Prudential names former Citi banker Anil Wadhwani as next chief executive

Prudential has appointed former Citi banker Anil Wadhwani as chief executive, as the life insurer deepens its focus on Asia.

Wadhwani, a 53-year-old Indian and head of the Asia business for the Toronto-based insurance group Manulife, will be the first Asia-based chief of the group, which has undergone radical insurance transformation in recent years.

Prudential has joint headquarters and primary listings in London — where it is the largest listed insurance company, with a near-£30bn market value — and Hong Kong and is now entirely focused on insurance markets in Asia and Africa.

Wadhwani will take up the role in February 2023, subject to regulatory approval, and will be based in Hong Kong, where he lives.

Prudential’s new CEO has previously worked in financial hubs including Singapore, London and New York.

The group announced earlier this year that Mike Wells would be stepping down as chief executive, to be replaced on an interim basis by finance chief Mark FitzPatrick.

The company had previously suggested that coronavirus-related restrictions could force its next boss to start the role outside Hong Kong. Some of the city’s travel restrictions have since eased.

Wadhwani will be paid an annual salary of about $1.6mn and could receive as much as double that in bonuses.

Prudential chair Baroness Shriti Vadera said Wadhwani, who has headed Manulife’s Asia business for almost five years, had a “wealth of experience, not just in insurance but as a customer-centric people leader with a strong track record of creating and driving a culture of success”.

Jefferies analysts said they were “somewhat disappointed by the extended transition period”.

Prudential’s shares were down 2.5 per cent in early afternoon trading, against a flat FTSE 100.

Nic Nicandrou, Prudential’s head of Asia and Africa and widely viewed as the leading internal candidate for the job, will “be leaving in order to seek opportunities outside the group”, Prudential said. His role will be scrapped.

FitzPatrick, who had ruled himself out of the running for the top job, will continue to lead the group and support the transition.

Prudential, which offloaded UK and US businesses in recent years, has faced questions over whether it will keep its London domicile.

It has previously come under pressure from an activist investor Third Point to ditch the UK base. It continues to rebalance staffing levels between the UK capital and Hong Kong, with less than 200 London-based employees.

Manulife said that Damien Green, the head of its Hong Kong business, would replace Wadhwani as its Asia head, as part of a reshuffle that also sees Michael Doughty step down as head of its Canada business after more than 30 years at the group.

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