Lgim flouts expectations with Zinkula successor pick

Morrissey was tipped as the ‘obvious’ successor to Zinkula

Legal & General Investment Management (Lgim) has brought in an outsider from Columbia Threadneedle to replace outgoing CEO Mark Zinkula (pictured), flouting expectations it would promote one of its most high-profile staffers Helena Morrissey to the top role.

The fund group announced on Monday that Michelle Scrimgeour, who is currently the CEO of Columbia Threadneedle’s EMEA business, would be stepping in to Zinkula’s role, subject to regulatory approval, after he retires on 31 August 2019.

Scrimgeour, who was named Blackrock’s chief operating officer of international fixed income in 2006 and served as M&G’s chief risk officer from 2012 to 2017, was selected after “a comprehensive, global search process,” Lgim said.

L&G CEO Nigel Wilson said he was “delighted” Scrimgeour would be joining the firm and spearheading Lgim’s next phase of growth.

“Her successes at Columbia Threadneedle, M&G and Blackrock clearly demonstrate that she combines a capacity for managing and growing a very substantial international asset management business with a strong focus on creating sustainable and scalable operations,” he said. “Her practical, collegiate and customer-focused approach will further bolster Lgim’s unique culture, leveraging its strong synergies with the broader L&G Group, and building on the outstanding job “Zink” has done since 2011.”

Morrissey was the ‘obvious’ choice

But news of Zinkula’s successor came as a surprise to many in the industry who were expecting Morrissey to take on the role.

She was tipped as the “obvious” choice to succeed Zinkula when he announced his retirement in May last year. Despite being at the firm only a handful of years, joining as head of personal investing in January 2017, commentators cited her 15 years of experience as Newton’s ex-chief executive and contributions in the ESG space, an area of focus for Lgim, as reasons why she would be a logical fit for the job.

“Helena certainly looked a strong candidate and is high profile,” said Darius McDermott, managing director of Chelsea Financial Services, reacting to the news on Monday.

Adrian Lowcock, head of personal investing at Willis Owen, admitted he was also expecting Morrissey to take over for Zinkula though he said “it is good to see a woman taking the top role at Lgim”.

None of the industry commentators Portfolio Adviser spoke to were familiar with Scrimgeour.

But Tilney managing director Jason Hollands said her three decades of experience means “she clearly brings considerable experience to the role,” and said “it will be interesting to see how the strategies of L&G and these others firms evolve over time”.

Revolving door

Scrimgeour’s appointment is the latest in a spate of senior leadership changes at major listed asset managers over the last year.

Lgim is one of several fund groups in the last year to appoint a female CEO, following Fidelity International who scooped up  Anne Richards from M&G Investments and more recently BMO GAM who hired ex-Wells Fargo Asset Management chief executive Kristi Mitchem.

Scrimgeour will continue to work at Columbia Threadneedle over the coming months, working with the firm’s CEO Ted Truscott and the regional leadership team to ensure a smooth handover to the new head of EMEA who has yet to be selected.

Lgim said she will take up her post formally following the completion of “regulatory and other formalities” at which point she will also join the firm’s board.

Truscott thanked Scrimgeour for her contribution to the business, in a statement on Monday, and wished her well in her future endeavours.

“During her time at Columbia Threadneedle Michelle led our EMEA business through a period of change and challenge, as we responded to the evolving needs of our clients, regulatory changes and an uncertain political and economic backdrop,” he recalled. “Her clarity and long-term focus have helped us strengthen our strategic vision for Columbia Threadneedle globally and within the EMEA region.”

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