Shock as Prudential high-flyer quits

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The Independent Online

Prudential yesterday affirmed its commitment to its fast-growing Asian arm, after the director in charge of the division, Mark Tucker, shocked the City by announcing his resignation.

Mr Tucker, who has worked at Britain's second-biggest insurer for 18 years, will step down on 30 June. The departure has been prompted by the fact he has hit a glass ceiling at Prudential and wants to find a more senior job elsewhere.

However, Mr Tucker is not thought to have lined up another job and has a non-compete clause in his contract which in effect puts him on gardening leave until the end of the year.

Prudential denied reports that Mr Tucker's departure was the result of a boardroom clash. It issued a statement thatpraised the Prudential lifer and which said: "Mark leaves behind a very well-run business with a strong, highly qualified and experienced management team."

Mr Tucker, who was Prudential's highest paid director last year, earning £1.4m, was seen as one of its brightest stars. Under his leadership, Prudential's Asian business has expanded exponentially and now accounts for a third of the group's sales.

After discussing possible options with Prudential's chief executive, Jonathan Bloomer, Mr Tucker decided to leave because his ambitions stretch to becoming chief executive of a company. That is unlikely to happened at Prudential because Mr Bloomer, who has held the top job since March 2000, is only four years Mr Tucker's senior and is showing no signs of wanting to leave.

Mr Tucker is considering options in the US as well as UK. He could, like Sir Peter Davis before him, leave Prudential for a different sector. Sir Peter, who was chief executive of Prudential, is now chief executive of J Sainsbury.

Prudential's shares fell as much as 12p on the news but closed 1.5p up to 375.25p after the company sent a clear signal that it was committed to its Asian arm. It said it would continue to inject about £100m of annual investment into the business for the next few years. That will then be cut, because its businesses in the region have begun to be self-financing.