MetLife’s Farrell Reassigned as Wheeler Scales Back Annuity Risk

MetLife Inc. (MET), the biggest U.S. life insurer, reassigned Michael Farrell, previously head of U.S. distribution, as the company seeks to reduce sales of equity- linked variable annuities.

Farrell “is moving to a position in global employee benefits,” John Calagna, a spokesman for New York-based MetLife, said in an e-mail today. In filings last year to the Securities and Exchange Commission, Farrell was listed as president of MetLife Investors USA Insurance Co., a unit that issues variable-annuity contracts.

MetLife is curbing annuity risk as it focuses on integrating non-U.S. businesses acquired from American International Group Inc. in 2010. Variable annuities, savings products often sold with guaranteed returns, exceeded MetLife’s sales target of $18 billion last year. William Wheeler, who heads the Americas division, said in December that 2011 sales would be “in the high 20s.”

“That’s obviously much more than we had expected,” Wheeler said in a Dec. 5 conference call with analysts. “We’re going to take the steps necessary to get that back into its proper risk profile inside MetLife.”

Chief Executive Officer Steven Kandarian, promoted to the top spot in May, is reorganizing management as he sets his strategy and integrates the former AIG operations stretching from Japan to Chile. In November, he split oversight of MetLife into three geographic divisions and installed Eric Steigerwalt as interim chief financial officer. Wheeler was formerly CFO. Steigerwalt will eventually move to retail when a permanent CFO is named, Calagna said.

“We are continuing to implement our reorganization plan as we take the necessary steps to transform MetLife from a leading life insurance company to a world-class global insurance and employee benefits provider,” Calagna said.

Donna Demaio, head of MetLife Bank, will continue to report to Wheeler, Calagna said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew Frye in New York at afrye@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Dan Kraut at dkraut2@bloomberg.net

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