Michel M. Liès

Michel M. Liès has been chairman of the boards of Zurich Insurance Group since 2018. He has 40 years of experience in the global insurance and reinsurance industry. Prior to that, he was group CEO of Swiss Re from 2012 to 2016. He began his career at the reinsurer in 1978, where he held various management positions. Among other roles, he headed the Latin America Division and the property and accident insurance business in Europe. As head of client markets, he was responsible for global client relations as executive board member. Michel M. Liès is also president of the board of trustees of Avenir Suisse and chair of the Insurance Development Forum.

«We foster an inclusive workplace culture and caring environment to attract and retain employees of all generations»

What are the main topics that currently concern you in your activities as supervisory board member?
Of course, we are very concerned about the war in Ukraine and its far-reaching consequences. We are closely monitoring how this affects our business. Naturally we continue to focus on the consistent implementation of our strategy and the goals we have set ourselves. In addition, sustainability, digitalisation, and the associated regulatory changes are key topics.

How have the demands on the work of the supervisory board changed in view of the increasingly rapid economic changes worldwide and the increasing cadence of extreme events?
Today a supervisory board member needs to be flexible and agile in order to deal with several challenges at the same time without losing sight of the long-term strategic topics. It is also important to have a diverse composition to benefit from different skills, expertise, mindsets, as well as cultural and educational experiences.

With this in mind, which expertise is becoming increasingly important on the supervisory board?
Expertise around the topics of ESG and digitalisation/cyber security have increasingly come into focus in recent years. Both topics are crucial for long-term success and trust in a company.

The ecological footprint of Swiss companies is large. How important is sustainability at Zurich Insurance Group, and how did ecological considerations change the focus of the supervisory boards’ agenda?
Sustainability is an integral part of our strategy. We use our influence as an insurer and investor to positively influence behaviours and business models while reducing our own CO₂ emissions to a minimum. The supervisory board must achieve the right balance to meet the current and future needs of the company while creating long-term and sustainable value.

56% of the new executive board members and 44% of the new supervisory board members do not hold Swiss citizenship – both absolute records in the last 18 years. Where do you see the reason for this?
Particularly in the case of internationally operating companies, the composition of the supervisory board and the management often reflects the geographical orientation of the business. Furthermore, in line with ESG criteria, at Zurich we attach great value on diversity in management.

Due to demographic developments, soon more managers and skilled professionals will retire than succeed them. How do you deal with the increasing shortage of skilled professionals at Zurich Insurance Group? What strategic measures have you introduced to counter this?
We foster an inclusive workplace culture and a caring environment to attract and retain employees of all generations. Our goal is to provide our employees with a sustainable workplace and help them in adapting to an ever-changing work environment through specific training and development. Therefore, we also prefer internal hires over external ones.

In a few years, the majority of employees will belong to Generation Z. How does your company attract this target group and what do you expect from this target group for the further development of your company?
Younger generations of employees are increasingly seeking for employers with a meaningful purpose and positive values. To promote younger employees, we introduced a programme at the beginning of 2020 that offers specific development opportunities. The younger generations will play a crucial role in further digitalising our business to meet the needs of our customers in new and innovative ways.

From your perspective, how has the corporate culture changed since 2019, and what impact has this had on your collaboration as chairman with the CEO?
Our corporate culture has not changed significantly. During the pandemic, Zurich demonstrated exceptionally strong resilience. Together with our CEO Mario Greco, we have focused on our long-term goals to meet the changing needs of our various stakeholders.