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Zurich, empowered The hard yards are behind him. Now Chief Executive Raj Nanra is taking the fifth-placed Australian insurer on the journey to a more profitable future By Terry McMullan

THE TIRED CLICHÉ THAT “EVERYTHING IN insurance is changing” is forcing companies everywhere to examine their market strategies, question the reason for keeping loss-making business and develop new ways to distribute policies. Just keeping up is a task engaging companies around the world, not least Zurich Australia and its global parent. The Swiss-based group underwent an unusually thorough management turnover last year that saw former Generali chief executive Mario Greco return to restore the giant company’s faltering fortunes. By that time Zurich Australia had been treading the transformation path for several years, being an early adopter of the belief that resistance to change is futile. Chief Executive Rajbir (Raj) Nanra is happy with the progress being made on what he calls “a journey” for Zurich in Australia and New Zealand. Since Mr Nanra took over the Australian and New Zealand operations in late 2015, replacing Daniel Fogarty, he has been busy stabilising the business, then setting a new strategy and reengaging the market. To achieve that, he set out to benchmark Zurich’s place in the market before deciding where it should be and how to get there. “I think, for me, it was gaining clarity around where our strengths were in the market, and what fitted our strategy,” he tells Insurance News. “That’s why we took some pretty hard decisions in the fourth quarter of 2015.” These “hard decisions” included significant

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August/September 2017

job losses – a reputed 65 positions were lost in the period, mainly from the underwriting, claims and shared services areas – placing Zurich’s travel insurance for debit and credit cards into run-off and withdrawing from the New South Wales compulsory third party market. “We felt those lines of business that we exited allowed us to redeploy that capital to areas where the markets really knew us and our strengths,” Mr Nanra says. “So it was about realigning what Zurich meant to this market and working to our strengths.” As any chief executive who has had to make hard calls over the past few years will attest, communicating the strategy and ensuring it’s understood and supported internally is essential. Mr Nanra says he focused on being transparent about his actions and intentions. “I think it was engaging the staff and making them understand why we made the decisions we did in 2015, being very transparent with them and explaining that we had to make some hard decisions, and dealing with our expense challenges at the same time. “It wasn’t easy. But it was important to be upfront with them as to why, and making it very clear that this was the way forward and explaining what the vision was so they could have total clarity around the decision-making process. “There was a simple process we set up: engage, listen. But we were also very decisive in our decision-making process, so once we had decided on an action they saw some activity and

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