Zurich North America Life
There’s a startup feel at Zurich North America Life’s headquarters in New York City, where Patrick J. Carty’s responsibilities as general counsel seem to evolve daily. Zurich North America Life is part of the 146-year- old Zurich Insurance Group headquartered in Zurich, Switzerland.
In 2010, Zurich expanded its well established and respected 108-year-old property casualty U.S. footprint by re-entering the life insurance market. That’s when Carty, a graduate of the Notre Dame Law School, left his position as head of U.S. Life & Health Legal at Swiss Re to join Zurich as general counsel for its U.S. life insurance business.
Since then, Carty has been busy building legal and compliance teams to support the growth of Zurich’s life insurance businesses. Zurich reentered the U.S. life market in 2010 by selling individual life insurance through an independent brokerage distribution channel.
From there, it expanded to selling group life and disability employee benefit solutions, focusing on internationally mobile employees of U.S.-based, multinational companies. Today, Zurich sells individual life through multiple distribution channels and has expanded its group life and disability business to offer absence management services to Fortune 500 employers throughout the United States.
Carty is understandably very proud of his colleagues’ accomplishments in such a short period of time, and he is equally proud of the crucial role his team has played in partnering with the business to develop these growth initiatives.
For Carty, who played competitive soccer in his youth and coached his daughter in softball and his son in football, it’s all about teamwork, and a relentless focus on the customer.
Protecting the data of Zurich’s customers in today’s world of increased cyber risks is one example.
“For us, I’d rather look upon it as less of a challenge and more of a mindset,” Carty says. “We are the custodians of our clients’ deeply personal information—their health history, personal affairs, their financial situation. As we look at new ways of interacting with our customers, we have to make sure that our customers’ interests lie at the core of their relationship with Zurich.”
At home in-house
It’s been almost 15 years since Carty left the courtroom for the boardroom, initially with Swiss Re, and he’s never looked back. That said, he enjoyed developing and honing his skills as an advocate at Willkie Farr & Gallagher and, before that, at Mudge Rose Guthrie Alexander & Ferdon.
But while private practice provided a pressure cooker atmosphere in which he excelled, Carty relishes his role as an in-house lawyer who provides strategic counseling to the board of directors and senior leaders of Zurich North America’s life business unit. In contrast to private practice, where many of his client relationships were transactional in nature, Carty finds rewarding his role of taking the long-term view of his clients’ best interests and partnering with his colleagues to shape strategy and ensure that the company delivers on its promises.
“I thrive in this environment,” he says. “Insurance really is a terrific business to be in.” He continues, “What we do matters. The insurance industry has an enormously positive impact on the quality of the lives of our customers and on society as whole. As institutional investors, life insurers are vital players in our capital markets, which are key to the continued growth of our free enterprise system.”
Carty is also mindful of the significant challenges that confront the industry: “Technology continues to rapidly change the way we all do business in every industry, and that is no less true for the insurance industry. Life insurers need to think about consumer buying habits and how that impacts their selling power. Life companies are working to understand how best to reach customers via social media as they research, shop and purchase insurance in this digital age. The changes to come will be quite transformational.”
The Westchester County resident, avid Yankees fan and married father of three has succeeded in the many aspects of law he has experienced. He attributes his work ethic and focused drive to his mother, a benevolent disciplinarian who always held her children to high standards, and to his father, who loved to build and create things.
“I’ve always viewed my profession as a noble one that helps people solve their problems in times of crisis for them,” says Carty who, together with several fellow Notre Dame Law School students, founded a legal clinic on behalf of the homeless at a local shelter in South Bend, Indiana.
Carty’s present responsibilities dovetail with his background and training, where he leads a high performing team of talented professionals who help their business grow and thrive in a mature, competitive market.
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