Vaudoise Assurance

As I stand outside the front entrance to Vaudoise Assurance's five-story headquarters I can't seem to place why there's a familiar look to the place. Though only several blocks from Lake Geveva it's situated at the top of a steep incline allowing for great views of the lake area. Two monster-size trees (tall as the building) with gigantic tentacle-like branches obscure much of the front part of the structure. Thanks to12 foot high picture glass windows, one can, without entering the building see right through the large expansive lobby area and have a panoramic view of the lake.

While friendly receptionist Ursula Binggeli calls to find out who's my contact person I have a look around the marbled floor lobby/reception area. A large vase of fresh flowers sits atop the reception desk. The building has a definite early1960's look to it. Through my years of visiting companies I've become quite the wizard at dating buildings. Stepping outside and onto a garden terrace area my guess comes pretty close to being right on the mark when I examine a lawn sculpture next to a fishpond and find the date 1958 stamped on it.

I'm put on the phone with CEO Rolf Mehr's secretary who seems to have been misinformed as to the purpose of my visit. Why do I say this? Well, she starts talking about how the company donates money to various causes etc… until I interrupt her and explain I'm not here asking for a donation.

Christina Gaggini from Corporate Communications ends up being my contact person and immediately clears up why the place looks familiar. Jean Tschuni, the building's architect, was also responsible for Nestle's lakefront head office located about 20 miles down the road. I visited Nestle six years ago and their much larger building also featured the see-through-the-lobby to the lake view.

With over $900 million in revenues and 1,270 employees, this 107-year old company is the ninth largest insurer in Switzerland.

A combined total of 400 employees work in this five-story building (built in 1958) and the eight-story structure (built in 1986) located right across the street. Gaggini says it's about a seven-minute walk to Lausanne's city center and the company's art collection would be described as modern, consisting primarily of Swiss artists. No executive dining rooms with everyone eating in the company cafeteria. Smoking is allowed in the workplace.

CEO Mehr's third floor office facing the lake contains several unusual items: a pair of boxing gloves and, a deep-sea diving helmet minus the rest of the suit. Unfortunately he's not around to explain the stories behind them. Any unusual employee perks? How about 20% discount off your insurance.