Generali revamp plan will squeeze out current No 2 - sources

MILAN, Jan 27 (Reuters) - The No 2 executive at Generali , Frederic De Courtois, is set to leave his role as part of a planned shake-up at Italy’s largest insurer, three sources with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

The plan drawn up by Chief Executive Philippe Donnet, who like de Courtois is French, aims to make Generali nimbler in implementing its strategy to respond more quickly to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The idea is that from now on there will be more people reporting directly to Donnet,” one of the sources said.

The sources did not rule out general manager de Courtois leaving the group to take up a position elsewhere.

Generali declined to comment. De Courtois did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

Some of the insurer’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 about possible 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 either French insurance giant Axa or Zurich, both of which have been rumoured suitors for the group.

Sources have said he prefers organic growth or mergers which do not raise questions over the firm’s Italian identity.

Both Donnet and de Courtois are former managers at Axa.

This year marks the end of the business plan Donnet unveiled late in 2018 and some analysts are worried the impact of the pandemic could go deeper than expected, even though in November Generali confirmed financial targets through 2021.

The group of Italian investors in Europe’s third-biggest insurer also includes businessman Francesco Gaetano Caltagirone, who recently increased his stake to 5.4%.

“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,” one of the sources said.

Donnet has been at the helm since 2016, and his mandate as CEO comes up for renewal in early 2022.

“The plan will also set up asset management as a standalone business,” a source said. (Reporting by Claudia Cristoferi, Gianluca Semeraro and Stephen Jewkes; Editing by Jan Harvey)