As part of the Odyssey symposium in New York, Mario Vitale of Zurich Financial Services addressed Columbia faculty, students and guests on the theme of adaptation to the global insurance industry. The symposium was assembled as part of the Odyssey Conference, in which Columbia Business School brings students from the world's top 16 business schools (the Odyssey 16) to New York City together to go head-to-head in a case competition and learn from distinguished speakers. The symposium featured business leaders who, despite a very volatile economic climate, have adapted their business models to weather the downturn. Mr. Vitale addressed the global insurance industry and its potential for the future.
Zurich is a leading global insurer with over 65,000 employees and operations on four continents. Mario Vitale, who has over 30 years of experience in the industry, joined Zurich in October 2006 and currently has responsibility for all Zurich Global Corporate business in North America, Latin America, Europe and Asia/Pacific.
The economic downturn hit financial firms particularly hard, including the insurance industry. Mr. Vitale likened the credit crisis to a black hole in the financial world: "It was a perfect storm." According to Zurich economists, the economic rollercoaster over the past few years is unlikely to repeat. Mr. Vitale pointed to data demonstrating that over the last 300 years, the two six-month periods with the biggest statistical outliers from an equity market return perspective, one on the downside and one on the upside, happened within the 12 months ending in December 2009. Given this statistical anomaly, Zurich feels the probability of this happening again is unlikely.