Fired up: My Journey to Independence

Some of you may have heard of the so-called FIRE movement. FIRE in this case stands for Financial Independence Retire Early. In German, I saw it clumsily translated into „Rente mit 40“ (Pension at 40). I have yet to see anyone retire at 40 with a pension in the traditional sense, but nevertheless the slogan is aspirational and above all catchy.

To be honest, the term FIRE confused me at first. I understand the concept but what are all these people doing in their early retirement? Travelling the world was quite popular but then COVID hit. Some are finally finding time to learn new skills such as playing an instrument or playing golf. But hobbies seem to go only so far.

When you look deeper into the topic you will find that few people go into actual retirement and even fewer end up travelling the world. Really, it comes down to being able to work independently at one’s own pace, free from the corset of corporate policies and politics. Retirement in the traditional sense has little to do with it.

From a motivational aspect this makes much more sense to me. Most professionals thrive on goals and the most powerful are the goals you can set yourselves. Some will still be keen to use the skills they learnt over a long career but will apply them in a different context.

After over 30 years in the insurance industry, this describes my journey best. Financially independent, retired early. But not really retired. Last year I spent my birthday at the office of a notary to get the founding papers of my company notarised and so Uni-Kath was officially born. The company name is an obvious play with my last name “Kath” and Unikat in German actually means one of its kind (think “unique”). Naturally, every company is unique but still…

With this in mind, these are the main things I will be focusing on:

First, consultancy and advisory services in insurance and reinsurance. I have spent 30 years in various functions in this industry: starting from claims management in an insurance company, applying the claims background to reinsurance and acting as an underwriter for many years, coming up with run-off strategies, buying reinsurance and finally applying all of this in the capital market in the context of Insurance Linked Securities (ILS). Through this practical experience, a prime focus of mine will be to advise capital market investors in ILS. This will sometimes also take form in panel sessions, like the Artemis ILS Conference in February 2020 or Guernsey Finance Week in June 2021.

Second, career and financial coaching. I am a trained coach in ZRM (Zürcher Ressourcen Modell), a method developed at the University of Zurich. It is based in neuroscience and incorporates its finding to help people to define motivational goals and follow them through. I have always used this background in my leadership roles and I will now be looking to apply the format in individual sessions, workshops or contributions to management programs and a wider application of this will be my work for the Insurance Supper Club (ISC) in Switzerland.

Lastly, Independent Non Executive Directorships (INEDs). These positions allow me to bring over 30 years of industry experience to the boardroom. This is a supervisory, as well as an advisory role and ultimately supports companies to effectively run their business in the relevant regulatory environments. You would also see me in specific committees such as audit, investment and IT.

If you want to find out more and follow my journey, please check out my newly created webpage: www.uni-kath.ch and please feel free to share your journey in the comment section.

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