Financial Industry Group

Swiss Re praise for Norwich skills

Swiss Re has heaped high praise on the skilled financial workforce it took on from Norwich Union to carry out a major life assurance administrative operation.

And the company has stressed its delight at the warmth of the welcome it received from the region and from its business and political leaders.Jonathan Yates

Both aspects were highlighted by Jonathan Yates, Chief Executive of Swiss Re’s direct life assurance company Windsor life, and Managing Director of Admin Re, when he recently delivered the 2008 Prestige Lecture organised by Fig.

He said there had been no chance to appraise staff before the 600-strong Norwich Union team was transferred to Swiss Re’s specialist section Admin Re with responsibility for switching three million long-standing NU life assurance policies to a new sophisticated administration platform called Alpha.

“This is a massive undertaking and one of the largest of its type ever undertaken in the life assurance industry anywhere in the world,” said Mr Yates.

“We arrived hoping to find a highly professional and experienced workforce with a capacity to take on new ideas. And that is exactly what we did find.”

He added: “I am delighted that Norwich now forms a core site for our Admin Re business in the UK and I would be even more delighted to see it expand and draw on the resources in terms of infrastructure and talent that Norwich offers to businesses such as ours.”

Around 80 guests were at the National Skills Academy for Financial Services in St Andrews House to hear Jonathan Yates’ lecture.

He said that Swiss Re had long enjoyed strong relationships with Norwich Union.

“But there is no question in my mind that this latest transaction has taken this relationship to a new level. To make a success of an arrangement such as that which now exists between Swiss Re and Norwich Union, it is necessary for both parties to work together in close cooperation with a spirit of openness and flexibility. I have no hesitation in saying that my colleagues and I have found Norwich Union to be a superb party to work with.”

He said that Norwich South MP Charles Clarke could not have been more encouraging and welcoming and wanting to make sure Swiss Re understood that his support was there to be called on as and when needed.

He had also met with Laura McGillivray, the City Council Chief Executive, and its leader Stephen Morphew. “Their passion for Norwich and the genuine warmth of the welcome that they extended to us made a deep impression upon me and my colleagues.

“Finally, I should like to mention your very own Marjorie Eade, who was kind enough to come along to see me in our offices at St Mary Axe in London. Again, Marjorie couldn’t possibly have been more welcoming and sincere in her commitment to ensure that Swiss Re derived the full benefit of engagement in the local financial services community.

“I have no hesitation in saying that the welcome Swiss Re has received in Norwich exceeds anything I have experienced anywhere else or at any other time in my career and, for that, I, on behalf of Swiss Re, am deeply grateful.”

Answering a question from the audience about Norwich’s business profile, Mr Yates said he believed Norwich did very well in promoting its aspirations in the financial industry.

The main focus of his lecture was the consolidation of small insurance companies into the large enterprises of today.

As an example, he listed around 15 companies he had applied to for a trainee actuary post 25 years ago, among them Commercial Union, Norwich Union, General Accident, Provident Mutual, Sun Alliance, Equity & Law, Eagle Star and Royal Life.

“It now reads like a roll call of the dead! With the notable exception of Norwich Union, none of these companies exists in an independent form any longer, and, of course, even that great name will soon become an historical footnote in the future of Aviva,” said Mr Yates.

Swiss Re had kept itself “quietly busy” on the consolidation front as:

  • In 2004 it acquired Windsor Life;
  • In 2006 it acquired GE Life; and, most recently,
  • Last month it completed the acquisition of Barclays Life

The lecture was organised by the Financial Industry Group (part of Shaping Norfolk’s Future) and sponsored by the ifs School of Finance. It was hosted by Marjorie Eade, Fig Director and East of England President ifs School of Finance.

As part of the Norwich visit, the Lord Mayor of Norwich, Jeremy Hook, hosted a lunch in Mr Yates’ honour. Guests included Brian McPhail, who heads Swiss Re’s Norwich operation; Steve Davidson, Chairman of Fig and a Managing Director of Marsh; Marjorie Eade, Fig Director; Laura McGillivray, Chief Executive, Norwich City Council; Chris Popplewell, Head of Economic Development, Norwich City Council; and David Steele, Director of Inward Investment East of England International.



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