Young Leaders Alumni Dinner | November 2022

Welcome Remarks by Michel M. Li├Ęs, Chairman of the Board, Zurich Insurance Group Ltd.

Note: Please check against delivery - the spoken word shall be binding.

Young Leaders Reunion Dinner

Bern, Switzerland | November 15, 2022

Dear Young Leaders, former participants of the Young Leaders Conference, and special guests…

  • President of the Swiss Confederation, Mr. Ignazio Cassis President of Switzerland;
  • Markus Diethelm, Co-Chair of the American Swiss Foundation,
  • Robert Giuffra, Chair of the American Swiss Foundation and
  • Patricia Schramm, President of the American Swiss Foundation
  • Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen

It is great to welcome you and an honor to be host of tonight’s dinner. It is also a privilege for Zurich Insurance to accommodate the 2022 Young Leaders of the American Swiss Foundation.

Particularly this year, as we are celebrating Zurich’s 150th anniversary.

It means our business and me personally have spent much time looking back on 150 years of our history, but also looking forward to the next 150 years.

For our future, we rely on you. Our young leaders… who will one day become old leaders like me. 

But we do not just need you to protect Zurich’s business in the decades to come.

We need you to steer the world to a safer place.

The American Swiss Foundation was formed at the end of World War II in 1945. Europe was in ruins and there was uncertainty about the future of the continent with an Iron Curtain beginning to form.

The transatlantic relationship had also been badly damaged and needed repair.

But over the years that relationship slowly healed, thanks to forums like the American Swiss Foundation.

Switzerland has gone on to enjoy a long and fruitful relationship with the United States built on a shared history of democracy, common values and a deep respect for human rights.

We have a long history together, with a great deal of migration between our two countries and extensive cooperation, both social and economic.

For Zurich, the U.S. has played an important role in our history since we opened our first office in Chicago in 1912. We have a large footprint in the U.S and it has become our most important market. Dare I say, even more important than Switzerland.

Both countries collaborate closely on the world stage and share strong ties through international institutions and direct political contact.

And during that time Europe has gone on to thrive. The American Swiss Foundation launched the Young Leaders Conference in 1990 after the fall of the Iron Curtain and the end of the Cold War when optimism spread across Europe.

But we live in different times. Uncertainty and geopolitical instability hang over Europe in a way not seen since WWII. It means the strong bonds between our nations have never been more relevant.

We came together to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic.

And now we must show strength in unity again over the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

But we face other significant global challenges. From an energy crisis to climate change; global economic headwinds to growing tensions between China and Taiwan.

If handled at a local level in the spirit of partisanship, the response to these global challenges will inevitably be divisive and ultimately fail.

Global issues can only be dealt with at a global level, through cooperation, shared insight and mutual respect.

And the American Swiss Foundation has a role to play. Just as it did in the aftermath of World War II. And how its Young Leaders Conference made a mark at the end of the Cold War. It can once again help solidify our relationship.

Difficult decisions will need to be taken in the years ahead to overcome the challenges affecting our world. Those difficult decisions will require courage, strong leadership and mutual cooperation between like-minded nations.

So I hope that you forge relationships during the week that will thrive in the years to come and help to further strengthen the ties between Switzerland and the U.S.

We are soon to hear from President Ignazio Cassis. He graciously attended our 150th anniversary celebration at the Zurich Opera House on October 26 and I look forward to hearing his words.

I hope you all enjoy your evening. 

Bon Appetit!