What a difference a year can make.

In mid-2017, HSBC Insurance was understood to be seeking buyers for parts of its business and seemed on the verge of being broken up. Then at the start of this year group chief investment officer Alexandre Mincier moved on.

The vacancy has now been filled in Hong Kong by Mark Wang, former CIO of Singaporean insurer NTUC Income. And his arrival follows other recent leadership hires, as HSBC moves to reinvigorate its insurance business after the arrival of Mark Tucker from rival AIA as HSBC Holdings' chairman in October 2017. 

Mark Wang

Wang took up the global CIO role last Monday at HSBC Insurance, which holds $73 billion of its assets in Asia out of $108 billion globally. A spokeswoman declined to specify the figure for its investment assets under management.

Wang will lead investment teams across the group and look after investment strategy, investment governance process and mandate management for its entities globally. He also works closely with HSBC Global Asset Management and supports group insurance-wide balance-sheet management initiatives.

LEADERSHIP CHANGES

Wang reports to Katrien Verwilst, head of balance sheet optimisation for group insurance, also based in Hong Kong. Verwilst herself joined in the newly created role in September last year from British insurer Prudential, and temporarily took on the CIO duties after Mincier’s departure.

In addition, HSBC Insurance hired Alistair Chamberlain in April this year as Singapore-based global head of product and actuarial; the spokeswoman declined to say who was in the post before. He was previously chief financial officer at Hong Kong-based insurer AIA.

And Carlos Vazquez joined HSBC Insurance as Singapore chief executive in March replacing Ian Martin, who has assumed a new global role at the firm in London. Vazquez was previously chief product officer at Manulife Singapore.

Wang’s exit from NTUC Income comes after it transferred the running of its public market assets – some 80% of its total portfolio – to Singapore’s Fullerton Fund Management last year. The deal had sparked speculation about its implications for the investment teams at both government-linked entities.

NTUC Income and Fullerton declined to comment.

Prior to joining NTUC Income in September 2015, Wang had served as CIO of AIA Malaysia and chief executive of AIA Pension and Asset Management Company.

His predecessor, Mincier, had been based in London when he was CIO at HSBC Insurance and he is now global head of insurance at US asset manager Invesco, based in Paris.

ASIA AMBITION

The shakeup at HSBC Insurance comes as the firm is making a big push to expand via digital distribution in Asia.

“We have been investing in digital channels especially in Hong Kong where we have a range of solutions available through our online channels,” the spokeswoman told AsianInvestor.

In Hong Kong, the firm aims to see third of new business sales being made through digital channels by the end of 2019, said Edward Moncreiffe, the insurer’s Hong Kong chief executive, in March. Quoted in the South China Morning Post, he noted that 8.2% of new sales had come from digital channels 2017.

HSBC Insurance is aiming to grow market share in Hong Kong, China and Singapore, the spokeswoman added.

It plans to open a branch in Shenzhen shortly with a view to capturing opportunities in the Greater Bay Area, she noted. That will add to its China headquarters in Shanghai and branches in Beijing, Tianjin and Guangzhou.

However, HSBC Insurance has made disposals recently: it was reported in August that Hong Kong-based insurer FWD Group had agreed to buy HSBC Holdings’ stake in HSBC Amanah Takaful, a Malaysian insurance joint venture.

Joe Marsh contributed to this story.