New M&G CEO rules out break-up, sees opportunity in volatility

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Illustration shows a smartphone with displayed M&G plc logo

By Kirstin Ridley and Andres Gonzalez

LONDON (Reuters) -Andrea Rossi, the investment veteran named as chief executive of M&G on Thursday, has ruled out breaking up one of Britain’s best-known fund management companies and expects growth despite turbulent markets and a cost-of-living crisis.

Rossi, who replaces outgoing CEO John Foley next month, told Reuters that the company had “specific strengths” to launch market-leading products as he sought to silence critics who argue that a 154 billion pound ($167 billion) asset management business attached to a 193 billion pound retail and savings division is unwieldy.

“There will be no break-up,” he said.

But Rossi, a former head of AXA Investment Managers, will have to deal with a choppy environment for investors, including extreme financial market volatility and rampant inflation, partly due to the impact of the Ukraine conflict.

“These are volatile times and from my perspective, my job is to manage the business well whatever the external environment and help our clients manage further investments responsibly,” he said.

But he added: “I think these are opportunities – it is when you will see winners and losers. And clearly, with the strong foundation we have, I see it as being as an opportunity for us.”

Derren Nathan, head of equity research at Hargreaves Lansdown, noted that Rossi oversaw growth in assets under management of 55% to 800 billion euros ($777 billion) during a six-year stint at AXA and appeared to be a “great fit.”

But he stressed that Rossi would struggle to repeat that in the current environment.

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“M&G has been a casualty of this week’s chaos in the bond markets. … The shares have slid over 15% this week and the new captain has his work cut out to steady both the ship and investor nerves,” he said.

The Bank of England on Wednesday stepped into Britain’s bond market to stem a market rout, pledging to buy around 65 billion pounds of long-dated gilts after the new government’s tax cut plans triggered the biggest sell-off in decades.

M&G’s assets under management and administration dropped 6% in the first half of 2022 to 349 billion pounds, the group reported in August, although it posted net inflows of cash from clients totaling 1.2 billion pounds over the same period.

But shares have tumbled 28% since then, compared with a 10% fall in the broader FTSE 100 index. On Thursday, they were down 2.14% to 164.5 pence, having touched their lowest level since late 2020, as worries about the pound and the stability of the UK economy escalate.

The appointment of Rossi, who will earn a base salary of 875,000 pounds plus incentives, has been approved by Britain’s financial regulators the PRA and FCA, M&G said.

Foley, who led M&G’s split from parent Prudential in 2019, announced his intention to retire in April.

($1 = 0.9209 pounds)

($1 = 1.0291 euros)

(Reporting by Andres Gonzalez and Kirstin Ridley; Editing by Sinead Cruise, Jane Merriman, Emelia Sithole-Matarise and Mark Porter)