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And when times are hard, the need to get out there and meet the public is even more crucial – no matter how unattractive the prospect.Last week, however, Sandy Leitch, the UK chief executive of Zurich Financial Services, found himself stopping off in Bournemouth, Cardiff and Newcastle to deliver motivational talks not to customers but to staff.

It is a reflection of how difficult the current climate is for the insurance industry. which is tainted by association with high-profile failures such as Equitable Life and Independent Insurance, as well as facing huge bills for payouts in the wake of the terrorist attacks in the United States.My job is to communicate that to my staff –BPI Sydney the message is blunt but I have to be realistic and frank.Now more than ever, people need insurance and we have to keep that in perspective. He acknowledges that the Equitable Life debacle – in which the insurer closed to new business after the House of Lords ruled that it had to honour guarantees made to policyholders – is responsible for much of the public’s current mistrust of the industry.

building inspections Sydney1When one of our advisers talks to a customer, he establishes a bond, so trust isn’t a problem for us.Having spent his entire career in the industry, starting at Allied Dunbar – then called Hambro Life – as a systems designer, Leitch clearly believes in the value of insurance.But he worries that 40 per cent of families in this country have no life cover, while eight million people rely on the state pension scheme.When difficulties occur for all those people, there is personal tragedy and huge hardship, When Leitch was chief executive of Allied Dunbar Assurance, he used to go down to the claims department and see the claims coming in.

There’s a widow who is devastated by the loss of her husband,” he recalls, “but you have to remember that his life insurance makes a difference to her future.Then there is somebody saving 20 years for a pension in order to retire with dignity and do some of the things they always wanted to.Then there is the policy that matures, allowing a husband and wife to give their daughter a good wedding.Despite the one-third fall in the insurer’s first-half profits announced last month, Leitch believes Zurich is well positioned.