Javier Moreno Gonzalez arrived in Malta in 2021 to lead the largest insurance company on the island. With an entire career in the field to back him up, it is no surprise that he has taken to the challenge so smoothly. And, in the recent period of global upheavals and uncertainty, his experience and commitment to client-centred operations have proven to be more crucial than ever before.

Insurance is, by Javier Moreno Gonzalez’s own admission, an industry the public tends not to view as particularly exciting. But his own take on his role as CEO of MAPFRE Middlesea is hardly a dull one. “I feel like an orchestra conductor,” he says. “You may have great individual musicians, but if you want a great sound overall, you need to make sure they’re all working together, which takes a lot of negotiation and effort. That’s how I feel most days. It can be stressful, but it’s also very exciting.”

Javier has been in his current role since arriving in Malta in April 2021. He first joined MAPFRE in 2000 in his native Spain and forged his professional career within the multinational group. Starting at the group’s HQ and assuming his first Chief Officer position in his early 30s, Javier later transitioned into the international arena, travelling and working extensively across Europe, the US, and South and Central American countries where MAPFRE has a presence.

“I’ve been very lucky,” he says of the journey so far. “I’ve been able to gradually increase my skills and responsibilities, continuously learning more about different areas of the business. Now, the role I have in Malta allows me to keep learning every single day. It’s an experience I feel extremely passionate about because I’ve found an incredible company and team in a small but extraordinary country. I love being here.”

True to his description of himself as an orchestra conductor, Javier most enjoys the opportunity his role gives him to interact with different departments to find solutions to problems together. “I don’t enjoy routine,” he says. “I prefer dealing with situations actively, by analysing what’s happening, developing projects and following up on things in the company. I always want to be involved and proactive.”

Away from work, Javier enjoys the very social sport of padel, and similarly at the office, his preferred approach to leadership is collaborative, with “open, passionate discussions” preceding any major decisions. “We have very clear values in the MAPFRE group,” he adds. “Integrity, honesty, the vocation to serve, the commitment to all our stakeholders: these values define the way we act and the way I approach my work.”

When Javier took up his role in 2021, he joined a company that was already a long-established leader in the Maltese market. Middlesea had just celebrated its 40th anniversary, having been set up in 1981 and then combined with MAPFRE in 2011 as part of the latter’s international expansion. “We blend the best of both worlds,” Javier explains. “We are preserving the expertise and knowledge of the Maltese market, which comes from our people here, while also taking advantage of other experiences and best practices that come from outside Malta. As a result, we can develop an independent company, focusing on our market with total autonomy yet with the full support of the international group behind the scenes.”

While Javier is proud of the company’s status as market leader, he is keen to stress that there is never any guarantee of retaining that position unless the company continues to provide the best service. “Our responsibility is even greater than that of other insurers,” he says. “Every year, the market is becoming more mature and demanding. While this evolution is healthy, we need to be aware of it because you’d be hard-pressed to find too many bad insurers in this market. Our competitors are very good, and I have a lot of respect for them.”

With this clear drive to avoid resting on its laurels, MAPFRE Middlesea recently embarked on a three[1]year strategy, with a triple emphasis on digitalisation, customer focus and operational efficiency. For Javier, the mission is clear. “We want to ensure our customers are at the centre of our activities,” he explains. “That’s easy to say but much less easy to execute. We also want to transform our processes and gain efficiency. It’s not an easy or quick process, but we expect our effort and investment in digitalisation and increasing the company’s agility to eventually be recognised and rewarded by our customers.”

That said, 2022 was not a period of plain sailing, given the challenges posed to businesses across the board. “What we predicted as a company a year or two ago is not happening exactly as envisaged,” Javier says. “We expected stronger economic activity and moderate inflation, yet we now also have very high global uncertainty. We are part of the real economy, so global challenges such as energy prices and cost-of-living increases also affect us. We’re making great efforts to minimise the impact on our clients, but you can’t avoid it completely. It’s something that’s already affecting all insurers.”

MAPFRE Middlesea’s response to these challenges has been measured: maintaining the essence of its three[1]year strategy while slowing down the execution of some projects to prepare the company to be more agile and better able to face sudden changes. “On the positive side, I think the current situation has provided us with an opportunity to demonstrate once again that we are very resilient and able to serve our clients and distributors with the highest-quality service.”

When looking to the future, Javier is cautious. He acknowledges that insurance is by its very nature a conservative business where change comes slowly. Moreover, with the turbulence of the past year, the road ahead is particularly hard to predict. He expects the industry will continue growing at a moderate pace, albeit highly conditioned by economic developments. “For us specifically, we see particular opportunities to increase the comprehensiveness of our offering to clients,” he adds. “We’re working to provide them with the best solution using a global approach, not simply by considering any one single product, but rather through our relationship with the client as a whole.”

New products are also being developed, with the recent launch of a specific insurance policy for electric vehicles – the first of its kind on the market and a signal of what Javier describes as a commitment to long-term sustainability. “We were the first to launch the EV policy because we believe we need to tackle this situation,” he says. “But all stakeholders need to work together to make this a reality. Apart from fiscal support, which is fantastic, we need to prepare infrastructure, as well as support for repairs and maintenance. From the insurance side, we’re ready, and we intend on continuing to support all new developments.”

The company’s commitment to sustainability is also taking root in its participation in the Maltese ESG Alliance (MESGA), a collaboration involving 13 large companies aimed at developing ESG initiatives. “We want to support each other in developing individual and collective projects to genuinely bring about positive change. It’s something we felt we needed to contribute to and something that’s going to be important for Malta’s development.”

Looking ahead, Javier sees 2023 as a year for the company to retain its leadership in the Maltese market and renew clients’ confidence, while navigating the global challenges of inflation, uncertainty and financial turbulence. At the same time, between MESGA and various other CSR initiatives being carried out through its foundation, Fundación MAPFRE, Javier hopes the impact can go beyond business. “We’re always looking to actively contribute to society,” he says. “At MAPFRE, we feel an absolute commitment to Malta and our clients. We came to Malta in 2011, and we don’t intend on leaving.”

This article is part of the serialisation of 50 interviews featured in MaltaCEOs 2023 – the sister brand to MaltaCEOs.mt and an annual high-end publication bringing together some of the country’s most influential business leaders

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