Zurich UK has announced the shock departure of the head of its UK personal business, Ian Owen, after 26 years with the business.

In a terse statement the company refused to reveal details of the move. "Neither Ian Owen or Zurich will be discussing the terms of, or background to, Ian Owen's departure - the details of which are naturally entirely confidential between Ian and Zurich," it said.

Owen's role as managing director of Zurich personal lines business has already been filled by Mark Winlow, formerly vice president of investment consultants AT Kearney.

Zurich chief executive Geoff Riddell said: "Ian has made a significant contribution to our business over the past 26 years, for which we thank him. We know he is considering a number of possibilities for the future, for which we wish him every success."

The bland statement was echoed by Owen: "I have enjoyed my time with Zurich immensely, particularly the challenges of turning around the personal lines business since the merger, which I achieved with the support of a tremendous team of people."

Owen was responsible for the launch of Zurich Private Clients and the transition of the direct business from Eagle Star to Zurich. He was also behind the challenge laid down by Zurich to overtake R&SA on personal lines.