For the past three years Generali PanEurope has been quietly trying out its new UK Private Wealth Portfolio – an offshore bond – and a related wealth structuring services component through a handful of UK-based private banks, according to the company’s head of wealth protection, Cillin O’Flynn.
David Gregory, formerly head of institutional relationships at Canada Life International, has been named to head up the new Generali PanEurope operation as executive director of UK and international business, beginning today. He will continue to be based in London.
Another key executive is understood to have been hired to assist Gregory in his new role, but has not yet been named. Meanwhile, the company is recruiting at least two additional “team” members, with plans to hire further employees, including support staff, over the next 12 months.
Generali PanEurope does not currently have any business presence in the UK and according to O’Flynn, it is not interested in competing for market share at the mass-affluent end of the offshore bond market.
Instead, O’Flynn said, it plans to leverage the expertise it has developed catering for wealthy individuals in such European markets as Italy, Spain, France, Ireland and Germany. Generali’s insurance products have proven particularly popular among those whose previously-undeclared assets have been drawn out into the open by such tax amnesty schemes as Italy’s scudo fiscale , O’Flynn noted.
‘UK is a private banking space’
The UK client Generali expects to be most interested in its new product will have at least £1m in investible assets, and probably £3m or more, according to O’Flynn.
“For us the UK is really a private banking space, where we look after the needs of HNW and UHNW clients,” he said. “And the UK Private Wealth Portfolio product has particular features that make it attractive for people operating in this market.”
For this reason the company expects take-up from the private-banking arms of globally-focused banks as well as smaller banks, boutique wealth managers, family offices and IFAs with HNWI clients.
“Our product and service offering, which is similar to what we offer in certain European markets, ties in perfectly with high net worth situations, in a way that practically no other providers’ product in the UK marketplace currently does,” O’Flynn said.
Tough year for offshore bonds
News of Generali PanEurope’s move to roll out a new offshore bond product – albeit a high-end one – comes as offshore bonds sales into the UK market in 2011 fell by more than 7% in 2011, according to the Association of British Insurers. A lack of confidence in the economy on the part of would-be buyers was among the reasons cited.
Although offshore bonds are generally seen as an investment product for wealthier-than-average individuals, Generali is going after the top end of this scale, which until now has been largely the preserve of Friends Provident-owned, Luxembourg-based Lombard International.
As reported here in February, Generali PanEurope is also entering the Swedish market this year. There, it is bring a range of its best-selling regular-premium and single-premium investment products, which it has re-designed for Swedish investors.
Founded in 2002 and headquartered on the outskirts of Dublin, General PanEurope is an arm of the Trieste, Italy-based insurance giant Assicurazioni Generali. It was created initially to market the savings products of Guernsey-based Generali International into Europe, following the introduction of new EU rules enabling companies to market their services freely across the Common Market’s borders.
Over the past four years, the operation has seen its funds under management climb to just under €6bn from less than €1bn four years ago, a Generali PanEurope spokesman said.
Gregory, who joins Generali PanEurope after almost a decade at Canada Life International, brings with him a knowledge of the UK private banking industry.
He began his career in financial services 24 years ago at Sun Life, which eventually became a part of Axa. Based on the Isle of Man, CLI is said to be among the top offshore bond providers into the UK market, as measured by sales.
At Canada Life, he is being succeeded by Andy Marks, who returns to the company from Met Life, where he was business development director.