Prudential fears Covid regulations will force next CEO to work outside of Hong Kong

Prudential’s next chief executive could be forced to start a role from outside Hong Kong because of “conflicts” with Covid restrictions in the territory, the company’s newly appointed interim boss says. insurance company.

Mark FitzPatrick, who will lead Prudential on an interim basis from the end of March, told the Financial Times that he is “absolutely likely to see the CEO working short-term outside of Hong Kong until he can actually run a business within the region.” easier area [from there]”.

Insurer speak This month, its next chief executive will be based in Asia after the consortium was founded, having left it with a UK headquarters and London-Hong Kong joint headquarters, but its core market Its core is presently in Hong Kong and Mainland China.

Fitzpatrick, who has excluded himself from the race for the permanent job, said he “will look forward to [next] The CEO will be based in Hong Kong for the long term” but added that the two-week hotel quarantine has created an “element of friction”.

“There may be practical reasons, for where individuals need to be on a temporary basis. . . while a new CEO can capture the organization,” he said.

Prudential interim boss Mark FitzPatrick:

The territory’s “zero-Covid” policy has disrupted business in Hong Kong, with Standard Chartered chief executive Bill Winters speech it will struggle to retain its position as Asia’s leading financial hub if it remains effectively closed to international travel and enforces prolonged quarantine measures.

A range of global business groups have acted to temporarily locate their top Asian executives outside Hong Kong due to operational problems caused by the pandemic’s restrictions. territory, one of the toughest constraints in the world.

Luxury hotel group Mandarin Oriental and French spirits maker Pernod Ricard want to temporarily move their executives to alternative hubs, including Singapore and Dubai. Meanwhile, Bank of America is considering what roles to move from Hong Kong to Singapore.

Hong Kong is struggling to contain its worst virus outbreak in more than two years. Chinese President Xi Jinping has told the city’s leaders to “take all necessary steps” to control a surge in cases, raising fears of more draconian measures. for financial centers.

Financial services groups warned late last year that punitive quarantines on anyone entering the territory – as well as long-term quarantines in government camps for anyone who had close contact with the person. coronavirus infection – will damage the city’s position as a global financial hub.

Prudential had previously come under pressure from activist investor Third Point to scrap its London headquarters, where headcount has dropped to just under 200.

FitzPatrick said he expects that number to drop “a little more” next year as it moves towards a “one head office in two locations” model, with comparable capabilities serving investors in London. and Hong Kong.

Before the pandemic, Prudential’s board of directors met in “different locations,” FitzPatrick said. “We hope that board meetings will be held through a combination of. . . London and in Asia on a forward basis, as people can travel more. ”

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