Pru's new chief Mike Wells won't be losing sleep for a while yet


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The Independent Online

A couple of key events formed a salutary backdrop to the first outing of the Pru’s new chief, Mike Wells: a merger of two annuities specialists stricken by No 10’s pensions revolution and a titanic move by China to boost its flagging economy.

The first served as a reminder of the Pru’s strength in diversity. The annuities change in Osborne’s Budget last year, while strychnine for Just Retirement and Partnership Assurance, registers as barely a pimple on a global beast like the Pru.

But the second pointed to the risks it faces by having so much of its business in the China-dominated Asian region.

Doubters make much of the latter, but Mr Wells – a keen historian of the European Renaissance – isn’t losing sleep. For all the short-term stresses in China, the rise of the middle classes in Asia is happening on a scale akin to that in the Europe of the Medicis. It will continue as the biggest demographic theme of the 21st century.

Selling these folks affordable savings and protection products – particularly where state welfare provision is practically non-existent – should be a doddle for decades to come. The tricky bit for Mr Wells will be proving his worth at a business whose success has already been assured by his predecessor. No easy task.