Swiss Life Insurance and Pension Company

I'm back at Swiss Life (2001 revenues $15.8 billion, 12,400 employees) for another visit. I was here six years ago during my first trek through Switzerland but was disappointed. Why? The six-story head office building was undergoing renovations so I ended up meeting with Moritz Kuhn, Company Secretary and a Director, in a nearby building.

Built in 1938, this edifice occupies a prestigious corner site directly across the street from the Lake Zurich waterfront. From here it's a 15-minute walk to Zurich's central train station or you can hop on a tram which passes by the building.

I check in with the stern, no-nonsense receptionist and after a short wait Claudine Kuersteiner, Assistant to CEO Roland Chlapowski, greets me in the lobby with bad news. It's vacation time and no one is around or available to meet with me. Though she's reluctant I persuade Kuersteiner to answer my questions as we sit down on chairs in the lobby.

A total of about 800 employees work here and in several nearby buildings. Senior management gets reserved parking spots, there's no formal dress code, smoking in offices is optional and there're no recreational facilities on-site. Management and rank & file eat together in the cafeteria, it's a 20-minute drive to Zurich Airport if there's no traffic and employees get special rates on company insurance products.

I can't see CEO Chlapowski's fifth floor lakeview office because "he's busy" and it's ditto for the boardroom as there's a meeting going on. Though I'm very appreciative of Ms. Kuersteiner's time, I'm disappointed my visit merely consists of seeing the lobby.