Zurich CIOs depart in Hong Kong and UK

Two chief investment officers have left the Swiss insurer – one who ran its Hong Kong and Singapore portfolios and the other who oversaw the UK life assets.
Zurich CIOs depart in Hong Kong and UK

The chief investment officer of Zurich Insurance’s Hong Kong and Singapore portfolios is leaving the Swiss firm and will be replaced in April, AsianInvestor can reveal.

Thomas Spirig’s departure has come soon after Aileen Mathieson, former CIO and head of wealth management for Zurich’s UK life business, left the firm in January. She had overseen £50 billion ($65 billion) of assets, according to her LinkedIn page.

A company spokesman said the moves were not connected.

A Hong Kong-based spokeswoman declined to discuss the reason for Spirig’s exit, and AsianInvestor could not reach Spirig for comment.

Thomas Spirig

Spirig had spent his whole 20-year career at Zurich, where he started in the head office in Zurich in 1998, according to his LinkedIn page. He has held his latest role since January 2014.

Zurich has promoted Philipp Furrer, a senior investment analyst in the regional investment team who is based in Hong Kong, to succeed Spirig on April 1.

Furrer will oversee a three-strong investment team, which is responsible for allocating the insurer’s assets to external managers. Zurich doesn’t manage any of the $1.5 billion across its Hong Kong and Singapore portfolios internally.

“I’m looking forward to it,” Furrer told AsianInvestor, although he said it was too early to discuss specific plans for after he takes over.

Spirig had told AsianInvestor in December that Zurich’s Hong Kong and Singapore units would make their first investments into private markets – specifically private debt – in 2019. He had also said that he felt it was a good time to try to reduce the duration gap between the two businesses’ assets and their liabilities, by using dollar-denominated bonds.

Like Spirig, Furrer has spent his entire career at Zurich, having joined 12 years ago as a university graduate. He spent his first five years in Switzerland working in the insurer’s local business, before relocating to Hong Kong, where he became an analyst and worked for seven years.

Aileen Matheson

“I was mainly supporting the region in investment-related projects and most recently quite a lot of M&A,” said Furrer, without specifying the type of consolidations he had been involved in. 

Meanwhile, Mathieson has decided to pursue a new opportunity, and her successor will be confirmed in due course, said a spokesman for the insurer. 

Mathieson joined the firm in November 2014 as CIO of linked funds for the UK life business, before becoming overall UK life CIO and head of wealth in January 2018, according to her LinkedIn page.

Matt Vincent, Zurich-based regional investment manager, has taken on the UK CIO duties in the interim. Chris Atkinson is acting as interim UK head of wealth in addition to his role as UK head of direct (non-brokered) sales.

The switches at Zurich follows various other recent CIO changes at insurance firms in Asia. In November, The UK's Prudential continued its strategy of appointing CIOs across Asia with the hire of Will Chen in Taiwan from Hong Kong insurer FWD. In October Mark Wang moved to HSBC Insurance as CIO from NTUC Income, and the month before that Benjamin Deng joined China Pacific Insurance as CIO from AIA. 

Various insurance CIOs will be speaking this week at AsianInvestor's 6th Insurance Investment Forum in Hong Kong on March 12 and its inaugural sister event in Singapore on March 14. For more information, please click here.

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