Fabienne Wauthier has said that she “overestimated” the importance of family to Pierre.
Fabienne Wauthier has said that she “overestimated” the importance of family to Pierre.Reuters

The widow of Pierre Wauthier, Zurich Insurance's chief financial officer who committed suicide last year, has said that she "overestimated" the importance of the family to him.

In an interview with the Evening Standard, Fabienne Wauthier said that Pierre left his family "in so much pain" and she still can't make sense of it.

In his suicide note, Pierre is said to reference a difficult working relationship with Joseph Ackermann, chairman of Zurich Insurance, and the mounting stress that he was under.

"The problem is that I didn't underestimate the pressure he was under at work; I overestimated how important his family was to him," Fabienne Wauthier told the Evening Standard.

Fabienne went on to describe the demands of the role: "Usually he had seven hours' sleep and the rest of the time it was BlackBerry in one hand, laptop in the other. We weren't necessarily happy that he was sacrificing family time for work but we respected his decision because it was not profit-orientated. He had a long-term ambition to make the company better."

Pierre had alerted the human resources department in the July before his death that he was under stress, but Fabienne says that this was not encouraging for him.

"It did not reassure him. A lot of expectations, and how to defend the CEO's vision of company strategy, were heaped on him.

"What had changed was that they had a new chairman who wanted to rapidly turn Zurich into a very profitable and attractive company for shareholders. This was at odds with Pierre's belief in the social role of an insurer.

"In November 2012 the pressure started to build up but it got worse. June was rather difficult, July was even worse and August was apparently unbearable."

The Evening Standard spoke to Zurich Insurance regarding the stress that Wauthier was said to be under and responded: "A comprehensive review was conducted [into Wauthier's death], directed by Finma, and found no indication of any undue pressure."

Joseph Ackermann resigned as Chairman of Zurich Insurance shortly after the death of Pierre.

He said at the time "I have reasons to believe that the family is of the opinion that I should take my share of responsibility, as unfounded as any allegations might be," he said, adding that he was trying "to avoid any damage to Zurich's reputation".