The man from the Pru

The Pru has a new man at the top. After a 17-year career with insurance giant Prudential, chartered accountant Mark Tucker will take over as group chief executive from 6 May.

The former chief executive of the Prudential Corporation Asia, Tucker is viewed as a star performer, once famously earning more than his boss on £1.4m. His was apparently the only name on the candidate list and he will replace Jonathan Bloomer, CEO since March 2005, who was unceremoniously ousted in a boardroom coup.

Ironically, it was Bloomer’s once-cemented position that led to Tucker’s only break from the Pru since 1986. His swift exit in June 2003 – just months after chairman David Clementi joined from the Bank of England – was a result of his frustration at not landing the top job. He reportedly felt that Bloomer had blocked his path.

Tucker took a career break, disappearing from the business radar for nearly a year. He resurfaced in May 2004 as group finance director of banking group HBOS.

His career change from insurance to banking raised a few eyebrows, but he was soon building a reputation for making tough business calls.

Tucker was involved in its decision not to launch a counter-bid for Abbey National. He was also mooted as a potential successor to HBOS chief James Crosby.

But after little under a year, he’s been lured back to the Pru. And it’s his record there as well that has earned him admiration in the City, so much so that the Pru’s shares added 6% on the news of his appointment.

Starting his professional life as a footballer for Barnet, Rochdale and Wolves, Tucker worked as a tax consultant before joining the Pru in 1986. He’s been based in the UK and the US, as senior vice-president of Jackson National Life and assistant director of Prudential plc, but it’s at his 10-year stint as head of its Asia operations that shareholders will now look.

Tucker is credited with building Prudential’s operations in China, Hong Kong, Japan and Vietnam into a £15bn business with top-five market positions in eight Asian life assurance markets. In 2003, the Pru’s Asian business generated 48% of its group profits.

During Tucker’s near two-year absence it hasn’t all been plain sailing at the Pru – a botched attempt to sell its 79% stake in online bank Egg and a dividend cut has made investors uneasy. City analysts expect Tucker’s return to bring a refocus on the company’s Asian business. He’s also expected to sell Egg and its US arm Jackson National Life.

As one of the first company’s to announce its current year updates, the Pru has made a good start with group sales up 11% to £478m. However, analysts warn that, once the euphoria of getting their man back at the Pru wears off, Tucker will have to work hard to prove his worth. As one commentator said, his success in Asia does not guarantee success as group chief executive.

Related reading