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Zurich appoints Australian general insurance CEO

Zurich has appointed Rajbir Singh Nanra as general insurance chief executive of Australia and New Zealand, following a year of cost-cutting and restructuring at the Swiss insurance giant. 

Mr Nanra, who has been interim chief executive for the division in the past four months, said he would be channelling his attention towards the group's Australian strategy of growing its commercial business. 

He replaces former Zurich's Australia and New Zealand general insurance chief Daniel Fogarty, who left in September after three years in the role. The business has been undergoing sweeping changes in the past few years after its parent company announced plans to save $US300 million ($437 million) in run-rate costs by the end of 2016. 

"We've been very clear of our distinct positions around our commercial [business], our global corporate [lines], and we've spoken about our partnerships and programs. We want to be a market leader for those positions," Mr Nanra told The Australian Financial Review on Monday.  

"We've completed [our structural changes] as we'd promised the staff before the end of last year – my focus on this year is to execute on those changes that we've made." 

Zurich controls about 3 per cent of the Australian general insurance market – making it the fifth-largest player in the local industry, according to Credit Suisse estimates. The group also holds about 4.5 per cent market share of the commercial insurance sector in Australia, and wrote $US1.03 billion in gross written premium or revenue in 2014. 


Mr Nanra's appointment follows a turbulent year at Zurich Insurance Group, which lost its former chief executive Martin Senn after he resigned after six years in the top role. 

The insurance giant, which is Switzerland's biggest insurer, has been suffering significant profit hits, spurring Mr Senn to announce savings of at least $US1 billion by 2018. He left the company at the end of last year after abandoning plans for a £5.6 billion ($11.6 billion) takeover of RSA in Britain.

The company embarked on a sweeping organisational restructure, including parts of its general insurance operations in Australia as it seeks to streamline its business and cut costs. About 60 staff roles were affected in the Australian restructure. 

In December, the company said it was quitting the compulsory third party green slip insurance market in NSW from March. 

"This decision has not been made hastily – it's been a very clear strategy of ours to work to the strengths [in] our market," Mr Nanra said. 

Separately, Zurich exited the Australian group life insurance market following an "extensive" review of the business. The company, which sold life insurance through super funds, said the decision came "in light of the extremely challenging conditions facing the Australian group life market".

Mr Nanra was previously chief financial officer for general insurance at Zurich in Australia and New Zealand before taking on the interim chief executive role. He brings more than 25 years of experience in the Asia-Pacific region insurance and finance sector.