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Foreign direct investment is keeping America great

April 11, 2017

capitol building

There are more than 6.4 million Americans who work directly for U.S. subsidiaries of foreign companies and earn wages and benefits that are 30 percent higher than the economy-wide average.

The Administration acknowledged this fact by hosting a meeting that I attended, along with 11 other CEOs of U.S. subsidiaries, to share the positive impact of foreign investment on the American economy and to help bring forward opportunities to attract additional investment here. Strengthening workforce training programs topped my list of agenda items as part of the delegation led by the Organization for International Investment (OFII), the leading business group promoting inbound investment in the United States and policies that support foreign direct investment (FDI).

On April 4th, we met with Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin and Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross – as well as members of Congress and others in the Administration – to keep FDI on their radar. What’s good for U.S. business is good for Zurich North America, the fifth largest commercial insurer in the United States. FDI in the United States is an indicator of the strength of the underlying economy .

From my perspective, as the leader of Zurich’s North American subsidiaries, we compete every year for capital from our parent company in Switzerland. In many ways, we are a microcosm of the issue we’re putting on the agenda for the Administration, which is the importance of attracting foreign investment. Economies that are growing and healthy, have regulatory certainty, and appropriate tax regimes attract more investment. Unfortunately, studies show America’s share of global FDI is shrinking – down more than 40 percent in less than two decades.

Despite the downward FDI trend, Zurich has operated successfully in the United States for more than 100 years. We are well established in the country and have always found it an environment where we can grow and prosper. Zurich employs some 9,500 people in North America and to support our business for years to come, we need to create talent pools and drive opportunities to further our business here and abroad.

One way we’ve been able to attract new entrants to the U.S. insurance industry is by developing the first-of-its-kind apprenticeship program. We are working with William Rainey Harper College in Palatine, Ill., to educate and train insurance apprentices who attend the college for two years, work at the Zurich North America headquarters in Schaumburg, Ill., and, in the end, not only get a job, but also an associate’s degree debt free.

Our U.S. apprenticeship program resembles a program that has been successful for many years at our Switzerland headquarters. We have been working to bring the European apprenticeship model – which is more commonly known for training people in trades, such as skilled manufacturing, but also widely used to train white-collar workers – to the United States.

Our workforce training program has been supported by the prior Administration through funding and incentives that go directly to the college from the Department of Labor. During my discussions with the Administration, I encouraged them to maintain support for apprenticeships because these types of programs help create a more resilient economy. They are a way to build a better base of labor talent across the United States.

The Zurich program is really just the beginning of what could be a very powerful program over time. It’s a forward-thinking approach to talent acquisition that we want to serve as a catalyst to encourage others to create their own apprenticeship programs. We have 31 apprentices at the moment and have made the commitment to train at least 100 apprentices by 2020. That’s 100 people who will be a part of the talent pool for the insurance industry. It’s a great start, and it has the capacity to make a significant impact on the industry if other insurers join the effort by creating their own programs.

Apprenticeship programs are a powerful way to change the dynamic of how people think about career paths in the United States. The prior Administration thought so as well. And I’m pleased that the current Administration hosted this meeting and acknowledged the important role foreign direct investment continues to play in keeping America great.