Ricky Ho, Steve Chiu likely to surface at AIA

An expanded investment team and wealth management platform is being put in place as AIA readies its emancipation from AIG and CIO John Chu retires.

Ricky Ho, the former chief strategist and head of asset allocation at Ping An Insurance, and Steve Chiu, Invesco's former head of retail sales for the Greater China region, will likely surface in the soon-to-be listed AIA entity, according to well-placed sources.

The investment team at AIA needs to be expanded as the insurer emancipates itself from its problem-prone parent AIG. Assets from strategies that used to be outsourced or centrally run by AIG's New York and London offices are being remitted back to Asia as more of the portfolios get unwound or mature.

There needs to be an expanded team with deeper sophisticated talent to run these assets as AIA prepares itself to be listed in Hong Kong. The hirings are taking place as John Chu, AIA's veteran CIO, begins to map out succession arrangements ahead of his anticipated retirement.

Sources say Ho is being considered as one of the final candidates for the investment team. At AIA, he will likely perform a role similar to a previous position he held at Zurich.

Before taking up the role at Ping An Insurance, Ho was a global head of tactical asset allocation at Zurich Financial Services in London between 2003 to 2007. From 1998 to 2002 he was a head of research at BNP Paribas, a place where much of the awkwardness between Ho and Ping An's current de facto CIO Timothy Chan started. At the time when BNP merged with Paribas, Chan was apparently forced out of his role. Ho resigned from his role at Ping An in April this year.

Chan has never officially assumed the formal title of CIO after John Pearce left late last year. To date, the company refers to Chan as a deputy CIO. Pearce briefly become a consultant at Commonwealth Bank of Australia, the parent to his former firm Colonial First State, where Pearce was CEO. However, it appears he has since left the region and returned to his native Australia.

Meanwhile, sources also tell AsianInvestor that AIA might be planning a new wealth management platform, which will have its own separate profit and loss from the investment-linked product business within the firm. The sources say Steve Chiu will likely spearhead this new business. However, as the strategy has not yet received the full blessing from the company's management, Chiu's appointment is not certain at this stage.

Chiu joined Invesco in late 2006. Before Invesco he worked for HSBC for 15 years, first through Wardley Investment Service (since absorbed into HSBC Investments), then in a number of investment sales roles for both in-house and third-party products at HSBC Personal Financial Services.

Meanwhile, Donald Chan, a long-term veteran and key figure in the building of AIA's investment-linked business, appears to have left the firm in April this year. Chan had been a key patron to many wholesale fund distribution teams in Hong Kong over the years. Chan contributed to creating a larger presence for fund distribution through insurance investment-linked products in a market traditionally dominated by bank wealth management channels.

The sources did not comment whether these soon-to-be recruited candidates will receive equity from the AIA listing, which is expected to take place in the first quarter of 2010.

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