The 48-year-old Swiss man and former CEO of Zurich's North America Commercial division entered the position Jan. 1, just as its role was elevated to Group Executive Committee status.
Lehmann is familiar with the benefits of having close access to top executives; the title he held previously, since 2004, came with membership in the committee.
And it's his extensive operational experience that makes Lehmann ideally suited for the increasingly important position of CRO. He's not taking the new task lightly, and has a firm grasp of what he needs to accomplish.
"When you look at what Zurich has done over the past couple of years, I think what I will bring is a more integrated view and will help ensure that we further imbed risk management into the overall culture and how we do business," Lehmann said.
It will be a challenging task to see to fruition, but Lehmann said his goals and the company's are already in alignment.
"It is not just about risk avoidance, it's about creating a risk-aware culture," he said.
Zurich has recently made great strides in increasing the profile of risk management throughout its entire organization, especially at the top. Lehmann said the proof is in how the company was impacted--or not impacted--by one of the most talked about financial meltdowns in recent history.
"Just look to the recent subprime market crisis," said Lehmann. "Zurich is not affected, and that shows you that it's not enough to run a company along financial dimensions. The new world is asking for a much more thorough risk management approach. Integrating operational and strategic risk management is getting more important."
In addition to his new responsibilities as CRO, Zurich has also charged Lehmann with responsibility for Group IT. Zurich's pairing of the CRO and information technology functions shows its intentions to transform its operations and facilitate profitable growth.
"Zurich's strategy is to use this opportunity to create new product solutions, look to new markets," said Lehmann. "For example, in Asian or Eastern European countries the notion of risk management is getting more important."
Zurich appointed Mike Foley, a 45-year-old American, to succeed Lehmann as CEO of the North America Commercial division. Foley had been the chief operating officer of the division since he joined Zurich in September 2006.
Prior to joining Zurich, Lehmann was the CEO of Europe General Insurance. He serves as honorary professor for business administration and service management at his alma mater, the University of St. Gallen. He is also the Chairman of the Board of the Institute of Insurance Economics at the university.
is associate editor of Risk & Insurance®.
(Read the rest of the January People on the Move newsletter.)
January 23, 2008
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