Paul Carrett has stepped down from his position as group chief investment officer of FWD and has become the CIO of Pacific Century Group, the Hong Kong-based private that owns the life insurance company.

Paul Carrett

Carrett sent an email seen by AsianInvestor on Monday (September 14), noting only that he had started working "today" at Pacific Century, the private investment group founded and headed by tycoon Richard Li.

Carrett did not respond to emailed and texted requests for further comment on the reason for leaving FWD, or what his new job would entail. However, a spokeswoman confirmed he had moved to the new CIO position.

The departure comes just under three months after FWD hired Andreas Hoffmann as deputy CIO. The spokeswoman said that Hoffmann will succeed Carrett as interim CIO, but declined to say whether his previous hiring into the deputy CIO role was part of a succession plan.

Carrett first joined FWD in October 2016, after having previously worked at rival Prudential as its regional director for investment. His appointment was widely seen as an effort by the insurer to raise the financial sophistication of its investment team.

Carrett had previously worked at Prudential since November 2014, and had also worked as an investment banker at UBS, JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs, among other positions. When joining FWD he espoused using more complex forms of investment instrument including derivatives for the purpose of risk management and to diversify potential investment returns.

RAPID ASSET GROWTH

Carrett presided over a period of rapid balance sheet growth upon joining, with the Hong Kong-based insurer having bolted on several regional peers to bolster its regional business in recent years.

Acquisitions included FWD completing the takeover of US life insurer Metlife’s Hong Kong business and Commonwealth Bank of Australia’s Indonesian life insurance business, both in June. It also agreed to purchase Vietcombank-Cardif Life Insurance in Vietnam in April, acquired Thailand’s SCB Life Assurance in April 2019 and bought AIG Fuji Life in 2017.

Combined these purchases have turned FWD into a pan-regional insurance operator, and leave it well-set to benefit from the region’s growing wealth and middle class. Chief executive Huynh Thanh Phong has made his intentions clear to make the company a top-tier pan-Asia life insurer, alongside peers such as AIA and Prudential.   

For Carrett, the purchases have required he and his team to overlook a much-enlarged array of assets, across a much larger number of jurisdictions. FWD’s total investment portfolio jumped from around $30 billion in June last year to about $50 billion as of July, Carrett told AsianInvestor in early July.

In addition, the insurer is seeking permission from Beijing to open a majority owned joint-venture business in mainland China. It first applied for a licence in 2018.

Story updated to clarify Carrett's previous job positions, Andreas Hoffmann's name and the date FWD applied for China licence.