Executive’s suicide damaged reputation of Zurich, says CEO

Martin Senn says death of Pierre Wauthier had ‘reputational impact’

Global chief executive of Zurich Insurance Group Martin Senn has told The Irish Times the fallout from the suicide in August of chief financial officer Pierre Wauthier caused significant reputational damage for the Swiss company but said he did not consider resigning.

Mr Wauthier left a letter that referenced Zurich's high-profile chairman Josef Ackermann, who then stepped down.

On November 4th, Zurich said two investigations by the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority found no indication that Mr Wauthier was subjected to any undue or inappropriate pressure or that there was anything inappropriate about the financial figures.

'Chain of incidents'
In an interview with The Irish Times this week, Mr Senn said: "Pierre's death and the chain of incidents . . . no doubt it had reputational impact because it created uncertainty. Uncertainty is risk and if you have risk you ask what you get for that risk? That was the imbalance we had."


Mr Senn, in Dublin for Zurich’s global leadership meeting, said it acted quickly and openly to communicate with stakeholders. “We will overcome this reputational impact,” he added.

Mr Senn was “shocked” by Mr Wauthier’s suicide but did not consider resigning amid controversy over the circumstances.

“No, not at all. The fact that there was a letter which spoke about the relationship he had with the chairman [Josef Ackermann], in his view, and it’s very important I stress that it was Pierre’s view, created a lot of uncertainty.

“I can only say to add that this was a very tragic incident. It’s very difficult to find reasons and my own take away is that even though you think you know a person very well you don’t see inside that person.”

Mr Senn accepts that questions about Zurich in relation to the suicide could persist. “Frankly, we have to accept that. It’s one of those situations. The business goes on and the business has to go on.”

Ciarán Hancock

Ciarán Hancock

Ciarán Hancock is Business Editor of The Irish Times