The CII said by separating the two roles the president will be able to focus on their ambassadorial role.
Phillips will be responsible for providing leadership of the board and will work with the board to set the strategic direction of the CII as the professional body dedicated to building public trust in the insurance and personal finance profession.
She has been appointed for an initial term of three years starting on 1 July.
Her career has spanned the public, private and not for profit sectors.
Phillips is currently independent chair of the legal services board, the oversight regulator for the legal services sector, and chair of Chesterfield Royal Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. She is also a founding non-executive director of Social Work England.
She was previously the founding chief executive and board member of Natural England, and director for Wales of the Environment Agency.
Phillips said: ““I’m both honoured and delighted to be appointed as the first independent chair of the CII. I am looking forward to working with the president, Sian and her team, and the board in the next stage of the CII’s development.
“I am also looking forward to exploring how my experience of chairing boards in other sectors can be of mutual benefit to the insurance profession.”
Nick Turner, president of the CII, said: “The breadth of Helen’s experience in executive and non-executive roles in a range of sectors is impressive.
“Her skillset and the independence that Helen brings will be of huge value to the CII’s management team and board. I look forward to working with Helen on the strategic direction of the professional body.”