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A banner featuring the Prudential logo is displayed atop a building in Hong Kong, in 2018. Photo: Bloomberg

Prudential names Manulife Asia CEO as its next top executive

  • Anil Wadhwani, a former Citigroup and Manulife executive, will be based in Hong Kong as part of insurer’s shift to Asia
  • Wadhwani will exceed former Prudential CEO Mike Wells in February

Prudential has named Anil Wadhwani, the former CEO of Manulife Asia, as its next top executive and said he will be based in Hong Kong, the latest step in its transformation and greater reliance on Asia.

Wadhwani, who spent 25 years with Citigroup before joining Manulife, will succeed recently departed CEO Mike Wells on February 25 next year. Interim CEO Mark FitzPatrick will continue to lead the business in the meantime and will support Wadhwani in his transition, the company said.

“The board is delighted to appoint Anil following our thorough succession process and the move of the entire senior management team to Asia,” Prudential chair Shriti Vadera said in a statement. “He has 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, that will help us meet the needs of our customers in our chosen growth markets in Asia and Africa.”

Wadhwani, 53, has a wide range of experience, working in Mumbai, Singapore, London, New York and nearly five years in Hong Kong. His appointment is subject to regulatory approval.

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The shift of its CEO to Hong Kong is an important milestone in the ongoing transformation of the London-based insurer. It also is symbolic for the city, whose economy has been battered in recent months by a fifth wave of coronavirus cases and has faced criticism over its restrictive “zero Covid” policy to try to control the spread of the virus.

In recent years, Prudential has shifted its focus to primarily providing life and health insurance and asset management services in Asia and Africa, spinning off its UK and European retirement business in 2019 and its US retirement arm last year.

In February, the company said it wanted to base its next CEO in Asia.

Hong Kong is Prudential’s largest market, with about 1,500 employees. The company also has dual primary listings in both London and Hong Kong, and most of its senior managers are located in the city.

Two years ago, activist investor Third Point urged the insurer to move its headquarters to Hong Kong. In September 2021, the insurer raised HK$18.5 billion (US$2.4 billion) from a share placement in Hong Kong to repay older debt and fund its global expansion.

Shares of Prudential rose 0.7 per cent to close at HK$98.45 in Hong Kong on Wednesday.

“Prudential is exclusively focused on growth markets and has shown great resilience and agility through the recent and ongoing Covid pandemic,” Wadhwani said. “This strong performance is a real testament to all their people, the quality of talent and the leadership team who I am very much looking forward to working with.”

In his new role, Wadhwani will receive an annual salary of HK$12.3 million and have a maximum annual bonus of up to 200 per cent of his salary, with 40 per cent of that awarded in shares on a deferred basis for three years. He also will be eligible to receive an annual grant under Prudential’s long-term incentive plan of up to 400 per cent of his salary.

Prudential said the potential awards are in line with incentive opportunities for Wells, its previous CEO. Wadhwani also will receive pension benefits of 13 per cent of his salary.

The insurer also announced that Nic Nicandrou, its CEO for Asia and Africa, will be leaving the company to seek outside opportunities. His role will cease following the appointment of a permanent group CEO, the company said.

Separately, Manulife said Damien Green, the head of its Hong Kong business, would succeed Wadhwani as Asia CEO. Green joined Manulife in 2018 after roles at MetLife, AIA and AustralianSuper.

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