Zurich Financial Services Group has announced that it is elevating the role of chief risk officer to group executive committee status, and appointing Axel Lehmann to the position.

The company has also announced that Mike Foley will succeed Mr Lehmann as CEO of Zurich’s North America commercial division, and will become a member of the group executive committee. Both the appointments are effective January 1, 2008.

Mr Lehmann will bring extensive operational experience to the new role, which reflects the elevated importance attributed to the chief risk officer position. In addition, he will also assume responsibility for group IT, positioning the function as an enabler for profitable growth and operational transformation.

James Schiro, CEO of Zurich, said: Particularly in today’s complex environment, I am pleased that we can appoint someone with Axel’s record of success and proven leadership skills to this enhanced risk management role. It demonstrates the strategic significance we place on risk management, as well as the breadth of our global talent pool.