Zurich Insurance increased business operating profits by 55 per cent to $4.53bn last year as Mario Greco, chief executive, pushed ahead with a revamp of the Swiss insurer.

The better-than-expected results were boosted by a sharp improvement in the group’s general insurance division,which was hit in 2015 by a series of exceptionally large losses and was also widely seen as having loosened underwriting standards.

Business operating profits in general insurance rose to $2.44bn, from $864m in 2015 while revenues in the division were flat in local currencies at $33.1bn.

Mr Greco joined Zurich Insurance from Italy’s Generali almost a year ago. Last November he unveiled plans to strip risk and costs out of the business as if sought to combat turbulent insurance and financial markets.

Zurich Insurance said its business operating profits in the fourth quarter were $1.13bn, up from $422m in the same quarter a year earlier. For the full year, net income attributable to shareholders rose 74 per cent to $3.21bn in 2016.

Mr Greco said “actions we have taken…have got traction”. In a statement, he added:

We are on track to create a simpler structure, underpinned by smart investment and greater customer focus, that will ensure we are equipped to realize the Group’s full potential. These results show what we can accomplish and are an excellent start to achieving our 2019 financial targets.

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