Swiss puts down roots in Oz

Apart from the vineyards, Daniel Nikles has also planted 2,500 olive trees behind the estate’s farmhouse

The insurance business took Daniel Nikles to Australia but he aims to spend his retirement making a name as a wine producer and olive grower on the vast continent.

This content was published on March 1, 2002 minutes

The 48-year-old Biel-born executive is already gearing up to swap his air-conditioned office in Sydney's business district for a dusty outdoor lifestyle.

For the past couple of years, he has been the proud owner of a vineyard about 300 kilometres from Sydney in the Mudgee region, where he spends all his free time.

"I simply love it," he gushes, "eating well and drinking fine wine." Nikles is looking to turn his hobby into his new profession and hopes to produce some top quality wine.

Apart from the vineyards, he has also planted 2,500 olive trees behind the estate's farmhouse. In a couple of years he intends to add organic olive oil production to his growing list of talents.

Business traveller

Nikles is what you would term a seasoned "business traveller", always venturing to other countries for a new posting. "Over the years, me and my family have moved eighteen times because of my job," he says.

He works for Winterthur Insurance, where he has risen through the ranks over the past 30 years. Initially he trained as a salesman in Bern, but six years later he transferred to a small division called Winterthur International.

At the time Nikles was one of eight employees in the new division. Nowadays Winterthur International employs more than 2000 people.

Following stints in England and France, Nikles and his family spent many years in the United States. Then a posting to Australia came up and now Nikles is happy to put down some permanent roots.

Since 1996, he has been the chief executive officer of XL Winterthur International. "I had to decide in the space of 24 hours if I wanted to take the Australian job," he muses.

Opera House

Before he made the journey down under, Nikles knew the usual things about the vast country - it had a famous opera house, a "red centre" and Ayers Rock. But since arriving, Australia has felt like a home-away-from-home for the Nikles family.

"Australia gives a transient family like mine everything we need," he enthuses. And Nikles is keen to take advantage of everything Australia has to offer.

"When I'm 50, I want to step back from my manager's job and work part time in the insurance business."

By Christian Messerli, Sydney (translated by Sally Mules)

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