Helvetia Patria Holding
Helvetia Patria, Switzerland's fifth largest insurer with $3.1
billion in revenue, calls St. Gallen home. This compact city
of 70,000 inhabitants lies in the northwest corner of Switzerland.
Founded in 1858, Helvetia Patria has its headquarters not in
the downtown area but on the hillside overlooking the city. It's
a steep climb to get there but one passes drop-dead gorgeous
turn-of-the-century villas hugging the hillsides. Headquarters
stands a stone's throw away from the University of St. Gallen
campus. From what I've heard the university's business school
is ranked as the best in Switzerland.
It's a fun visit thanks to the warm and enthusiastic welcome
showered on me by Daniel Schlaepfer, Head of PR and Investor
If one had an overhead view of this place you'd see a five-story
building shaped like a cross. Built in the 1970's, this cross-shaped
structure has just seen the addition of a newly completed wing
to its one side. On its backside, work is in full swing on the
construction of a new parking garage (hence the large crane in
the background of the photo accompanying this story).
About 500 employees work here. Everyone (including executives)
eats in the cafeteria, which by the way features colorful red
and green dining tables. With the university next door, parking
is tight--though that will change after the parking garage is
completed. Smoking in offices is optional, there's no formal
dress code, no corporate aircraft, there's covered parking for
cyclists who commute to work and the company's art collection
is international in scope. Though there're no on-site recreational
facilities, showers are available for runners and cyclists.
Located on a steep hillside, it's a quick five-minute bus ride
to the city center with buses passing frequently thanks to the
university next door. It's an hour to Zurich Airport or 25 minutes
to the local St. Gallen Airport. Employee perks includes discounts
on company insurance products as well discounts on products offered
by company partners.
CEO Erich Walser occupies a spacious fourth floor corner office
with large picture windows. I note his desktop computer and lack
of plants. His view? Walser walks me out outside his office onto
a wooden deck and the resulting view is fantastic. It's a great
panorama of the city center, nearby mountains and Lake Constance
10 miles in the distance.
The boardroom on the fifth floor features an unusual oval-shaped
yellow plastic-like boardroom table that can be raised or lowered
into the ceiling.