Prudential’s next chief executive will be based in Asia for the first time after Mike Wells said he is stepping down following seven years at the top of the UK’s biggest listed insurance company.
The decision to base the top job in Asia cements the 174-year-old group’s shift to the region and follows a radical shake-up overseen by Wells. He will retire from the Prudential at the end of March.
Mark FitzPatrick, the finance director, will be interim chief executive until a permanent appointment is made.
In 2019, Wells demerged the UK operation, M&G. Under pressure from activist investors, he last year spun off Jackson, the US business. What remains is an insurance company focused on faster growing markets in Asia and Africa.
Shriti Vadera, chair of Prudential, said that Wells had “led the group through one of the most significant periods of change in its 174-year history”.
“Given Prudential’s focus on the growth markets of Asia and Africa, the Board has decided with this managed transition of the leadership structure, that the roles of the group CEO and the group CFO will be based in Asia, where Prudential’s largest businesses, the group regulator and the rest of the senior management team are located,” she added.
The group’s decision to base the new chief executive and finance director in Asia will sever most of the group’s remaining links with the UK, where it was founded.
M&G, once the UK arm of the business, still has a life insurance operation that trades under the Prudential brand in the UK.
FitzPatrick, who has been CFO since 2017, has asked not to be considered for the permanent chief executive position, and will leave the group once Wells’ successor is in place.
Prudential said it would consider both internal and external appointments for the role. Nic Nicandrou, a former Prudential finance director who now leads the Asia business and is already based in Hong Kong, will be one of the leading candidates.