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Zurich trimming jobs, lines of business to improve profitability

Posted On: Nov. 10, 2015 12:00 AM CST

Zurich trimming jobs, lines of business to improve profitability

Zurich Insurance Group Ltd. says its plan to cut 440 jobs in its U.K. nonlife insurance division will reduce costs by $60 million over the next two years amid higher claims and ongoing low investment returns.

The Zurich-based insurer said Monday that it was consulting with staff in its U.K. general insurance units about the job reductions, so it has no specifics at this stage. The company employs about 7,000 people across all its divisions in the United Kingdom.

“The proposals to cut jobs are underway and will continue until the end of March next year,” Zurich said.

Zurich said the U.K. insurance market had become steadily more challenging in recent years with increased claims, lower investment returns and customer and broker desire that it simplify its business.

In September, Zurich withdrew from takeover discussions involving London-based rival RSA Insurance Group P.L.C., a deal that analysts said would have given Zurich a stronger foothold in the U.K.

At that time, however, Zurich said that in addition to claims related to the Tianjin, China, port explosions, weaker profitability in its nonlife insurance business during the first half of the year was expected to carry into the third quarter.

Kristof Terryn, newly appointed CEO of general insurance, has been charged with conducting a thorough review of the business.

Zurich last week reported a 78.6% decline in third-quarter net income, which was $207 million, in part because of losses in its U.S. transportation business as well as a $275 million loss from the Tianjin explosions.

In a statement, Zurich CEO Martin Senn said the results were in line with earlier estimates “in response to the underperformance in parts of our general insurance business.” He also said a review “has led to an action plan to improve performance, reduce volatility and deliver a rapid recovery in profitability”

Those steps include “reshaping of the management team, reunderwriting and exit of underperforming portfolios and additional measures to improve efficiency,” he said in the statement.