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Neal gets his team together

QBE’s restructure of its group executive positions the global company for life after Group CEO Frank O’Halloran retires in August.

All the divisional leaders now report directly to his successor, John Neal, who has left most of the positions untouched, although some responsibilities have been reallocated.

The only casualty of the restructure is Group Chief Actuarial Officer and Head of Reinsurance Blair Nicholls, who will leave QBE after his role was split in two.

The unexpected news within the reorganisation announcement, reported last week in a Breaking News bulletin by, was the decision by Asia Pacific CEO Mike Goodwin to leave QBE on July 27.

However, he will remain a non-executive director on some of the group’s Asia boards and his replacement, once appointed, will join the group executive.

The direct reports to Mr Neal are:
Steven Burns, CEO European Operations;
Neil Drabsch, Group CFO;
Colin Fagen, CEO Australian & New Zealand Operations;
Duncan Ramsay, Group General Counsel and Company Secretary;
John Rumpler, President and CEO North America Operations;
Jenni Smith, Group Executive Officer People and Communications;
Jose Sojo, CEO Latin America Operations; and
George Thwaites, Group Chief Risk Officer.

Mr Thwaites will take on additional responsibility for Group Actuarial, and Chief Underwriting Officer North America Operations Jim Fiore has been appointed Group Chief Reinsurance Officer.

He will manage QBE’s outwards reinsurance, including external reinsurance placements of the group and oversight of QBE’s captive reinsurer, Equator Re.

The inwards reinsurance business, QBE Re, will remain reporting to Jonathan Parry in London.

Meanwhile, the market has generally shrugged off a decision by Moody’s to revise QBE’s credit outlook from stable to negative.

The ratings agency cites elevated gearing, growing intangibles, complex catastrophe risk, expanding lenders mortgage insurance risks in Australia and lenders-placed insurance risks in the US, as well as the need for QBE to shift gearing below 30% and its combined operating ratio below 90%.

Merrill Lynch analyst Andrew Kearnan says notwithstanding capital concerns, “we think the capital position can be restored within two years”.

“The group has indicated [the first quarter of 2012] was one of the best on record and the prospect of a better than forecast first half is what has us retaining a ‘buy’ call.”

Meanwhile, QBE last week confirmed it has completed the acquisition of HSBC Argentina SA and its associated bancassurance arrangements. The sale was announced on March 7.

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