France’s AXA Group has appointed Philippe Donnet to the position of AXA Group Regional CEO – based in Singapore – to oversee AXA’s principal insurance businesses in the Japan & Asia-Pacific region, effective October 1. The appointment confirms AXA’s intention to have Donnet “assume a wider role within the AXA Group,” as it indicated last March when he was named chairman of AXA Japan Holding.
The Asia-Pacific region has been targeted by AXA (and a number of other insurers) as being “a region with high growth potential for AXA’s Financial Protection business.” It currently operates the following subsidiaries there: “Japan: AXA Japan Holding, AXA Life Japan and AXA Direct (P&C) — All other regional P&C operations (with operations in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong and Indonesia) — China: AXA China, 51 percent owned by AXA and 49 percent owned by AXA Asia Pacific Holdings (AXA APH) — All other regional life insurance operations under the supervision of AXA APH – based in Melbourne (with operations in Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, China and India).”
AXA also announced that following the decision by Les Owen, Group CEO of AXA APH, to retire from his role as CEO, the Company has chosen Andrew Penn as his successor. Penn is the CEO of AXA Australia & New Zealand, and has now been appointed to the position of Group Chief Executive of AXA APH as of October 1, 2006. He will also join the AXA Group executive committee, replacing Owen, who will, however, continue to serve as a non-executive director of AXA UK, the holding company for AXA’s British and Irish businesses.
Commenting on the management moves, AXA President Henri de Castries, stated: “Philippe Donnet has proven over his years at AXA his ability to manage international teams with a vision. I am therefore very confident that his leadership skills and thorough knowledge of the insurance business will add strength and energy to our growing and already successful operations throughout the Japan Asia Pacific region.
“I am delighted to welcome Andrew Penn to the AXA Group executive committee as new Group Chief Executive of AXA APH. His many talents and recognized track record as CEO of AXA Australia & New Zealand are a valuable addition to our international executive team, as the Group moves forward toward its ‘Ambition 2012’ company-wide project of becoming ‘the preferred company in its industry’.”
De Castries also praised Owen, stating: “After 35 years of outstanding contributions to Sun Life, AXA APH, and AXA, Les Owen has decided to retire from his executive duties. On behalf of myself, the AXA Management Board and all members of AXA’s Executive Committee, I would like to express to Les our sincere thanks and gratitude for his many valuable contributions over the years. For over three decades, Les has been both a highly respected figure in the industry and a decisive builder of AXA’s franchise worldwide. We are very happy that we will continue to benefit from his wealth of experience and many insights in his capacity as a non executive director of AXA UK.”
The 46 year-old Donnet, a Fellow of the French elite school, Ecole Polytechnique, has held a number of positions within the Group since he joined the company in 1985 with a first position at AXA Canada. After serving in a number of different posts he was appointed CEO of AXA Italy to restructure AXA’s Italian operations following the merger with UAP in 1997. In 2001 he was named to head the newly formed AXA Mediterranean Region & Canada. In early 2002, he was appointed CEO of AXA RE and chairman of AXA Corporate Solutions. AXA’s bulletin noted that he “successfully streamlined the reinsurance business of AXA to bring it back to profitability. In 2003, he was appointed CEO of AXA Japan where he led the company to outstanding growth through the expansion of its distribution networks along with the launch of highly profitable new products.”
It’s pretty widely known in French business circles that de Castries, and perhaps more importantly AXA’s legendary founder, eminence grise and Chairman, Claude Bébéar, are closely watching Monsieur Donnet’s progress.
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