Stephan van Vliet, the group chief investment officer (CIO) of Prudential Corporation Asia (PCA), is set to leave his current role to go on a sabbatical of up to 12 months at the end of June, AsianInvestor can reveal.

Stephan van Vliet:
embarking on sabbatical

Once he leaves, Stephen Metcalfe will take over responsibilities for the PCA investment team, in addition to his current role as chief capital officer.

Van Vliet said he had decided to take the sabbatical to return to his home country of the Netherlands for personal reasons.

“[Taking a sabbatical] is something that I have been wanting to do for a while, but in [large] organisations like this one you need to wait for the right opportunity,” he told AsianInvestor.

The Dutch native was originally appointed as the group CIO of PCA in May 2017. He joined from Pinebridge Investments, where he had been the head of insurance asset management since January 2014.

In the time since joining, van Vliet has seen Prudential change a great deal. The life insurer reported that its internal Asia insurance assets at the end of 2017 were $109.46 billion, while the external funds of wholly-owned fund manager Eastspring Investments stood at $55.9 billion.

In the years since then it has de-merged its European life insurance business and fund house M&G. PCA's internal funds for its Asia operations stood at $171.4 billion at the end of 2020, while the external funds of Eastspring were $109.6 billion. 

During his time at PCA, van Vliet helped to stock up a selection of country CIOs, who are responsible for investing the assets generated from the policies of its country divisions. He has also acted as an informal adviser to Eastspring Investments, PCA’s wholly-owned asset manager headquartered in Singapore.

When asked whether van Vliet would return from the sabbatical, a spokeswoman said it was “too early” to answer for certain.

SECOND STINT

Group CIO-in-waiting:
Stephen Metcalfe

Metcalfe will take over van Vliet's responsibilities less than nine months after having joined PCA. He was hired by the life insurer in October 2020 from rival AIA, where he had been head of group asset-liability management for four years, according to his LinkedIn.

This marks Metcalfe's second stint at PCA; before working at AIA he had been head of capital optimisation in London, between June 2014 and September 2016.  

While van Vliet is leaving the Asia region, he will retain his chair position at Citic-Prudential Asset Management, the joint-venture insurance fund manager established by Citic-Prudential Life Insurance last year. He said he would also continue to be a senior adviser on environmental, social and governance (ESG) to PCA, noting that this is “a topic that is dear to my heart”.

As part of these efforts, van Vliet oversaw the expansion of PCA's Southeast Asian local currency bond portfolios with innovative features such as collateralised, guaranteed and green bonds.

In addition, during his time in charge the investment team established new global equity and multi-asset portfolios across the region as well as Shariah solutions in Indonesia and Malaysia, and participated in PCA's establishment of Citic Prudential, and a new mutual funds division in the Philippines in 2019, called Pru Life UK Investments. 

RINGING IN CHANGES

Van Vliet’s extended departure from PCA follows a tumultuous time for Prudential. Its de-merger of its UK-based life insurance operations and M&G fund arm in October 2019 is set to be followed by a plan to spin off of its US business Jackson this year.

PCA has seen several other notable changes to its senior staff in recent months. On March 25, AsianInvestor revealed that Ben Rudd, its CIO for Prudential Hong Kong for four years, was internally moving to become its chief wealth officer. He was replaced by Fanda Ho, who was appointed head of investments.

Earlier, in August 2020, the insurer appointed David Chua as CIO for its Singapore unit after his predecessor, Lena Teoh, embarked on a sabbatical from which she has yet to return.

Previously, in 2018, PCA raided Hong Kong-headquartered rival FWD for its Hong Kong CIO, appointing Will Chen as its CIO for Taiwan. Earlier in the same year it turned to another rival, AIA, to hire Novi Imelda as its CIO for its Indonesia operations.

Eastspring Investments has also seen one senior figure recently depart on a sabbatical. Joanna Ong, its co-head of investment solutions and a senior multi-asset portfolio manager, is going on extended leave from the end of July 2021. She oversees some of the largest participating funds at Eastspring, which invests the pooled policies of participating life insurance plans.

The fund manager has also seen its chief risk officer for Singapore depart to join the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, the sovereign wealth fund for the emirates state.