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Insurance - Zurich: Diversification works

Zurich reported net income of $3 billion for 2008. More impressive was its return of 1% on its investments. Helen Avery spoke to Martin Senn, CIO.

Martin Senn, Zurich

"We avoid concentration risk"

Martin Senn, Zurich

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To what do you attribute Zurich’s ability to be profitable over 2008, and remain well capitalized, while others in the insurance industry are having to raise capital or turn to state funding?
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The companies that have been forced to take those routes have different reasons for doing so but the biggest issue seems to be where their focus shifted to non-core activities. Zurich’s business model is diversified, and that has worked. Our business mix is about two-thirds general insurance and one-third life insurance. The property and casualty business is a much more defensive business to be in during a financial crisis. We also have a strict investment philosophy, which has benefited us substantially.

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How has diversification helped?

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Zurich is well balanced geographically, through life, general and farmers and has adopted a disciplined approach to investments and risk management.