Manulife Appoints UBS’s Kai Sotorp to Oversee $273 Billion

May 20, 2014 3:48 pm ET

(Updates with comment, description of search starting in fourth paragraph.)

May 20 (Bloomberg) -- Manulife Financial Corp., Canada’s largest life insurer, appointed UBS AG’s Kai Sotorp as chief executive officer of the asset-management unit overseeing C$298 billion ($273 billion).

Sotorp will be based in Toronto, subject to immigration approvals, and report to Warren Thomson, who is chairman of Manulife Asset Management and held the CEO title on an interim basis, the insurer said today in a statement. At UBS, Sotorp was CEO in the Asia Pacific region of the global asset-management business, according to the statement. He was based in Hong Kong and oversaw $120 billion and 495 employees, Manulife said.

Manulife is among North American insurers seeking to boost fee income from overseeing funds for institutional and retail clients. Canada’s Sun Life Financial Inc., along with MetLife Inc. and Principal Financial Group Inc. in the U.S. have all announced plans to bolster asset management.

“We see this as an opportunity to better integrate what we’re doing on both sides of the business -- manufacturing and distribution,” Thomson, who is also chief investment officer for Toronto-based Manulife, said in a phone interview.

Sotorp’s role is a new one, according to Thomson. Jean- Francois Courville, who was head of Manulife Asset Management until 2013, didn’t hold the additional title of executive vice president and global head of wealth and asset management, as Sotorp will.

Other Responsibilities

Sotorp will work in product development and distribution with the operations providing mutual funds, group pensions and investment-linked insurance globally, according to the statement. Manulife sells insurance and retirement products in the U.S. under the John Hancock brand.

The global search to fill the role took about four months, Thomson said. Sotorp will be based in Hong Kong before his move to Canada.

Sotorp has an MBA from Harvard Business School and a bachelor of science degree from Boston University, according to the statement. He previously worked for American International Group Inc. in Japan. Manulife said his appointment is effective on or about July 1.

UBS is “actively working to appoint a successor and will make an announcement in due course,” Karina Byrne, a spokeswoman for the Zurich-based bank said in a phone interview today. She said the company is well-established in the Asia- Pacific region with “very strong teams and ambitious plans for further growth.”