Denis Kessler, the economist who became president of the reinsurer SCOR, is dead

May 2021, to everyone’s surprise, Denis Kessler, CEO of SCOR for nineteen years, asks to be relieved of his duties as CEO of the French reinsurer, a year ahead of schedule. And this ” for personal reasons “, without saying more. Renouncing the operational tasks, he then retains only the presidency for three additional years. His term was due to end in 2024.

At the age of 72, he would then, without a doubt, have left with regret or tried to extend his mandate in this post which he considered “a balcony on the world”, due to the scope of the field covered by this group, the insurer of insurance companies working in 160 countries and on all risks. A field so conducive to reflection and proposals for this bubbling agitator of ideas who loved nothing so much as exchange, debate and contradiction. But the disease took him at the age of 71, Friday, June 9, announced the reinsurance group in a press release.

Lover of literature and philosophy

Warm, provocative, terribly emotional but also angry, authoritarian, and brittle, Denis Kessler stood out in a very civilized business environment. His positions, his “rants”, earned him strong enmities. An atypical personality, he impressed with his intellectual scope. This native of Mulhouse, son of a commercial agent deported to Dachau for acts of resistance, was loaded with diplomas: HEC, DEA in philosophy, doctor in economics, aggregation of economics and social sciences… “ There’s only one student who understands anything about finance, it’s Kessler.”, said one of his professors at HEC in the early 1970s. “ You read Spinoza, Hegel – to whom you devote a DEA memoir –, Tocqueville but also Althusser, Lacan, Derrida, Foucault, Deleuze, Bourdieu”, enumerated admiringly the former boss of BNP Paribas, Michel Pébereau, during his eulogy of welcome to the Academy of Moral and Political Sciences in March 2018.

References to texts were never far from his activities. “The Old Testament is a small treaty of reinsurance, all the catastrophes are described there”, he liked to point out. This appetite for writing – he called himself “scribe” – had pushed him to have SCOR take over the Presses Universitaires de France (PUF) and the Belin editions to merge them into Humensis. Far from insurance activities, but no one internally dared to challenge the decision of this intellectual who became CEO.

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