Aviva high-flyer Thiam to join Pru as finance director

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Prudential, the UK's second-largest life insurer, got one over its biggest rival, Aviva, yesterday, poaching the head of its European operations, Tidjane Thiam, to replace its outgoing finance director Philip Broadley.

Mr Thiam, 45, has been one of the rising stars of the insurance industry over the past few years, and was only recently appointed to his new role as head of Aviva Europe. He is expected to join Prudential in April, with Mr Broadley leaving the company, after eight years in the job, at the end of May.

"Tidjane's diverse background and experience mean that he is well-suited to help lead Prudential to the next stage of its development," said Mark Tucker, Prudential's group chief executive. "He is widely respected in the industry and has a great reputation for optimising performance and value. I look forward to the strong contribution he will make to the board.

"I am very sorry Philip is leaving us. He will do so after eight years, during which time he has made a great contribution to Prudential and been a valued partner to me as chief executive."

Mr Thiam, a French citizen, has had a distinguished career in both the financial services industry and the political arena. Previous to joining Aviva in 2002, he was a Partner at McKinsey in Paris, and head of the company's financial institution group in France.

He is also a former chief executive of the National Bureau for Technical Studies in the Ivory Coast, where he was born, and spent a year as the country's minister for planning and development – surviving a political coup in 1999.

New Nation, the black newspaper, recently named Mr Thiam as the fifth most influential black man in the UK. He is one of only two black directors of companies in the FTSE 100.

"It's a great hire for Prudential," said Raghu Hariharan, an analyst at Fox-Pitt, Kelton. "It's now a great team, probably one of the most powerful in the UK life sector, and even in Europe. For Aviva, this is obviously a very big loss."

The poach is a coup for Prudential, and an embarrassment for its long-time rival Aviva. Relations between the pair have been frosty over the past 18 months after Aviva's failed bid for Prudential in March 2006.

Shares in Aviva closed down 4p at 684.5p, yesterday, giving the company a market value of £17.8bn.