Prestige Assurance Plc: Who needs a change of Board

The Indian chairman of board of directors of Prestige Assurance has stepped down and a new Nigerian chairman appointed following demand by shareholders for a Nigerian chairman for the board of the insurance company.

A reliable source said Mr. Gopalan Srinivasan, the Indian chairman of the board of directors, stepped down at a board meeting last week and Mr Hassan Musa Usman was immediately appointed as chairman of the company.

The change, the source hinted, was due to demand by shareholders, who had raised objection that the board and management should not be headed by Indian appointees of the majority core investor. At the 45th annual general meeting of the company July 13, 2015, shareholders had called for a change in the composition of the board of directors, especially the chairmanship of the board.

The former chairman, Srinivasan, represented the interest of the New India Assurance Company Limited, which held the 51 per cent largest equity stake in Prestige Assurance. New India Assurance is a multinational company operating in 27 countries with a network of 19 branch offices, 12 agency offices, four associate companies and three subsidiary companies. It is the largest general insurance company in Afro-Asia, besides Japan with a global premium of over $1 billion.

Srinivasan had joined the New India Assurance Co Ltd, Mumbai, India in 1979 as a scale I officer and rose through the ranks to become Managing Director, New India Assurance Co Ltd, Trinidad and Tobago and later chairman and managing director of New India Assurance Company.

Besides the chairmanship, the management of Prestige Assurance is dominated by Indian appointees of the majority shareholder. At the last count, the managing director, the second most senior management executive and another management executive holding strategic position were Indians.

The new chairman, Usman, immediate past managing director of Aso Savings and Loans Plc, is a chartered accountant with career spanning two decades in finance and investment advisory as well as privatisation services.

Usman graduated with a BA, in Economics from the University of Sussex, and an M.Phil. in Development Economics from Darwin College, University of Cambridge. He is an Associate of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales. He is also a Registered US National Association of Securities Dealers Series 7 Investment Banking Representative.

He had worked in many organisations including as executive director , investment,  Abuja Investment and Property Development Company Ltd, Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), Citibank, Arthur Andersen S.C London and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

Prestige Assurance Plc had recently raised N1.5 billion in new equity funds from existing shareholders.