Profit falls at Zurich as new chief named

SWISS insurance company Zurich Financial Services has announced the appointment of Martin Senn as chief executive, after revealing first-half profits had fallen 53 per cent compared with last year.<br /><br />Senn, who is currently Zurich&rsquo;s acting chief investment officer, will succeed James Schiro, who will retire on 31 December. &ldquo;Martin is an engaging, thoughtful and results-oriented leader who is ideally suited to build on and further develop Zurich&rsquo;s successful strategy,&rdquo; said group chairman Manfred Gentz.<br /><br />The announcement came just hours after the company revealed that first-half net profit had fallen to $1.3bn (&pound;780m), down 53 per cent from the equivalent period in 2008.<br /><br />General insurance gross written premiums were down 11 per cent to $18.2bn, although the fall was just two per cent at constant exchange rates. Shareholders&rsquo; equity was up 14 per cent to $25.2bn, compared to $22.1bn at the end of 2008.<br /><br />&ldquo;I am proud of how we have... managed our way through this global economic downturn, strengthening our financial position while capitalising on opportunities,&rdquo; said Schiro.<br /><br />&ldquo;These results demonstrate our ability to generate consistently strong profitability, and underscore our confidence that we will enter the recovery period from a position of strength,&rdquo; he added.<br /><br />Schiro also said that the group was looking at making further acquisitions to add to the 17 the company has made since the end of 2006.<br /><br />Zurich recently bought American International Group&rsquo;s (AIG) car insurance unit for $2bn, which has helped it remain profitable.<br /><br />The company also said yesterday that it was on course to achieve its target of $1.3bn in efficiency and expense savings.