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Legal & General - New CEO announced

Legal & General has announced that Antonio Simoes will be appointed as Group Chief Executive Officer.

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Legal & General has announced that António Simões will be appointed as Group Chief Executive Officer, set to begin his new role on 1 January 2024. He will replace Sir Nigel Wilson, who has been in the seat since 2012 and announced his intention to step down in January.

António Simões joins from Banco Santander where he has been Regional Head of Europe since September 2020. Prior to joining Santander, he spent 13 years at HSBC, including positions as CEO of UK and Europe, and latterly CEO of Global Private Banking.

The shares were down 2.8% in early trading.

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Our view

Now we've had confirmation of the new CEO, set to begin at the start of next year, focus can get back to the business at hand - turning sentiment around.

Despite record operating profit that beat expectations, the market's reaction to full-year results was a little muted. That's mainly because one-off events like the release of provisions from a change in mortality assumptions drove the performance. However, we saw this as a solid set of numbers on the whole.

The turbulent bond market over 2022 did no favours for the investment portfolio, which saw £225bn wiped off its value, but L&G is set to benefit in other areas. That's because a significant part of the business is its pension risk transfers (PRTs).

These see Legal & General take on responsibility for paying some, or all, of the pensions from a company's final salary pension scheme (often called bulk annuities). In return, the group receives a lump sum. That's then managed by Legal & General Investment Management (LGIM) and underpinned with real assets developed by the Capital division (which includes UK housing and infrastructure projects).

Demand for bulk annuities is growing, and as well as already having a dominant UK position, L&G is increasing activity in overseas markets like the US and Canada. The US market's huge, with $3.0tn of defined benefit pension schemes, and only around 9% of that has already moved to insurance companies like Legal & General. It's a small fish for now, but the opportunity is significant.

International customers are also accounting for an increasingly large slice of the assets under management in LGIM, reducing reliance on UK savers. We mentioned the drop in asset value earlier, but more importantly, external net inflows continue to grow, particularly in higher-margin areas such as thematic ETFs.

We'd be remiss not to mention the group's formidable solvency II ratio, which is a core measure of capitalisation. At well north of 200%, this offers the group some resilience from adverse economic developments. Though, that doesn't make it immune to pressures. A sharp fall in equity or property markets would have a negative impact.

We also note that cash and capital generation remain strong, up 14% and 10%, respectively. That puts the group on track to hit its target of £8.0-£9.0bn in cumulative cash and capital generation by 2024 - even with no growth from here that'll be met.

Overall, we think focusing on growth is the right decision in the long term - especially as competitors are increasingly keen to muscle in on the bulk annuity business. The sector's a bit downtrodden at the minute, but the 8.8% prospective dividend yield should be enough to keep shareholders happy, and looks covered by earnings. Please remember yields are variable and not a reliable indicator of future performance.

All ratios are sourced from Refinitiv. Please remember yields are variable and not a reliable indicator of future income. Keep in mind key figures shouldn't be looked at on their own - it's important to understand the big picture.

This article is original Hargreaves Lansdown content, published by Hargreaves Lansdown. It was correct as at the date of publication, and our views may have changed since then. Unless otherwise stated estimates, including prospective yields, are a consensus of analyst forecasts provided by Refinitiv. These estimates are not a reliable indicator of future performance. Yields are variable and not guaranteed. Investments rise and fall in value so investors could make a loss.

This article is not advice or a recommendation to buy, sell or hold any investment. No view is given on the present or future value or price of any investment, and investors should form their own view on any proposed investment. This article has not been prepared in accordance with legal requirements designed to promote the independence of investment research and is considered a marketing communication. Non-independent research is not subject to FCA rules prohibiting dealing ahead of research, however HL has put controls in place (including dealing restrictions, physical and information barriers) to manage potential conflicts of interest presented by such dealing. Please see our full non-independent research disclosure for more information.

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Written by
Matt Britzman
Senior Equity Analyst

Matt is an Equity Analyst on the share research team, providing up-to-date research and analysis on individual companies and wider sectors.

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Article history
Published: 15th June 2023