Switzerland's Zurich Insurance has appointed Jack Howell as Asia-Pacific chief executive, effective September 1 and reporting to Mario Greco, group CEO.

Howell will take over the Hong Kong-based role from Stuart Spencer, who had held the position on an interim basis since June and will remain in the region working closely with Howell. Zurich did not clarify Spencer's exact role or job title.

The regional CEO post was created in June as part of a global process to simplify the group's management structure, bringing together the roles of general insurance CEO, which Spencer had held since 2013, and life insurance CEO. 

Howell joins Zurich from Italian insurer Generali, where he held the role of regional officer for Asia since early 2015. A Generali spokeswoman said a search for a replacement was under way.

Howell has 20 years' experience managing insurance businesses in the region, including in CEO positions in the Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia at AIG and Prudential.

Spencer joined Zurich in 2013, taking over the general insurance CEO role from Johnny Chen, who moved to become chairman of Zurich's life and general insurance businesses in China.