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MetLife names Khalaf CEO, replacing Kandarian after stock slump

Michel Khalaf will be tasked with bolstering investor confidence in the insurer.

MetLife appointed Michel Khalaf president and chief executive officer, succeeding Steven Kandarian.

Khalaf, 54, will take over on May 1, the company said Tuesday in a statement. He is currently president of the company’s US and Europe, Middle East and Africa businesses, based in New York.

Khalaf will be tasked with bolstering investor confidence in the insurer, which has been marked by missteps during Kandarian’s final years as CEO. In 2017, the company disclosed that it failed to pay thousands of people owed pension payments and alerted regulators. That’s caused investigations, material weaknesses in internal controls and a public mea culpa. The shares tumbled 19% last year.

“By accelerating revenue growth, further optimizing our portfolio, and strengthening expense discipline, we will become a more financially successful company,” Khalaf said in the statement.

His responsibilities were expanded in July 2017 to include the US operations, which account for almost 40% of the overall company. He oversees MetLife’s group benefits, retirement and property and casualty businesses in the US, as well as individual and group insurance sold through agents, brokers, banks and direct channels in EMEA.

Before joining MetLife, he spent 21 years at Alico, a unit of American International that was purchased by MetLife in 2010. He has a bachelor’s degree in engineering from Syracuse University and an MBA in finance.

Prudential CEO

The appointment marks the second major change of leadership at one of the largest US life insurers in recent months after Charles Lowrey took over as CEO at rival Prudential Financial in December. The new chiefs at both firms have a background in international operations.

Kandarian, 66, is stepping down after a tenure that oversaw a major shift at MetLife. In a move that veered from his competitors’ strategy, he successfully sued the US government to get rid of the company’s label as too big to fail. He also worked to separate a US retail unit with more than $200 billion in assets, now called Brighthouse Financial, to hone MetLife’s focus on selling insurance through employers and in international markets.

Kandarian was named CEO in 2011 after working as chief investment officer, overseeing billions of dollars. Before joining MetLife in 2005, he was executive director at the Pension Benefit Guaranty and at a private equity firm, Orion Partners.

© 2019 Bloomberg L.P

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