Global underwriting chief executive John Neal to take top job

QBE’s chief executive Frank O’Halloran will retire on 17 August after 14 years in the role.

He will hand over the reins of the Australian insurance group to John Neal, currently chief executive of QBE’s global underwriting operations.

The news, announced along with QBE’s full-year results, comes only a day after Robert Hiscox, longstanding chairman of Lloyd’s insurer Hiscox, revealed he would be stepping down in a year’s time.

Despite stepping down as chief executive, O’Halloran will continue to contribute to QBE. He has agreed to rejoin the company as a non-executive director shortly before the company’s 2013 annual general meeting.

“QBE has been a large part of my life for 35 years. I love this company and the people who make it,” OHalloran said in a statement.

Commenting on the appointment of Neal as his successor, O’Halloran said: “I have every confidence in John’s ability to further strengthen and grow our global operations and enhance QBE’s unique culture, and I am absolutely delighted that he will be QBE’s next group chief executive.”

QBE chairman Belinda Hutchinson credited O’Halloran as being the architect of the company’s international expansion, and with growing the company’s annual premium income from US$1.5bn (£940m) into US$18bn (£11bn) since he took the helm in 1998.

“The board is particularly grateful for Frank’s continuing strong leadership of QBE through the global financial crisis, through 2011 with its record level of natural catastrophes, and in working with the board to enable a smooth transition for his succession,” Hutchinson said.

New chief executive John Neal was chief executive of specialist Lloyd’s commercial motor insurer Ensign before QBE bought the company in 2003. Neal then worked for QBE’s European operations for eight years, most notably as chief underwriting officer and chief operating officer.

In 2011 he moved to the Sydney head office to manage the global underwriting operations.