The troubles at Dresdner Bank have finally prompted change at the top of parent Allianz. It was announced today that Henning Schulte-Noelle (60) will resign his position as Chairman of the Board of Management of Allianz AG at the end of the Annual General Meeting on April 29, 2003. He will be succeeded by Michael Diekmann (47), a member of the management board since 1988, who is currently in charge of the insurance activities in North and South America and holds group-wide responsibility for Human Resources. In the usual German way, Schulte-Noelle will ascend to the Supervisory Board.
“I know that the timing of my decision surprises many external observers,” Schulte-Noelle explained. “But in my point of view, this – if you will – coup de surprise was necessary and I have consciously taken it into consideration. Had I announced my decision at an earlier time there would possibly have been a public discussion about my succession to the disadvantage of the company as well as my colleagues on the board. I wanted to avoid this risk.
So what has led me to my decision?
First of all this is of course an entirely personal decision, determined by my own life planning. Next year I will be 61 years old and with one exception I am already the longest-serving chairman among those of the German DAX companies. On top of this, the Supervisory Board is to be elected anew next year. Primarily in the interest of the company, in my view the coming year seems to be the right time for the succession regulation decided today.
Concerning the succession three objectives were relevant:
First, the timing should be selected in such a way that the successor can make decisions concerning a longer time span for which he himself is responsible. The long-term continuity at the top level has always served the group well in its history. Second, a suitable successor must be available.
Third, the board must consist of a well-coordinated and trustingly cooperative team – with the right mixture of experience of the elder and energy of the younger members.
Since I am convinced that all prerequisites are being met I can bring my decision to the public today with a clear conscience. If it is desired I will willingly continue to be at the company’s disposal – not in the position as Chairman of the Board of Management but through membership in the Supervisory Board. Yet my successor can be sure: On April 29 I will clear my office in Kniginstrasse and limit myself to the role which the Supervisory Board plays according to law and Corporate Governance. I have always considered it an illusion to believe that at the top of a large company you could hand it over in a status where everything is settled and no problems or further challenges exist, somewhat along the lines of the motto “empty desk and swept clean”. Due to the constant changes in the markets, a company the size and variety of Allianz is always in a dynamic process. In the end it is all about drawing the right lessons from the past and making the right strategic decisions for the future. I think we have learned our lesson from the weakness of the capital markets and are recalling our old strengths – in risk management and the insurance business the motto is: back to the basics. In our core businesses we will position ourselves so that we are not dependent on the help of the capital markets to earn money.
Also with respect to the long-term growth markets old-age provision and asset management we have accomplished the right strategic step. The board has always mutually agreed on the strategic decisions. That means together with his colleagues my successor will successfully continue the concept of the integrated financial services provider.
But he will also be free to set the agenda differently in all areas of the company with good reason. The necessity to do so could arise any time in the face of the manifold global challenges, also for long-term strategic decisions which would reach far beyond my time as chairman. It is my opinion that such decisions should be expedited by the one who will be responsible for them in that time. In my view Michael Diekmann is the right man at the right time – an “Allianzer” to the core, well tried and tested in various and sometimes extremely difficult tasks, and being able to trust in a powerful team within the board and the whole group. I am convinced that together with his colleagues he will successfully master the challenges of the coming years. My best wishes will of course escort him along this way.”