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updated: 9/21/2017 5:22 PM

Kathleen Savio to replace retiring Zurich CEO

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Zurich Insurance Group said Zurich North America CEO Mike Foley will retire after a decade of leadership at the Schaumburg-based insurer. Kathleen Savio, currently president of North America's Alternative Markets unit, will replace him Jan. 1.

"I'm happy to be able to transition leadership to such a capable successor at a time when Zurich is so financially strong and well-positioned in the marketplace," Foley said Thursday.

Foley, 55, has been CEO of Zurich North America since 2008 and joined Zurich in 2006 as North America's chief operating officer. Foley is expected to focus his industry knowledge on the rapidly evolving insuretech market, Zurich said, without giving details. He will continue to participate on several of Zurich's U.S. boards and might collaborate in future ventures, the company said.

"Mike transformed our U.S. businesses through a series of underwriting, operational and technology initiatives and leaves behind a proud legacy of accomplishment," Group CEO Mario Greco said.

Savio assumed her current position at the company in 2012 and has overseen consistent profitable growth across a diverse group of businesses through a focus on customers, technical excellence, operational efficiency and alternative distribution models, according to a company release.

"After serving in a variety of roles with Zurich over the past 25 years, I'm honored to be appointed CEO of Zurich North America," she said Thursday.

She has held a series of positions since she joined Zurich in 1991, including vice president of corporate and marketing communications and vice president of strategic initiatives.

"Kathleen is precisely the type of new-thinking people-focused business leader we need to lead our North American operations in this next phase. She understands what it takes to grow a successful insurance business, has direct experience with various business models, and drives an unrelenting performance culture among her teams. She'll be a welcome addition to our global executive management team," Greco said.

Savio earned a master's degree in communication and a bachelor's degree in speech communication with honors from Illinois State University. She is also a graduate of the Harvard Business School Advanced Management Program and has participated in executive management programs at Northwestern University's Kellogg School.

Savio will join Zurich's Executive Committee Oct. 1 as Zurich North America CEO-designate and will work closely with Foley before assuming the CEO role.

The company has seen many recent changes. About a year ago Zurich North America moved its headquarters to an eye-catching 11-story building at Meacham Road and Interstate 90 on the former Motorola campus. The company signed a 25-year lease, bucking the current trend of suburban companies moving to Chicago. Zurich stayed put in Schaumburg, where it had long occupied two 20-story towers, because most of its workforce lives nearby.

The company -- which insures about 90 percent of the Fortune 500 companies, as well as many more in construction, agriculture, automobile sales and other industries -- has exited some lines of insurance because of costs and started some streamlining measures to help its parent company save more than $1.5 billion by 2019, according to a recent Daily Herald report.