Ping An CIO John Pearce was not fired

Reports in other media of PearceÆs departure from Shenzhen-based Ping An Group are pure rumour.
John Pearce, CIO of Ping An Insurance, has not been fired and neither has he resigned, according to an internal source who has a direct working relationship with Pearce in Ping AnÆs Hong Kong asset management office.

Contrary to reports published in Chinese newspapers and The Wall Street Journal, Louis Cheung, president of the Ping An Group, will not replace Pearce. Pearce will remain in charge of the investment units. The source says there is no pressure at this stage to terminate PearceÆs contract with the group over the current crisis.

Pearce had taken the flak for the Rmb23.87 billion ($3.5 billion) loss on Ping AnÆs investment in the Fortis Group. The loss is strangely coincidental to the reported reduction in the insurerÆs total assets, from $101.43 billion at the beginning of the year to $95 billion as of its latest results, raising suspicion in the accuracy of the groupÆs valuation modelling.

Pearce had said on record that the Fortis deal was driven by an attractive financial valuation and a strategic opportunity to transform Ping An from a domestic insurance house to a global player with FortisÆs asset management expertise and global distribution networks. Financial modelling at the time had shown Fortis to be a compatible addition that will further offer a financial upside through its stable governance, visible cash flows and attractive dividends.

No mention has been made of write-down on A-share and Hong Kong equities so far. As at the end of September, Ping An has a Rmb7.59 billion exposure to Hong Kong listed stocks and equities, and a cash position of Rmb1.59 billion.

The group maintains the insurance unitÆs overall financial strength is sound, but it will inject Rmb20 billion to boost its capital base.

Further to the confirmed retention of Pearce, the source says the company has been active in strengthening its investment team. He could not disclose the names of new recruits, but says opportunistic hires have come up, as more talented professionals have entered the recruitment markets.

Pearce was hired by Ping An to replace Philip Young who left the firm in January 2007. Young was poached by Carlyle to work at China Pacific Insurance, ChinaÆs third largest insurer, shortly after the US buyout firm acquired the group.

In an interview given to AsianInvestor in January 2008, Pearce said he was appointed to Ping An with the mission of centralising oversight of the investment teams in Shenzhen, Shanghai and Hong Kong. He was also tasked with transforming Ping AnÆs asset management unit from a pure investment function to a genuinely global asset management business.

Prior to Ping An, Pearce had spent 15 years working for Colonial First State in Australia. His last title at Colonial First State was CEO of its investment unit. Over the years, he also held various titles such as head of risk management, head of funding, head of financial markets and head of treasury.
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