Australia-listed asset manager Perpetual has moved to appoint a new chief executive after a board-level dispute led Chris Ryan to step down after almost precisely a year in the role.
In an announcement posted on its website yesterday, Perpetual confirmed it had promoted Geoff Lloyd to CEO after just 18 months with the firm, most recently as group executive for private wealth and retail distribution.
In a previous interview with AsianInvestor, Ryan confirmed that his move from consultant at Citi’s global transaction services division in Asia to CEO at Perpetual had been a multi-month process.
As such, his sudden departure is a surprise. Local media have stated that Ryan was pushing ahead with strategic initiatives including the closure of the firm’s in-house global equities unit, group-wide cost reductions and outsourcing of its wealth management platform.
They also noted that his exit came after Perpetual lost star stock-picker John Sevior, who is seeking to launch a boutique fund this year. Perpetual has denied the two departures are linked and appointed Matt Williams and Charlie Lanchester as head and deputy head of equities, respectively, after Sevior's exit.
“While Mr Ryan had executed some important business improvements after joining Perpetual in February last year, it had become clear that there were differences between Mr Ryan and the board around emphasis and execution of strategy for the immediate and longer term,” Perpetual chairman Peter Scott says in a statement.
“Over the weekend we agreed to disagree with Chris Ryan on these important issues and that he would leave Perpetual as a result. The board thanks Mr Ryan for his contribution.”
A spokesman for the firm declined to comment further on the nature of the disagreement between the board and Ryan. It is a mystery how the divergence began, given the many months of negotiations to hire him in the first place.
Ryan told AsianInvestor the parting was "done very politely" but otherwise declined to comment. This is the second time he has left a firm after only a brief stint, again with both parties citing disagreements over strategy: his tenure as chief executive and managing director for Asia ex-Japan at Fidelity International lasted about two years and appeared to end in a similar fashion.
Perpetual has previously outlined its ambitions to AsianInvestor to penetrate the Asia ex-Japan market place. Asked if this dispute was related to the firm's Asia penetration plan, the spokesman adds: “Chris was never employed to focus on Asia, Of course, we took advantage of his knowledge in this space, but it was not a strategic priority.”
Lloyd was not available for interview to discuss strategy before press time. However, the Perpetual spokesman adds: “The new CEO will form a view on the strategy moving forward in due course and in consultation with his executive team. At this stage, Asia is not a priority.”
In its statement, Perpetual says Lloyd is ideally placed to step into the CEO and managing director role, having been closely involved in Perpetual’s review of its overall business strategy, structure and cost base over the past 12 months.
“Geoff Lloyd was recruited to Perpetual as a potential future CEO,” adds Scott. “He has demonstrated his understanding of the Australian financial services market through the strategy he has put in place for the private wealth division.”
In accepting his new position as CEO and managing director, Lloyd said he had accepted three key priorities with the Perpetual board.
“I have agreed with the board that we need to work harder and faster to refine the growth strategy for the business; deliver further meaningful cost reductions; and reinvigorate sales and distribution across the entire business,” Lloyd confirms in a statement.
“The immediate task for the senior management team is to review and align our plans for each of these key priorities across the entire business.”
Perpetual will pay Ryan on cessation of his employment in accordance with the provisions of his contract, which provides for a cash payment of A$1.2 million in lieu of 12 months’ notice.
He will also be considered for a short-term incentive payment in respect of the current financial year and will retain all uninvested shares, for which vesting is conditional upon the performance hurdles being met.
Lloyd, meanwhile, has signed a contract with fixed remuneration of A$1.1 million per annum inclusive of statutory superannuation contributions. There are also short- and long-term incentives.
Lloyd has over 20 years’ experience in the financial services industry. He joined Perpetual in August 2010 as group executive of private wealth and took on the additional responsibility of head of retail distribution in September last year.
He was previously general manager of advice and private banking at BT Financial Group following the merger with St George’s wealth management business.
Prior to the merger Lloyd led St George’s wealth management portfolio and was a member of the St George Bank group executive, reporting to the CEO.
Ryan was previously a consultant with Citi, a role he took on in April 2010. He has also had managing directorships at HSBC Funds Asia-Pacific, ING Investment Management and Fidelity International’s operations in Asia ex-Japan.