When I was named Chairman-Elect of the AXIS Board of Directors in February 2020, the world was a very different place. Since then, our Company has managed through COVID-19, numerous catastrophic weather events, severe economic uncertainty and social unrest — and has done so with singular resourcefulness, resiliency and compassion for our colleagues, customers, partners and communities. I have a deep respect for AXIS and its people, having served on the Board since 2004 and as Lead Independent Director since 2012, and my regard has reached a new level as I have witnessed “the best of AXIS” during these difficult times.
Although we are disappointed that our financial results reflected the impact of the challenging conditions that prevailed during the year, we remain encouraged by the substantial progress realized in our core underwriting results, overall book of business, client and partner relationships and in strengthening a foundation that will enable future profitable growth.
What has been particularly gratifying is the performance of the Company in extremely fraught circumstances. I speak for the entire Board when I applaud the way our team coalesced in 2020 — not only to respond to COVID-19, but also to continue building a solid platform for the future. The Company moved to virtual operation seamlessly, while making great progress in growing and reshaping our portfolio to reduce volatility and enhance profitability, and investing in technology to deliver better service to our clients and increase our efficiency. Despite the challenging year, our underlying financial performance, including our improved current accident year ex-cat combined ratio, and our ability to take advantage of rate increases in most lines of business, clearly shows we are gaining traction with our strategic initiatives.
AXIS also maintained and expanded its focus on ESG initiatives, a vitally important effort that is overseen by the Corporate Governance & Nominating Committee with guidance from the Board. Our climate-related underwriting and investment policies, philanthropic support for community organizations and commitment to diversity and inclusion attest to our progress in the past year — and our belief in doing what is right for clients, staff, shareholders and society.
AXIS has the strategic vision, core values, operational capabilities and determination required to carry the Company to a bright future.
Whether helping clients manage complex risks, positioning our business for long-term profitable growth or supporting our various communities, we are reliant on the talent and dedication of our people. I am proud of the effort that has gone into attracting, engaging and developing our team, and in making sure all members of the AXIS family are empowered, educated and welcomed to use their abilities to the benefit of the Company and its stakeholders. I believe that, as a specialty (re)insurer competing in a global marketplace, we need to have exceptional people working for us, and we must continuously invest in them and in the tools they need to succeed.
In 2020, we announced several changes to our Board of Directors. We were pleased to welcome Anne Melissa Dowling and Marston “Marty” Becker to the Board, and we are also delighted to have Michael Millegan and Axel Theis join the Board effective April 2021.
On behalf of the Board, I want to express our deep appreciation for the leadership and counsel of Michael Butt, longtime Chairman of AXIS and a member of the Insurance Hall of Fame, who retired in September of 2020. Michael’s contributions to AXIS and his impact on our industry are immeasurable, and it has been an honor to serve with him. I’d also like to extend our gratitude to Board members who have recently retired — to Christopher Greetham and Wilhelm Zeller, whose retirement we announced in 2020, and to Robert Friedman and Maurice Keane, announced in 2019. It has been a privilege to work with them, as well as all of the members of our Board, whose experience, diverse perspectives and integrity continue to guide AXIS forward.
I am confident that AXIS’ inherent strengths and market positioning will serve our Company well going into 2021. As a mid-sized hybrid company, we are large enough to take leadership positions in both our business segments, yet small enough to be agile in responding to changing client demand and market dynamics. Our specialty focus, proven expertise in tailoring innovative solutions to complex risks and strong relationships with our clients and strategic partners deliver powerful advantages in the marketplace. I believe, as does the rest of the Board, that AXIS has the strategic vision, core values, operational capabilities and determination required to carry the Company to a bright future. As a Board, our task is to help management build on these qualities to drive consistent execution, performance and value for all stakeholders. We are looking forward to what lies ahead.