Zurich Insurance GC Edward Bridge talks to The Lawyer ahead of his session at the In-house Financial Services conference. 

What are the top three challenges facing FS in the next decade?

Edward Bridge
Edward Bridge

Technology, data and the pace of change.

The regulatory environment in a volatile and changing world.

Playing our part in tackling the threat of climate change

What impact is climate change having on the UK insurance sector?

Climate change is already impacting how we think about risk, the business we will write and governance. I think in ten years’ time we will look back and see that the changes that are underway now were seminal and will change the way we run our businesses.  It will also impact what we say to our customers who need to understand the risks that climate change presents to their wellbeing, property and their savings. Given Zurich’s protection, general insurance and long-term savings businesses in the UK, we are working hard on all these issues.

Increasingly employees are valuing flexibility within the workplace; is the financial services world keeping pace with this change in culture?

As an industry, probably not. My team in Legal and Corporate Affairs has worked hard to promote flexible working, which has also been a priority of the Zurich UK CEO and management team.  FlexWork, our agile work programme, is a key driver of hiring talent and retaining it. It is also helping address some of the diversity issues that affect the insurance sector and which we are trying to lead the market in changing. We now advertise all roles, including the most senior roles, as available part time working and as a job share. There is still more we can do to help our people work most effectively and recruit and hold on to the best people in the market.

With an increased focus on automation and outsourcing, where does the value of the legal team lie?

The in-house legal team has long been about managing risk and strategically enabling management to execute strategy. I don’t think that has changed. What has changed is how we do it, what we automate, what we outsource and where we focus our resources. I think that there is an ever greater premium on judgement and experience for in-house advisers as a result of a more complex regulatory environment and more volatility in the world.

What has been the impact of SMCR on the insurance sector?

Positive. It has forced firms to be clear about which senior managers are responsible for what and has helped reinforce a culture of ownership that as a firm and a legal team we were trying to promote anyway.

What has been the highlight of your career?

Running a two week trial of a dispute that followed a failed Takeover Panel auction process as a 2 year qualified associate at Richards Butler. I will never learn more about people and judgement than I did in those two weeks.

Name 3 things on your bucket list

Rafting down a Yukon river staying just ahead of the bears

Winning MasterChef

Improving my Finnish (my wife, Helena, is Finnish)

Edward Bridge is one of the 30+ speakers making up this year’s speaker line-up at The Lawyer’s In-house Financial Services conference on 26th March. For more information on the conference, a copy of the agenda, or to inquire about attending, please contact Kenan Balli on +44(0) 20 7970 4017.