Battling slowing sales, insurer AIA hires new CEO from rival Ping An

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Asia-focussed insurer AIA Group Ltd 1299.HK on Friday named a senior executive at Chinese rival Ping An Insurance Group Co 601318.SS as its chief executive officer to replace company veteran Ng Keng Hooi.

FILE PHOTO: The logo of AIA is displayed at its office in Hong Kong, China February 24, 2017. REUTERS/Bobby Yip/File Photo

Lee Yuan Siong, a co-CEO at Ping An Insurance, will take over as CEO and president-designate from March 1, 2020, and will assume full responsibility from June 1, Hong Kong-headquartered AIA said in a statement issued to the stock exchange.

Before joining Ping An, China's largest insurer by market value, in 2013, Lee worked at Prudential Plc PRU.L and the Monetary Authority of Singapore.

Lee will take over at AIA at a time when the insurer is facing slowing demand, with anti-government protests in Hong Kong hitting sales of insurance products to mainland Chinese visitors.

AIA and other insurers in Hong Kong get a large share of their sales from selling insurance products to China visitors seeking better products and overseas investment opportunities.

Anti-government demonstrations in the Chinese-ruled territory, which began in June, have resulted in a sharp drop in tourist arrivals, mainly from the mainland, hitting sales of luxury goods and insurance policies, among other things.

AIA posted its smallest ever quarterly growth in new business value in the September quarter and flagged concerns about the impact of the protests on domestic business, with the city slipping into its first recession in a decade.

The insurance firm, whose business was first established in Shanghai nearly a century ago, has a presence in 18 markets in the Asia Pacific. Hong Kong accounts for the biggest share of its new business.

Besides Hong Kong, AIA counts Australia, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand among its other major markets.

AIA said Lee’s service contract would be for three years, with an option to renew for a further three years. During his tenure, he will receive a total annual compensation, including incentives, of $7.03 million, the insurer said.

Reporting by Sumeet Chatterjee; Editing by Mark Potter