Standard Life, Europe's largest mutual insurer, moved yesterday to strengthen its board before its proposed flotation in 2006, announcing the appointment of new chief executives for both its UK Life and Pensions and its Asset Management divisions.
Trevor Matthews, the current president and chief executive of the Japanese arm of Manulife, the international insurance giant, will assume responsibility for the Life and Pensions operations on 1 July, also taking a position on the group's management board.
Mr Matthews will be one of just four executives on the board, alongside the group CEO Sandy Crombie, the head of Standard's Canadian operations Claude Garcia, and the finance director John Hylands.
The position of UK Life and Pensions CEO has not been filled since Jim Stretton retired three years ago, after which the firm undertook a management restructure.
Mr Matthews, the first high-profile external appointment at Standard for several years, comes to the group with a strong corporate track record. Before his current position, he headed Manulife's Canadian operations. He has also worked among the senior management of National Australia Bank's retail division.
Mr Crombie said: "I am delighted that Trevor has agreed to join the group and take up this key role. We have stretching targets for our UK Life and Pensions business and I know he is the right person to help ensure that we achieve our goals. He has wide-ranging industry experience on three continents, a proven track record of focusing business on meeting customers' needs, and a record of success in delivering effective change in similar organisations.
"We are determined to maintain our position as a leading player in the UK market and to continue to provide industry leading levels of customer service and support."
In yesterday's other appointment, Keith Skeoch, currently Standard Life Investments' chief investment officer, was promoted to the division's CEO, filling the vacancy provided by Sandy Crombie, who became group CEO at the start of the year. Unlike Mr Crombie, who was also the deputy group CEO while heading Standard Life Investments, Mr Skeoch will not have a seat on the group board.
Mr Skeoch joined the company five years ago, having previously worked in senior positions at HSBC Securities and James Capel. Hugh Stevenson, the chairman of Standard Life Investments, said Mr Skeoch was a natural leader and was respected greatly by his colleagues and the industry at large.
The appointments are not expected to be the last. The group is rumoured to also be seeking a new finance director to guide the group towards demutualisation. It declined to comment on the speculation yesterday.
The group announced plans to ditch its mutual status and head towards a flotation earlier this year, after its capital position was called into question. It had resisted calls to demutualise for several years.