Underscoring the increasing importance of risk management and IT, Zurich Financial Services Group ($46.5 billion in 2006 gross written premiums and policy fees) appointed Axel P. Lehmann to the role of chief risk officer while elevating the position to executive-committee status. The former CEO of Zurich's North America commercial division also will be responsible for the Zurich-based insurer's IT.
Joining risk and technology under an operations-oriented executive reflects Zurich's focus on profitable growth and operational transformation, reports Lehmann, a 2005 I&T Tech-Savvy CEO. "From a business as well as a risk perspective, it is absolutely essential to have state-of-the-art information systems in place," he comments. "When you look at the underlying risk, you consider both the upside and downside to the risk and invest your IT dollars where you see the biggest upside."
According to Lehmann, that upside includes efforts to reduce the complexity of Zurich's IT landscape, for example, by driving a legacy systems decommission strategy. Lehmann says he also sees upside in the opportunity to enhance communications between Zurich's companies and their distributors and end customers "by investing the incremental dollar to enhance the interface with the outside world rather than just create internally and invest in the back-end of systems."
Lehmann adds that by uniting risk management and IT, Zurich is acknowledging the increasingly vital role IT plays in enterprise risk management. "You need to have a [comprehensive], integrated, risk-based view ... of the underlying risk, along with the associated financials and the financial implications," he says.
Addressing the shortcomings of siloed approaches focusing on areas such as underwriting/pricing risk, investment/capital risk, credit risk and operational risk, Zurich is developing an integrated risk platform to quantify the various dimensions of risk, according to Lehmann. "Underpinning this is an IT platform that allows you to allocate capital, and that in turn helps to analyze and drive the respective financials that come out of this platform," he says.
Anthony O'Donnell has covered technology in the insurance industry since 2000, when he joined the editorial staff of Insurance & Technology. As an editor and reporter for I&T and the InformationWeek Financial Services of TechWeb he has written on all areas of information ... View Full Bio