Allianz Hires Hunt for $2 Trillion Asset Management Unit

  • Ralph, Zimmerer stepping down from investments roles
  • Asset managers struggling to generate returns, analyst says

Allianz SE appointed Jacqueline Hunt, who previously headed Prudential Plc’s U.K. and European division, to lead its asset-management and U.S. life-insurance divisions.

Hunt, 47, replaces Jay Ralph who will step down at the end of June, the company said in a statement Thursday. Allianz Asset Management had almost $2 trillion of assets at the end of last year and its operations include Pacific Investment Management Co. Guenther Thallinger, 44, was named to lead investment management and global life and health.

Insurers and asset managers are grappling with record-low interest rates and stricter regulatory capital requirements. Oliver Baete, who took over in May as chief executive officer of Allianz, Europe’s largest insurer, also faces a slowdown in the insurer’s main markets. Pimco has been pressured by client withdrawals after the 2014 departure of star money manager Bill Gross in the U.S.

Board’s ‘Rejuvenation’

“It’s definitely a rejuvenation of the board, and any resulting boost in management’s energy is something to welcome,” said Werner Schirmer, an analyst at Landesbank Baden-Wuerttemberg who has a hold recommendation on Allianz shares. “Still, it’s not as if younger executives will find it any easier to navigate this environment. The asset-management industry faces difficulty in generating returns.”

Ralph, 57, resigned to “devote more time to his family,” the insurer said. Thallinger is taking on duties from Maximilian Zimmerer, 57, whose contract expires at the end of this year.

Their exit is a surprise, since neither man “had any issues that made you think they might leave,” Schirmer said. “This isn’t investment banking after all.”

The shares closed down 2.3 percent at 138.60 euros in Frankfurt, giving the company a market capitalization of 63.3 billion euros.

Thallinger currently serves as head of the Allianz Investment Management SE unit, according to the company. Hunt spent two years at Prudential before leaving in October. She had helped the U.K. insurer navigate a government overhaul of the pensions system.

Third-party assets under management at Pimco fell to 987 billion euros ($1.1 trillion) by the end of December from 1.05 trillion euros a year earlier, Munich-based Allianz said in February. Net outflows almost halved to 125 billion euros last year compared with 2014, it said. Allianz Global Investors, the insurer’s second asset manager, saw record third-party net inflows of 17.5 billion euros last year.

“Our general approach for any business is to take a close look as to whether it is structurally well positioned and how it meets customer needs – Pimco’s business definitely does that,” Allianz said in a statement.

Allianz is seeking to boost earnings per share by 5 percent on average from 2016 to 2018.

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