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A Q&A with Miguel Muñoz Gaztañaga, Head of International at Mapfre Global Risks

Miguel Muñoz Gaztañaga speaks to us about his role within MAPFRE, the legal department’s cross-border work, the current state of the Spanish insurance sector as well as the company’s interaction with other law firms and private practitioners.

MAPFRE Global Risks is an insurance company which provides a comprehensive range of products that are essential for large international corporations and cover key areas including risk protection, prevention, audit and control. The company is a subsidiary of MAPFRE Group, an international insurer with business in over 47 countries across five continents. MAPFRE Global Risks is one of the leading insurers in Spain, and is particularly renowned for its tailored products in the energy, telecommunications, transport, aviation and construction sectors.

Miguel Muñoz Gaztañaga is the head of international in the legal department at MAPFRE Global Risks and advises across the full range of insurance issues affecting the company and its clients, including risk management, regulatory issues, reinsurance and governmental relationships. Prior to joining MAPFRE in 2014, Gaztañaga worked at Gentworth Financial and Neinver, in addition to his time spent in private practice at Lovells (now Hogan Lovells).

Describe a typical day as international head of the legal department at MAPFRE Global Risks in Madrid.

In my role as head of international at MAPFRE Global Risks’ legal department, I have had a similar experience to other multinational companies where I have worked in my career. Yet, I have realised that being part of an international company has very similar challenges for most of the global players in the marketplace. These challenges do change every day and, for this reason, it is not easy to describe what a “typical” day looks like; just as an example, when drafting or reviewing an international insurance programme (in some cases involving 20 to 30 countries), there are different aspects that could be raised to us, such as regulatory matters,  the wording of specific clauses in the agreement, possible trade restrictions in certain countries, etc.

How is MAPFRE Global Risks’ legal team structured to handle cross-border legal issues?

MAPFRE Global Risks’ legal department is divided into two geographical areas: first, Iberia and Latin America; and second, international. Both areas have to deal with cross-border issues on a daily basis.

As a specialist in the company’s global risks division, what are some of the most common internal legal issues faced in your day-to-day role?

The day-to-day is very much focused in B2B relationships, as our clients are the largest companies in Spain, Latin America and increasingly, the rest of the world. In particular, at the central legal department of MAPFRE Global Risks, most of the queries and requests for advice that we receive come from our internal clients who require advice on all sort of matters, including insurance and reinsurance regulation (broadly speaking), non-disclosure agreements, corporate matters, etc.

What is the biggest legal, political or economic challenge facing the Spanish insurance market at this moment in time?

The adaption to Solvency II probably represents the biggest challenge for the Spanish insurance market. Throughout the transitional period (which expires on 1 January 2016), national companies have had to adapt to a considerable range of material changes that could eventually have an impact on the domestic market.

How would you describe MAPFRE Global Risks’ policy regarding the instructing of external legal counsel? Concerning the management of cross-border issues, what is the extent of your interaction with private practitioners in such instances?

At MAPFRE Global Risks, an adequate balance between internal and external legal counsel is always sought. In other words, external lawyers are instructed when the subject matter requires it (foreign regulation, foreign jurisdictions, etc) or when a double-check is advisable for diverse reasons. It is always considered the best alternative from an operating perspective and in terms of enhancing the efficiency of internal and external resources. Similarly, for cross-border issues, there is a large portion of internal work and research, combined with accurate external help when this added value is needed.

What criteria do you consider to be crucial for success as a lawyer in the insurance and reinsurance field?

Ethical behaviour and integrity is the foundation of what we do – at MAPFRE, ethics must govern the behaviour of each and every person; sound technical skills, which implies ongoing study and training, in order to find and design innovative and compliant solutions in an industry that has its own peculiarities; service vocation, so that they are very close to the clients and company’s needs in terms of the corporate governance system; and an open mind, so that they are able to understand the differences between insurance and reinsurance regulations and businesses all across the globe.

Looking specifically at global risks, have there been any particular trends over the past year that have caught your attention, and how do they affect your work going forward?

The challenges of internationalisation and globalisation of the market are a reality that we have to cope with on a daily basis and which oblige us to work towards designing compliant solutions for cross-border business. This can be currently listed as one of our main priorities in the legal department of MAPFRE Global Risks, always bearing in mind that, as part of the MAPFRE Group, we are very respectful and compliant with different regulations applicable to the insurance market and we keep a collaborative approach with supervisory bodies and other relevant stakeholders (trade associations, brokers, clients, etc).

Have you noticed an increase in the amount of non-traditional capital entering the domestic market? 

The bank assurance market has experimented with most of the M&A activity of our industry in recent years and, in some cases, with the eruption of private equity and hedge funds. At the end of the day, we could say that non-traditional capital has had a relatively low participation in M&A transactions in the “traditional” Spanish insurance market, which has proven very solvent and solid during the financial crisis and has remained relatively still in terms of relevant changes of control.

What do you most enjoy about your role at MAPFRE Global Risks?

After all these years working as a lawyer for insurance companies, I have realised that business diversification and geographical expansion in new markets is what I most enjoy doing. Having the opportunity of performing this kind of job within the MAPFRE Group, with a firm commitment to international growth and very strong principles and values from a corporate social responsibility perspective, is very rewarding for me.

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