Pru, AIG CEOs meet Asia staff; talk AIA future, jobs

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Any job losses from Prudential Plc's planned $35.5 billion acquisition of American International Group's Asian insurance arm will be mainly in back-office operations and not among sales forces, the companies' CEOs told staff in Asia, sources said.

Prudential CEO Tidjane Thiam and his AIG counterpart Robert Benmosche are leading a series of 'town hall' meetings across Asia that aim to allay concerns among staff of both companies.

The CEOs are reiterating they plan to keep the businesses and brands separate, with overlap mainly in back- and middle-office operations, according to people who attended the meetings.

The chief executives met employees in Malaysia on Thursday morning, and arrived together, though in separate cars, later in Singapore to meet staff there. They are expected to visit Thailand on Friday.

Neither CEO would comment to reporters outside Singapore's Suntec convention center.

In what is the insurance industry's biggest acquisition, Prudential is buying American International Assurance in a big bet on soaring demand in Asia for personal financial services. AIA is regarded as AIG's crown jewel because of its size, cash generation and presence in fast-growth Asia.

AIA serves more than 20 million customers in Asia. Prudential has more than 11 million life insurance customers in the region.

The deal, which AIG chose over a planned AIA initial public offering in Hong Kong, would help the bailed-out U.S. group repay a big chunk of its taxpayer debt.

The meetings with employees kicked off in Hong Kong on Wednesday, where Thiam and Benmosche addressed staff of the two companies side-by-side, according to people who were present.

AIA workers dialed in or assembled on the 33rd floor at the firm's Central headquarters where the meeting was held, while Prudential held its gathering at an exhibition center in Kowloon Bay, big enough to fit the company's 700 people.

Benmosche said that with markets softening ahead of the mooted IPO, a deal with Prudential offered more certainty, according to one person who attended. Benmosche also explained the importance of paying back the U.S. government, that person said. AIG is trying to pay back a $182.3 billion taxpayer-funded rescue package launched during the financial crisis.

Should Prudential succeed in taking over AIA, the companies have promised to keep the AIA brand name -- a message that was conveyed at the AIA 'town hall'.

The meetings also aimed to put employees at ease, saying it was business as usual for now, with no planned layoffs for front-end, customer-facing staff.

In Malaysia, where AIA has more than 1,000 staff and a network of 10,000 agents, Thiam and Benmosche briefed staff for an hour at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in central Kuala Lumpur.

Thiam answered questions, many of which centered on fears of job losses, said a person who attended that meeting, but who declined to be named.

In Singapore, where both AIA and Prudential have about 15 percent market share, the two CEOs will address employees at two meetings, Prudential said in an emailed statement, adding around 800 staff were expected at the hour-long Prudential session.

Meeting Prudential and AIA employees in Asia is a top priority for me, Thiam said in the statement.

This is a terrific growth story for both companies.

(Reporting by Michael Flaherty in HONG KONG, Julie Goh in KUALA LUMPUR and Saeed Azhar in SINGAPORE; Additional reporting by Parvathy Ullatil in HONG KONG)

(Writing by Muralikumar Anantharaman, Editing by Ian Geoghegan)

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