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Aegon takes “decisive steps” to deal with crisis, CEO tells shareholders

April 23, 2009

Aegon CEO Alex Wynaendts told shareholders in The Hague Wednesday that the company had taken “decisive steps” to deal with the financial crisis, which he warned “continues to threaten market and consumer confidence”.

Aegon CEO Alex Wynaendts told shareholders in The Hague Wednesday that the company had taken “decisive steps” to deal with the financial crisis, which he warned “continues to threaten market and consumer confidence”.

Speaking at the company’s annual shareholders’ meeting, Mr. Wynaendts said Aegon was committed to returning to an “era of growth and value creation for our shareholders as market conditions normalize”.

The comments came as shareholders voted to approve the appointment of Jan Nooitgedagt to work alongside Mr. Wynaendts on Aegon’s Executive Board. Mr. Nooitgedagt is taking over as Chief Financial Officer from Jos Streppel, who announced last January that he would retire after more than 35 years with the company, including ten as Aegon’s CFO.

Mr. Nooitgedagt, formerly Chairman of Ernst &Young’s Dutch and Belgian operations, said he was “pleased and honored” to be taking over as CFO and looked forward to working with Mr. Wynaendts to “position Aegon for the opportunities that lie ahead”.

Aegon’s annual shareholders’ meeting came after a turbulent year for world financial markets. Speaking at the meeting in The Hague, Mr. Wynaendts described market conditions during 2008 as “extraordinary”, but said measures to reduce risk, lower costs and free up capital from Aegon’s existing businesses would help the company deal with the financial crisis.

In particular, Mr. Wynaendts pointed at efforts to strengthen Aegon’s capital position, including a decision to sell the company’s life insurance operations in Taiwan, which was announced just a few hours before the shareholders’ meeting began.

Expansion in high-growth markets

He stressed, however, that Aegon would continue to expand in markets that offered strong growth and high returns. “We have become more efficient and smarter in our use of capital,” he said. Mr. Wynaendts added that selling Aegon’s life insurance business in Taiwan would strengthen the company’s overall capital and cash positions.

Speaking to shareholders, Mr. Wynaendts also defended Aegon’s decision last year to borrow EUR 3 billion in additional capital from the Dutch State. He said it had been the “right thing to do” for customers, shareholders and other stakeholders.

Aegon has an option to repay one-third of the capital before next December, but Mr. Wynaendts said the company would only exercise this option if it felt it was “responsible to do so”. In separate remarks, CFO Jos Streppel said it was “highly unlikely” that Aegon would apply for financial support under the US government’s Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP. Aegon withdrew its initial TARP application last December.

At Wednesday’s meeting, shareholders also approved a number of changes to Aegon’s Supervisory Board:

  • Dudley Eustace was reappointed as Chairman for a further year. He will step down in 2010 and hand over to Robert Routs, a former executive director with Royal Dutch Shell PLC, who has been on Aegon’s Supervisory Board since last year.
  • Shemaya Levy was reappointed as a member of the Supervisory Board for a further term of four years.
  • Arthur Docters van Leeuwen, a former head of the Dutch financial markets regulator, was also appointed for a four-year term. Mr. Docters van Leeuwen is one of two Supervisory Board members who will represent the Dutch State as part of last year’s capital support agreement between Aegon and the Dutch government.