Zurich Insurance boss Martin Senn quits

Chief executive cites setbacks such as losses after Tianjin explosions and aborted takeover of RSA


Aftermath of explosions in Tianjin, China. Zurich lost $275m in the disaster, in which 173 people died. Photograph: Wu Hong/EPA

The chief executive of Zurich Insurance has stepped down after a series of mishaps that include the Swiss group’s decision to abandon its planned £5.6bn takeover of the UK’s RSA.

Zurich said Martin Senn would leave by mutual agreement at the end of this year after six years in charge and 10 years at the company. Tom de Swaan, Zurich’s chairman, will run the company as interim chief executive with immediate effect.

The company pursued RSA over the summer, eventually persuading the British general insurer to accept a takeover in principle in late August. But Zurich pulled out of the proposed deal on 21 September, the day before it was due to make a formal offer.

Zurich took the blame for the deal’s collapse, citing $275m (£182m) of losses caused by explosions at the Chinese port of Tianjin and problems at Zurich’s car insurance business. No further bidders emerged for RSA, whose boss, Stephen Hester, missed out on a likely £8.5m share windfall if the company had been bought.

Senn said: “After 10 very intense years with Zurich, I have decided to step down as CEO and to make way for new leadership. There have been some setbacks in recent months, but I am convinced that we have put in place the right measures for Zurich to reach its targets.”

The RSA deal fell apart when Zurich published an unscheduled trading update revealing its general insurance division would lose $200m in the third quarter. In addition to the losses from the Tianjin disaster, Zurich took a $300m hit at its car insurance operations in the US and launched a detailed review of the general insurance division.

Zurich said Senn’s departure would not affect its strategy or financial targets. The company said it would inform shareholders on plans to use $3bn of excess capital, previously earmarked for the RSA deal, when it publishes annual results.

The swiss company’s shares, down almost 20% since late March, fell 0.7% to SFr269.

The Guardian

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