Prudential has hired its first dedicated chief investment officers for Hong Kong and Singapore and is in the process of doing so in Malaysia, as it reorganises its structure in Asia, said sources familiar with the British insurance firm.

Lena Teoh took up the Singapore CIO role in January, having formerly worked for 16 years at Credit Suisse. She was most recently Asia-Pacific head of asset allocation for the Swiss firm's private bank, but moved on about a year ago, said a Credit Suisse insider. AsianInvestor could not ascertain what she had been doing between then and joining Prudential.

One of the biggest life insurers in Asia, Prudential already has a head of investments in Malaysia, Patricia Tan, who reports to the chief financial officer of that business. But it is also planning to appoint a CIO for that market, said a Prudential insider. 

These moves follow the departure last year of regional investment heads Joel Krueger (who was based in Singapore) and subsequently Paul Carrett (in Hong Kong).

Growing local focus

The changes may reflect the regulatory push in the region in recent years towards insurance firms having a stronger local investment head in each market, an industry consultant told AsianInvestor

Another consultant told AsianInvestor: “Given the different regulatory environments in different markets, it is almost impossible [for an insurance firm] to have an effective regional office, especially for larger operations, because local regulators want to see that the decision-making is done by the regulated entity rather than an offshore party."

In addition to Teoh's hire, Ben Rudd came on board as Prudential's CIO for Hong Kong last month, as reported exclusively by AsianInvestor in November. He had previously been CIO at Hong Kong-based family office Caravel Asset Management and before that headed overseas investment at Ping An of China Asset Management.

Industry observers suggested that Rudd, Teoh and CIOs for Prudential’s other larger Asian businesses would have full control over investments and manager outsourcing. However, most portfolio management is still expected to be carried out by Eastspring Investments, the group's Asian funds arm.

This structure could certainly be beneficial but the challenge is to make it work, said an insurance executive familiar with Prudential. Having a captive in-house fund firm can make it more difficult to outsource to external managers, he noted. 

Alongside the changes at Prudential, there is now a dedicated CIO based in Singapore for Eastspring: Virginie Maisonneuve took up the role in January. Previously Guy Strapp had served as both CEO and CIO in Hong Kong; he is now sole CEO. 

Exit of regional investment heads

But Prudential's own regional investment heads moved on last year.

Krueger left the role of Singapore-based regional investment officer in August after 22 years with the Prudential group, according to his LinkedIn page. He had been responsible for overseeing strategic asset allocation decisions for the various Prudential Life companies in Asia Pacific.

Krueger is now an adviser to Bento, a part-human, part-robo advisory service for wealthy investors that launched last month in Singapore.

Carrett, previously Hong Kong-based regional director for investment at Prudential, joined Hong Kong’s FWD Insurance as group CIO in October. He had been with Prudential since November 2014.

Prudential is not the only big insurance firm making big changes in the region. AIA has set up a centralised investment hub in Singapore with the aim of achieving greater cost efficiency, as reported. Moreover, other international insurers are known to be mulling their options on this front.

Prudential does not break out the figure for its assets under management in Asia, but sources estimate that it has at least $100 billion in regional AUM.

Prudential declined to comment for this article.