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Rowan Douglas CBE: oration

Read Professor Michael Adams's oration on Rowan Douglas for the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws in July 2018.


Rowan Douglas
Rowan Douglas

Vice-Chancellor, Mr Rowan Malcolm Douglas is Head of the Capital, Science & Policy Practice at Willis Towers Watson in London and Chairman of the Willis Research Network. Over his career, Mr Douglas has played a major role in advancing the science and practice of risk and insurance, through his support of academic scholarship, engagement with the Prime Minister’s Council for Science & Technology and the promotion of solutions to major humanitarian and development challenges through prominent global organizations, such as the United Nations, the World Bank and the World Economic Forum.

Rowan Douglas grew up in Somerset and, in 1991, graduated with an honours degree in Geography from Durham University, followed, in 1992, with a MPhil in Geographical Sciences from the University of Bristol.

After leaving university, Rowan Douglas began his career as a reinsurance underwriter with Syndicate 1095 at the Lloyd’s of London insurance market, before founding the internet-based risk information company WIRE Ltd in 1994. In 2000, WIRE Ltd was acquired by the Willis Group – the third largest international insurance and reinsurance brokerage based in the City of London. Rowan was appointed to the Board of the Group’s reinsurance division, Willis Re, as the CEO of Willis Global Analytics and, in 2006, founded the risk research & development unit of the Willis Research Network. This grew to become the world’s largest collaboration between the finance sector and public science, supporting over 50 universities, including the University of Bath. In addition to serving as an industry representative on the academic research funding body, the Natural Environment Research Council, between 2008-2014, Rowan has served on the Prime Minister’s Council of Science and Technology from 2011-2016, the Royal Society’s Working Group on Human Resilience to Climate Change, the UK Government’s Green Finance Task Force and advisory boards at leading universities in the UK, North America and Far East. He is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.

In 2014, Rowan was appointed to his current position as Head of the Capital, Science & Policy Practice following the merger of the Willis Group with the international actuarialand risk services organization Towers Watson, forming Willis Towers Watson. In this capacity, Rowan has responsibilities for promoting the role of insurance, and its related scientific capabilities to confront major challenges across commercial and public policy sectors.

He has served on, or chaired, international bodies and programmes focussed on sustainable development, resilience to climate risks and natural disasters ,including committees and initiatives convened by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the World Bank and the World Economic Forum. In 2016, he led the foundation of the Insurance Development Forum with the UN, World Bank and industry leaders to bring the capabilities of the insurance sector to bear on delivery of the UN 2030 Agenda including the Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Climate Agreement and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. In 2015, Rowan Douglas was appointed to the Board of Directors of the New York-based International Insurance Society and honoured the following year by that organization with the Kenneth Black Jr. Award for services to the international insurance industry.

In 2016, Rowan was made a Commander in the Order of the British Empire, CBE, for his services to the Economy through Risk, Insurance and Sustainable Growth.

Vice-Chancellor, I present to you Mr Rowan Douglas who has, through his commercial leadership, public policy advocacy, and active support for scholarship, made a major contribution in building links between academia and practice in the fields of risk and insurance. He is, as a consequence, eminently worthy to receive the Degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.

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