May 23, 2021

Reinventing the insurance industry at Zurich

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As you might expect, the co-founder and ambassador for Zurich’s Women in Insurance Network (WIN), Evelyn Foong, is charismatic and engaging, and puts people at the heart of everything she does. She is the Head of Internal Audit – Australia & New Zealand at Zurich and really is a people-person. With a focus on growth-mindset and collaboration, she loves that Zurich is a truly global organization.

Never a dull day

Evelyn has been at Zurich for ten years – the longest she’s been in any one organization. They’ve kept her there by continually offering her new opportunities and responsibilities; every day is different.

Audit can be a process-driven function, but for Evelyn it’s all about the people.

“As the Head of Internal Audit ANZ, I look after the people development for the Asia Pacific region in the assurance space, stretching them to realize their best potential.”

Her approach is based on the 70-20-10 learning model:

  • 70% of learning is from on-the job exposure and experience, and cross-border opportunities
  • 20% comes from like projects and transformation work, upskilling in data analytics, artificial intelligence and other innovative projects that require international collaboration
  • For the remaining 10%, Evelyn is passionate about training. Zurich support further qualifications and provide continuous development opportunities.

For Evelyn, Zurich’s biggest difference is they are truly global, and really live that. They have core competency networks that connect like-minded individuals across a competency, from actuarial, to insurance, to innovation workstreams with the IT network, focusing on bringing in robotics and automation.

The networks are global, and staff join to deepen their technical knowledge. They’re a big part of how Zurich harness their global mindset.

“If you have the desire to grow, learn, contribute, then you can join the networks. We encourage that from C-suite level to entry level.”

In the Audit Competency Network, the Head of Group Audit works alongside graduate auditors.


Innovation in Audit

Assurance Group Principles are equality, diversity, inclusiveness, building trust and growth mindset.

Zurich go through McKinsey’s Organisational Health Index every 2 years, and the Audit group has very strong responses on innovation. Evelyn puts this down to their strategy of continuous improvement. They are always looking at ways to improve and collaborate. In Zurich it’s encouraged for people to call on their global colleagues for help and inspiration.

“We have access to 200 brains [across Audit globally], not just the 12 in my team [in Australia]. There is a rotation of talents, and one difference between Zurich and our competitors is we are truly global and we offer opportunities based on performance.”

Evelyn’s Audit team have a chance to take their focus on process to the organization and work with all the different teams to identify areas for improvement and opportunities.

“Audit works collaboratively within the business, from the Boardroom all the way to the root level. There is a lot of people interaction. We look across the key processes across the entire organization, from HR all the way to Underwriting.”


For Evelyn it’s key that her team is proud of what they do and understand just how much value they offer. She shared a story of a young woman in her team, relatively early in her career, who identified areas for improvement and picked up process gaps no one else had seen.

Women in Insurance

Evelyn is ambassador for the Zurich Women Innovation Network (WIN), a unique way Zurich is fostering career progression in women.

“Its core strategy is aligned with Zurich’s workforce sustainability commitments, with the specific focus of building meaningful connections, developing leadership skills and inspiring confidence.”

She was one of the founding members of the local WIN chapter, established to provide thought leadership, guidance and direction to ensure alignment to the D&I strategy. Zurich aim to provide a safe and equal environment for all employees.

WIN supports a mentoring program, giving people access to leaders in different business units to seek advice, understand core objectives and learn in a safe environment. Evelyn also talked about the benefits for the mentor, not just the mentee.

“As a mentor I can learn from a mentee about, for example, how millennials think and what their aspirations are, so I can become a better leader. It’s about knowing the person and drawing out the best from them.”

Alongside her involvement in WIN, Evelyn is the Executive Sponsor for PrideZ, the LBGTQI+ support network. When they launched the PrideZ strategy for 2021, a trans woman was invited to present. She shared her experience in front of the senior leaders, and feedback from all said it was one of the best Employee Resource Groups people they had ever attended.


“They can see that Zurich care and support employees. Gender transition is a difficult topic – in some countries it’s still illegal – but we’re showing that you are joining an organization that has consistent values no matter where we are.”

Reinventing a culture

Zurich is 150 years old as an organization, and they want to showcase their innovative, collaborative, progressive culture.

“Zurich has a solid reputation, and they’re fiercely protective of that. It’s a very stable, blue chip company. But they recognize that we need to reinvent ourselves. Digitalization, customer centricity and transformation are key.”

There is also a focus on ‘human capital development’. There are continual opportunities to develop competencies and ensure skills are consistent across groups. Evelyn refers again to the global marketplace for their people. Skills and knowledge are shared globally, and there is a strong common culture underpinning behavior.

“We do the right thing even when no one’s looking.”

The culture is transparent, collaborative, equal, inclusive and meritorious.

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About the Author
Samantha Sutherland is the Chief Storyteller at WORK180. She is a Diversity and Inclusion specialist with an analytical background, making her work evidence-based and data driven. Host of WORK180’s Equality Talks podcast and her own Women at Work, Samantha divides her time between interviewing amazing women for WORK180, mentoring and coaching women in, or aspiring to, leadership roles, and providing high-level advice on diversity practices to Australian corporations. You can learn more about the Samantha Sutherland consultancy at

Looking for a new opportunity?

Our transparent job board only has vacancies from employers we endorse and lets you see what benefits, policies and perks come with the job.