Former Zurich Insurance CEO the latest in a string of suicides

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Zurich Insurance, Switzerland’s largest insurer has been shocked and shaken by the suicide of their former CEO, Martin Senn. It comes less than three years after their Chief Financial Officer, Pierre Wauthier, also committed suicide.

Martin, who was 59, was the company’s Chief Executive Officer between 2010 and 2015; he resigned in December last year after a takeover bid for British insurer RSA that failed, and a series of profit warnings.

Martin Senn former Zurich Insurance CEO
Martin Senn former Zurich Insurance CEO

Mr. Senn’s family informed the insurer of his death, and they have remembered him as commendable, well liked and valued.

Mr. Wauthier’s and Mr. Senn’s deaths had prompted an enquiry into how much pressure is being placed on employees at companies such as Zurich Insurance, but family members have been critical of whether anything has been done to improve company morale.

Going back to Mr. Wauthier’s death, he actually named then-chairman Josef Ackermann in his suicide note and blamed his death on his demoralisation with the aggressive route the insurer was taking and his inability to “switch off” at the end of the workday.

The business community in Switzerland has been rocked by both men’s deaths, especially given the fact that there has been a string of similar suicides in the past few years. In total, five executives from some of Switzerland’s biggest companies have taken their own lives in the past eight years. With the passing of Mr. Senn, a disturbing pattern is beginning to emerge.

With finance and insurance professions throughout the world being notoriously high-stress, one must ask if what’s happening in Europe could occur in other key markets as well.

In the United Kingdom, the British Journal of Psychiatry published a report in 2014 that showed the recent financial crisis was a factor in at least 10,000 suicides.

What’s more, experts from the University of Oxford and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine noted suicides across Europe increased by 6.5% between 2007 and 2009, at the height of the crash. This number remained higher than average all the way until 2011.

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