Zurich Insurance former CEO Martin Senn takes own life

Martin Senn (59) stepped down in December as CEO in a shake-up

Martin Senn in Dublin in 2013. (Photograph: Eric Luke / THE IRISH TIMES)

Martin Senn in Dublin in 2013. (Photograph: Eric Luke / THE IRISH TIMES)

 

Martin Senn, the Zurich Insurance chief executive officer who stepped down in a December reshuffle, has died, the company said in a statement on Monday. He was 59.

The family informed Zurich Insurance that Senn had taken his own life on Friday, according to the statement.

“We are profoundly shocked by the news of the sudden death,” the company said.

Senn was found in his holiday house in Klosters, a Swiss ski resort, Blick newspaper reported.

The cantonal police of Grisons wouldn’t confirm the death but said officers had been deployed on Friday in connection with Senn.

Huge Loss

“This is a huge loss; Martin Senn was an amazing person,” said Martin Naville, chief executive of the Swiss-American Chamber of Commerce, where Senn had served as president.

“Human beings are hard to understand but we have to accept his decision.”

Senn in December acknowledged “setbacks” in the months before his departure after higher-than-expected claims at the general-insurance unit forced the company to abandon a takeover bid for RSA Insurance Group.

The company later announced an overhaul of the general-insurance business. During Senn’s five years as chief executive, Zurich Insurance rose about 19 per cent and paid out record dividends of 17 Swiss francs a share.

In his biggest acquisition, he bought a 51 per cent stake in Banco Santander’s insurance division for $1.67 billion in 2011.

Two years later, chief financial officer Pierre Wauthier committed suicide and Josef Ackermann quit.

Conservative Approach

Senn’s “conservative approach” helped Zurich Insurance perform well during the financial crisis, when he was the chief investment officer, said Andreas Schaefer, an analyst at Bankhaus Lampe.

“Zurich’s asset side never caused any problems and the company did well compared with its peers,” he said.

Schaefer has a hold rating on the stock. Mario Greco, the former chief executive of Italy’s Assicurazioni Generali, assumed Senn’s role in March.

UBS Group chief executive Sergio Ermotti was set to take over as president of the chamber of commerce in June.

Senn started at Zurich in 2006 as CIO and became chief executive in 2010. He joined from Switzerland’s biggest life insurer, Swiss Life Holding, and held several positions at Credit Suisse.

When he was 26, Senn became treasurer of the Hong Kong branch of Schweizerischer Bankverein, today known as UBS Group.

- Bloomberg