American International Group Inc. (AIG) is counting on Peter Hancock to make up for his lack of an insurance background with experience managing financial risk.
Chief Executive Officer Robert Benmosche chose Hancock, who spent 20 years at a predecessor to JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), to return AIG’s largest unit to profit as the insurer works to replace government bailout funds with private capital. New York- based AIG and the U.S. Treasury Department plan to sell 300 million shares tomorrow.
AIG needs to restore investors’ confidence in the Chartis property-casualty unit after insufficient reserves forced the firm to take a $4.2 billion fourth-quarter charge. Hancock, 52, joined AIG in 2010 to help repay the government and unwind the derivatives business that brought the company to the brink of collapse in 2008. He got the largest bonus among AIG’s top managers and is seen as a potential CEO successor.
“It’s absolutely essential that Hancock reduce the number of surprises that come out of Chartis and make the business transparent enough so that investors trust it,” said Clark Troy, a senior analyst based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, for Aite Group.
Benmosche, 66, is relying on Chartis to lead AIG’s rebound after the company plunged 38 percent this year on the New York Stock Exchange on claims from the Japan earthquake and the reserve-building charge, which was disclosed in February. Chartis accounted for about half the company’s revenue last year and that share is poised to rise after Benmosche sold non-U.S. life insurance operations and a consumer lender.
45 Million Clients
Hancock lacks the experience of his predecessor, Kristian Moor, arranging deals with insurance buyers seeking protection against worker injuries, property damage and lawsuits. Chartis, with 40,000 employees, has more than 45 million clients, including multinational corporations and small businesses.
“There’s a lot of skepticism about whether or not someone from the outside can come in and run an insurance operation,” said Paul Newsome, an analyst at Sandler O’Neill & Partners LP, who has a “buy” rating on AIG’s shares. AIG fell 82 cents, or 2.7 percent, to $29.98 at 4:02 p.m. New York Stock Exchange composite trading.
Hancock has a strong financial background for the job and the intelligence to learn what he needs to know about insurance, said Ernest Patrikis, a former AIG general counsel and now partner at White & Case LLP. Running Chartis involves managing both underwriting and investing risks. The unit has a $125.8 billion portfolio.
‘Vote of Confidence’
“This is good for him to get a great feel for one of the two major operations of AIG,” said Patrikis. “It’s a vote of confidence in him and it also suggests that Chartis needs some sharpening up.” Patrikis said Hancock is one of two internal frontrunners to be CEO along with Jay Wintrob, 54, who heads SunAmerica, AIG’s U.S. life insurance division.
Moor was named vice chairman of Chartis and will assist on “business-development strategies and client matters,” AIG said March 31 when it announced that Hancock would run the unit. Hancock had joined AIG as executive vice president, finance, risk and investments.
Benmosche, who is battling cancer, should be able to stay in his role for 12 to 18 months, AIG said in February. The company reiterated that Chairman Steve Miller is available to fill in as interim CEO if Benmosche has to step aside ahead of schedule. AIG spokesman Mark Herr declined to comment and said Hancock was unavailable for an interview.
Hancock announced a deal in April to pay $1.65 billion to Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. to assume the risk of asbestos policies sold by AIG. Hancock said May 6 that he will bolster Chartis by focusing on the most attractive risks, even if it means sacrificing revenue.
“We are moving away from any kind of top-line targeting,” Hancock said in a call with analysts. “We think that leads you to do business at the margin, which is unattractive.”
Hancock spent 20 years at a predecessor to JPMorgan, where he established the bank’s derivatives group and served as chief financial officer. He stepped down as CFO in 2000 and later co- founded Integrated Finance Ltd. with Robert Merton, the Nobel Prize-winning economist, and Roberto Mendoza, a former vice chairman at New York-based JPMorgan. He joined AIG from Cleveland-based KeyCorp (KEY), where he was vice chairman responsible for national banking.
Hancock played “an overarching role in starting the credit-risk-transfer market,” said Ed Grebeck, CEO of Stamford, Connecticut-based debt-consulting firm Tempus Advisors and an instructor at New York University, who has taught courses on derivatives. “He was definitely an early proponent of credit- default swaps.”
Hancock got $4.32 million in 2010 incentive pay, 20 percent more than his target, AIG said in a filing in March. Moor’s payout was $1.71 million, or 10 percent below his target, after “underachievement of certain financial metrics,” AIG said. Benmosche, Wintrob and CFO David Herzog got their full bonuses of $3.5 million, $1.16 million and $1.02 million respectively.
“AIG accomplished an unprecedented divestiture program,” selling 34 businesses, the insurer said in the filing disclosing Hancock’s 2010 bonus. He also helped negotiations with Treasury and Federal Reserve Bank of New York as the insurer structured a deal to repay its rescue.
AIG plans to sell 100 million shares tomorrow, and Treasury expects to sell 200 million, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The offering will reduce Treasury’s stake in the insurer to about 77 percent from 92 percent.
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