PETER BUOMBERGER, Group Head of Government & Industry Affairs, Zürich Insurance Company Ltd

“When I saw what inflation was doing in the 60s, I just thought it wasn’t fair that people’s hard-earned money was losing value.” 

Peter Buomberger is one of those rare people who knew when he was a young boy that he wanted to better understand the workings of the economy. And he stayed loyal to the topic for the whole of his professional career. Peter was one of six children and his father worked long hours as an engineer for the Schweizerische Bundesbahnen (SBB) – (Swiss Railway). He remembers the inflation in the 1960s and the stress it caused his father from the extra strain on the family budget. Even though Peter didn’t grasp the entire concept, he felt indignant because the strain was undeserved, especially since his father worked so hard.

In University, Peter naturally majored in economics, and never for a moment doubted his choice. After a Ph.D in Political Science, Applied Economics, he became fascinated with monetary policy, which quickly led to a position with the Swiss National Bank. With a love of problem-solving and research, Peter developed the idea of a centre where insight on monetary policy could be shared with developing countries. Though his idea was successful, he was considered too young to manage it. And so, he quit. Today, this centre is known as The Study Centre, Gerzensee.

In his next position as Chief Economist at The Union Bank of Switzerland (SBG)– now known as UBS – Peter stayed for seventeen years. During this time, he realised that the international success of UBS relied on updating its framework to move beyond internal compliance and law. He believed that the company should broaden its focus and create a Corporate Responsibility Committee.

His conviction that social and ethical issues make or break the health of an economy, led him to the University of Zurich where he played a key role in establishing the Centre for Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability (CCRS). Though he enjoyed the mental-muscle-flexing, compared to the corporate sector the world of academia seemed rather slow and lacking in resources. Politics had always offered an added opportunity for Peter to work in a fast-paced scene amongst other passionate people. During his time at SBG he had become increasingly involved with the Christian Democrat People’s party (CVP) where he led their commission on finance and the economy and molded their party position.

In 2003 a job offer came from Zurich Insurance Company for the position of Group Head of Government and Industry Affairs. Like any true Swiss man, he went on a long hike up into the Bündner Alpen to reflect. He speculated on the path of most effect and asked himself, “Where can I have the most impact?” By the time he had come down the mountain he had decided to accept the position on the condition that “the initiative be built to stand alone; that it would withstand the comings and goings of CEOs and employees.”

Back in a big corporation, he challenged the status quo in regards to the initiatives of Corporate Responsibility (CR) entailed a of giving and a little bit of volunteering. Yet his ideas were not met with reluctance, “it wasn’t as difficult to bring those thoughts into a corporation at that time. There were and are now, decent people working there who understood that CR is necessary for long-term success. Many of the employees had a strong social dimension.” More recently, in 2010, Peter had one of his peak career moments: “I remember getting the call when I was driving home from the KKL Luzerne (Culture and Congress Centre) and the CEO Martin Senn agreed to add an additional $USD100 million to the foundation” – let’s hope that he pulled over to the side of the road, for safety’s sake.

This Summer, 2013, Peter plans to conclude his advisory engagement with Zurich. However, there is no chance he will retreat to a mountain top; he would rather return to theoretical work, surely amongst the economic throng.

Additional Quotes

“Insurance business and insurance customers are different than those in banking. For the former, longer-term thinking is normal and part of the way that we work and think.”

“Corporate Responsibility is always a challenge but with a great team it is always possible in large corporations. You just cannot just sell your business objectives based on idealistic values only, you need to demonstrate to people why it makes sense and how social good can be generated alongside private wealth.”

“My advice to anyone wanting to make a change in corporations: study economics and understand the business including incentives and mechanics.”

About Zürich Insurance Company Ltd.

Zurich is one of the leading multi-line insurance providers with a global network of branches and offices in 170 countries. They consult and deliver general insurance, life insurance products, services for individuals, for small businesses, large companies and multinational corporations.

The Zurich Corporate Responsibility Strategy is founded on a commitment to the United Nations Global Compact as well as their Zurich Basics (code of conduct). Z Zurich Foundation aims to invest CHF21 million over the next five years to their partnership with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Both Zurich and IFRC want this partnership to become a model that can be replicated globally. (Living Our Strategy, 2012 Annual Review). For more information, visit


Country: Switzerland

Type of Education: Doctorate in Political Science in Applied Economics from the University of Basel, followed by Post Doctoral work in Econometrics as a visiting scholar at The University of Chicago.

Awards: n/a

Foundation Affiliation: n/a

Pathway to Impact: Path of concern

Impact Area/s: Security – Secure resource access; Freedom of Choice and Action

Organisation Type: Corporation; Academia

Facts & Figures: In 2008 Co-wrote Regulation and Intervention in the Insurance Industry: Fundamental Issues. Geneva Assoc.


LinkedIn: Peter Buomberger

Other Websites

Centre for Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability, 

About the author Helena Rosebery

After completing a Master of Communication (Food & Culture) from Slow Food’s University of Gastronomic Sciences, Italy, Helena Rosebery followed her heart to Zürich where she is inspired everyday by the resilience and greenness of her home-grown herbs. Helena employs words and coloured pencils to professionally communicate all that is – and is not – in the pursuit of a more ethical world.


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