Eastspring Investments, the Asian asset management arm of UK insurer Prudential, is undergoing a radical shakeup of its management team, fuelling uncertainty about its business strategy.

Chief executive Guy Strapp, chief financial officer Ted Pull and chief operating officer Phil Stockwell are all leaving the Singapore-based firm, a spokeswoman has confirmed. 

Seck Wai-Kwong, previously Asia-Pacific CEO of State Street, will take over from Strapp, whose retirement was anticipated by some in the market.

But the departure of almost the entire leadership team comes as a shock and will likely raise concerns for clients of Eastspring about what this means for the business, industry observers told AsianInvestor.

The news comes amid ongoing market speculation about the future of both Eastspring and Prudential Corporation Asia, such as China's Ping An being mooted as a possible buyer for PCA.

Asked about the reasons for the changes, a spokeswoman said they "are designed to both streamline and enhance our capability to deliver on the significant growth opportunities across the region".

QUESTIONS OVER CEO CHANGE

Yet multiple industry sources said Seck's appointment begs the question why Eastspring would hire someone with no experience of running an asset management business.

Seck Wai-Kwong

The 63-year-old Seck also worked at the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), Singaporean wealth fund GIC and Singapore Exchange (as CFO). He has been replaced at State Street by Ian Martin.

Moreover, Virginie Maisonneuve, Eastspring’s chief investment officer, had been widely viewed as a likely successor to Strapp when she assumed the role in January 2017.  

Asked about Prudential's rationale for his appointment, the spokeswoman said: “This appointment reflects Prudential’s desire to accelerate growth of Eastspring in the region. Wai-Kwong brings an invaluable level of insight to the position.

“Wai-Kwong has over 30 years’ investment and senior management experience gained from roles internationally,” said the spokeswoman, adding that he has “deep understanding and knowledge of asset management businesses and the markets in which Eastspring operates”.

She pointed to the fact that he had headed Singaporean bank DBS’s investment banking group and wealth management businesses, and was responsible for the asset management arm.

He also served as head of fixed income for Lehman Brothers in Asia and was responsible for their investment banking activities in Singapore, the spokeswoman said.

In addition, he built GIC’s special investment team, she added, and managed numerous bond divisions and portfolios both there and in his time at MAS.

OTHER DEPARTURES

Meanwhile, the exits of Pull and Stockwell were seen as a major surprise.

Pull has worked at Eastspring for some 18 years, as CFO since 2013 and as COO before that, according to his LinkedIn page. 

Stockwell has been with the firm since September 2014, serving as COO since May 2015. He has also served as Singapore CEO and general manager of investments, according to LinkedIn. Before that he worked in Australia for investment manager Pendal Group, BT Financial Group and Westpac.

Stockwell's departure is effective immediately, while Pull will remain at Eastspring until the end of February, said the spokeswoman.

For further insight and analysis into how insurers are seeking to invest and navigate regulatory changes, look out for AsianInvestor's 6th Insurance Investment Forum in Hong Kong on March 12 and its inaugural sister event in Singapore on March 14. For more information, please click here.

Richard Morrow contributed to this story.