(Recasts with statement, combines with sources, adds values)
MILAN, Jan 27 (Reuters) - Italian insurer Generali has approved a shake-up plan that will strengthen the hand of Chief Executive Philippe Donnet to speed up delivery on targets and develop key business areas such as asset management.
As part of the plan the insurer’s No 2 executive, Frederic De Courtois, will leave the company as his position as general manager is abolished, confirming what sources earlier told Reuters.
The plan, drawn up by Donnet and approved unanimously by the board, aims to make Generali nimbler as the COVID-19 pandemic takes its toll on households and businesses.
This year marks the end of the strategy Donnet unveiled late in 2018 and some analysts are worried fallout from the health emergency could go deeper than expected.
De Courtois, who like Donnet is French, will leave the company on February 1. Donnet and De Courtois are both former managers at French rival Axa.
Some of Generali’s Italian shareholders have expressed concern about French nationals holding the two top positions at Italy’s biggest insurer, which has a large Italian state bond portfolio, sources said last week.
Speculation over change at Generali grew when Italian eyewear billionaire Leonardo Del Vecchio became the biggest single shareholder in its largest investor Mediobanca.
Del Vecchio, who also owns shares in Generali, has ruled out a merger with Axa or Zurich, which have been rumoured suitors.
Sources have said he prefers organic growth or mergers which do not raise questions over the firm’s Italian identity.
The group of Italian investors also includes businessman Francesco Gaetano Caltagirone.
“I think Donnet needs to prove to Caltagirone and Del Vecchio that there is no ‘inner circle’, especially since this is the last year of his current term,” a source told Reuters.
Donnet has been at the helm since 2016, and his mandate as CEO comes up for renewal in early 2022.
Generali, currently worth 22.7 billion euros, said its new structure would accelerate plans to grow its asset management business which will boost profits and absorb less capital. (Reporting by Claudia Cristoferi, Gianluca Semeraro and Stephen Jewkes; Editing by Jan Harvey and Chizu Nomiyama)