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Zurich Insurance ‘not shutting shop’ in MEA

Middle East: Tuesday, October 01 - 2013 @ 00:00

By Atique Naqvi

Its general insurance business is divided into regions, such as Europe, Latin America and so on, says head of communications at Zurich Insurance MEA, Sean McAllister.

“The general insurance (GI) business in MEA and GI Europe will come together to form a single region called Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), effective from January 1, 2014,” he says, adding: “Patrick Manley, who until now has been CEO of GI Europe, will lead the new region as CEO, GI EMEA. The regional centre for EMEA will be in Dublin, Ireland.”

Saad Mered, the current CEO of GI MEA, will assume a new role within the group, which will be announced at a later date, adds McAllister.

The rumours of Zurich Insurance closing down its MEA business allegedly emerged as a follow up after the suicide of its CFO, Pierre Wauthier, in August this year, which subsequently resulted in the abrupt resignation of the group’s chairman, Josef Ackermann. In a typed suicide note, Wautheir blamed Ackermann for creating an unbearable working environment and treating colleagues disrespectfully.

However, Ackermann has denied any wrongdoings. The loss of two top managers may have fuelled speculations that Zurich is shutting shop in the MEA region. However, these developments have certainly raised concerns in markets, such as Europe, where Zurich has a large customer base.

McAllister says the company is also consolidating global corporate businesses. “To align structures within GI, global corporate (GC) in MEA (GCiMEA) and GC in Europe (GCiE) will come together to form a single region called GC in EMEA (GCiEMEA), to be led by Fredrik Rosencrantz. Umron Ahmed, the present CEO GCiMEA, will report to Rosencrantz. The GC businesses in the Middle East region, South Africa and Turkey, will be under Umron’s responsibility and he will become a member of GCiEMEA’s executive team.”

“We expect to deploy a large number of employees from the current MEA team in Dubai (approximately 50 people) to the new EMEA regional office, the Middle East life and general insurance business and other regions within the Zurich Group,” he adds.

Both Global Life and Zurich International Life will be not affected by the restructuring. When asked if there would be any redundancies, McAllister says: “We have not announced any redundancies for those working at the MEA regional office, but some employees will be shifted to the Dublin office. We would have to let go of people that are not comfortable with shifting to other offices.”

Explaining the need for this restructuring, a spokesperson says: “These changes enable us to streamline our structure at a regional level and gain benefits of scale. But, more importantly, having one EMEA region will enable better leveraging of shared capabilities and expertise to deliver better and quicker to our customers.

Emerging markets (including the Middle East region) will benefit from the experience and sophistication of mature markets in Europe, while mature markets will benefit from the innovation and speed to market of emerging geographies.”

Customers in the region would benefit from this consolidation as well. “These changes better enable Zurich’s general insurance business in the Middle East region to share resources, skills and expertise across a wider area, which can be leveraged to the benefit of our customers and distribution partners,” adds McAllister.

This article first appeared in Trends

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Tuesday, October 1- 2013 @ 0:00 UAE local time (GMT+4) Replication or redistribution in whole or in part is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Mediaquest FZ LLC.

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