Legal & General boss Sir Nigel Wilson declares intention to retire

Legal & General chief executive Sir Nigel Wilson to retire within 12 months after 11 years at the helm of insurer

  • L&G’s annual profits and shareholder returns have soared during Wilson’s tenure 
  • He helped spearhead L&G’s move into property and infrastructure investments 
  • Wilson has also been a vocal supporter of reforming the Solvency II regulations

Legal & General’s chief executive Sir Nigel Wilson is set to retire after more than a decade at the helm of the financial services giant.

Since becoming CEO in 2012, Wilson, 66, has overseen an improvement in the company’s financial performance, with annual profits more than doubling and shareholder returns exceeding 600 per cent.

He has helped spearhead the group’s move into property and infrastructure investments, such as the London Gateway project, Sky Studios Elstree and urban regeneration schemes in Sheffield and Newcastle.

Tenure: Since becoming Legal & General’s chief executive in 2012, Sir Nigel Wilson has overseen annual profits more than double and shareholder returns exceed 600 per cent

Wilson will remain in post while the board searches for his successor, which is estimated to take approximately a year, and will consider candidates from both inside and outside the business. 

The outgoing boss has been a vocal supporter of reforming the Solvency II regime, which the UK Government hopes will see insurers release billions more pounds for investment in areas like green energy and infrastructure. 

Wilson originally joined L&G as chief financial officer in 2009, having previously held jobs at electronics retailer Dixons, property developer Stanhope and consultancy McKinsey & Company.

Last year he was knighted for services to the financial industry and regional development and offered the position of Minister for Investment in the short-lived Liz Truss Government.

Soon afterwards, L&G came under significant pressure from a controversial ‘mini-budget,’ which led to a fire sale of gilts by pension funds holding liability-driven investments (LDIs). 

The London-listed firm is one of Britain’s biggest sellers of LDIs, which are designed to ensure final-salary pension schemes can meet future payouts, but plunging gilt prices left many pension funds on the brink of collapse.

Sir Nigel admitted to the House of Lords’ economic affairs committee that the market turmoil ‘caught us all by surprise’ but claimed the company’s stress test models were not to blame.  

Sir John Kingman, L&G’s chairman, said on Monday that Wilson had ‘successfully navigated significant geopolitical changes as well as challenges in the regulatory and market environments of each of our core businesses and has steered the group into a position of strength from which it can continue developing.’

He added: ‘Under his stewardship, the group has consistently delivered profitable, sustainable and inclusive growth. Nigel has been a tireless champion for investment-led growth and responsible investment.’

Wilson told investors that the decision to stand down came with ‘mixed emotions’ but believes the business has put in place ‘strong foundations to support the next phase of growth.’

Legal & General Group shares had shed 2.3 per cent to 254.6p just before trading closed on Monday, making them the third-biggest faller on the FTSE 100 Index. 

The insurer further declared today that its outlook for full-year operating earnings growth for 2022 remained unchanged and that it expects to report an operational surplus of £1.8billion. 

Analysts at J.P. Morgan Cazenove said: ‘We believe L&G has the balance sheet to grow, and with the annuity and bulk annuity business now ‘self-funding,’ we believe it can absorb the capex costs of strong growth at the same time as growing cash flows and dividends.’