France. From my office window you see cows, vineyards, chickens and the Black Forest. Being so close to France, we get a good food influence here. We just bought a house in the south of France, so we travel there also.
Q
What was it like growing up there?
A
I hated school, I loved sports, and I loved parties—all those kinds of stupid things you do when you’re young. I didn’t see any sense in school. The older I get, the more I love learning.
Q
You have a pilot’s license and a boating license. Sounds like you’re always learning something.
A
I’m a very late pilot. When the kids were born, I got flight fear. Since then I’ve been flying a lot; I have 1,000 hours on the odometer. I bought my first Cirrus plane before I had the license. But we were in weather so many times I changed to a turboprop and started flying Cessnas. Ten years ago, my wife and I got our skipper licenses. I love riding boats. Then my wife said, “I want a dog.” I said, “OK, we’ll do a hunting license together.”
Q
What do you want to learn next?
A
I’d like to get my professional pilot license. With that you can fly a Boeing 737 or Airbus 320—which I don’t want to do, but you get to learn so much more.
Q
Are you still hunting?
A
We’re going hunting this weekend in Bavaria, near Neuschwanstein Castle, which was the inspiration for Cinderella’s castle.
Q
What will you be hunting?
A
Stag—big deer—and wild goat. You have to climb the mountains first, and you’re out of air. If you’re not used to that, it’s difficult. I’ll be working next week during the day, and then in the very early morning and evening I’ll go out hunting.
Q
What would you have done if you hadn’t gone into insurance?
A
I wanted to be a police officer. If that didn’t happen, I wanted to study law and be a good lawyer.
Q
Tell me about Südvers.
A
We have 430 people. We have two shareholders, my father—Manfred Karle—and myself. We have 14 locations, seven in Austria. We do more than $400 million in premium and $60 million in revenue. My father, with some partners, started the Worldwide Broker Network 32 years ago at his kitchen table. I told my father when I was 16 years old that I was going to take over at Südvers.
Q
Did your father expect you to get into the business?
A
In about 1998, my older sister said, “Daddy, it’s a nice company, but I’m not coming.” That gave me the opportunity to really make my path here.
Q
He must be proud of you.
A
I think he is.
Q
If you could change one thing about the insurance industry, what would it be?
A
Our industry is so inefficient. I’m convinced the customer will not pay forever for that.
Q
Last question: What gives you your leader’s edge?
A
I think the emotion and the empathy and the dynamics of the industry. It’s really something I love to do.
Chris Hann Associate Editor Read More

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