Zurich, the Swiss insurance giant, has named Jack Howell to head up its Asia-Pacific operations as regional chief executive, effective on 1 Sept.
Howell, who is American, comes to Zurich from Generali, where he has been that company’s regional officer for Asia since early 2015, according to a Zurich statement announcing his appointment.
He will be based in Hong Kong, and will report to Mario Greco, group chief executive officer, who also came to Zurich from Generali earlier this year – which he had joined three-and-a-bit years earlier from Zurich.
Stuart Spencer, who currently holds the position of regional CEO of Zurich in Asia Pacific, will remain in the region working closely with Jack Howell, Zurich said.
Spencer had joined Zurich as APAC CEO of its general insurance business in November, 2013, succeeding Johnny Chen, who moved to a senior role in overseeing Zurich’s China business. Then, in June, Spencer was named interim CEO of both Zurich’s life and general insurance businesses in Asia Pacific, while a permanent regional CEO was identified, a company spokesperson said.
This was part of a previously-announced plan to reshape and simplify the group, the spokesperson added. Prior to June, there hadn’t been a single overall APAC CEO position, but rather, there had been regional positions for the general insurance business and for the life insurance business.
According to Zurich, Howell has been working in the insurance industry for more than 20 years, much of that in the Asia Pacific region, where he has held the position of chief executive at insurance companies in the Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia, at AIG and Prudential.
In a statement, Greco said Howell’s “extensive experience” and other assets would enable him to “continue to build our presence” in Asia.
Greco is widely expected to bring about the sorts of changes at Zurich that he wrought during his recent stint at Generali, which are credited with having turned around and made more profitable. In June, Greco was quoted as telling journalists that he planned to streamline Zurich’s “famously complicated structure” by merging its life and non-life operations and creating a regional management structure.
Last year, Zurich announced it was exiting its international life business in Singapore, and, separately, that it would transfer its 150-agents-plus tied agency business to the Dubai-based Nexus Group. Company executives explained the decisions to a need to prioritise the business. A number of executives have also left the company or moved to other regional offices over the past year.