esure Group PLC (LON:ESUR) has announced that, by mutual consent, Stuart Vann is stepping down as the insurer’s chief executive officer with immediate effect as it seeks new leadership to drive it forward in a digital age.
In a statement, the FTSE 250-listed firm said: “As esure continues to evolve its long term strategy the Board and Stuart have agreed that this will be best achieved through new leadership with significant expertise and experience in a broad spectrum of customer facing businesses, in an increasingly digital and data driven world.”
The Shelia's Wheels group said the process has commenced to find a successor and during this time, Darren Ogden, esure’s CFO, will become interim CEO, supported by chairman Peter Wood who will take a more active role in the business.
The outgoing CEO commented: "After 17 years at esure I feel now is the right moment to move on.”
He added: “Now is the right time to pass the baton on to someone else to take the business to the next level."
esure also issued an update on current trading with the announcement, saying it achieved gross written premiums of £820mln in 2017, up 25% on the previous year, with in-force policies of 2.4mln, up 9% on 2016, and expects full year pretax profit to be in the region of £95mln-£98mln in 2017, around 30% to 35% up on 2016’s £72.7mln, subject to audit.
The group added that 2018 started positively and it is trading in line with the board's expectations.
esure is scheduled to report its 2017 preliminary results on 7 March 2018.
Numis upgrades rating to 'buy' from 'add'
In a note to clients, analysts at Numis Securities said: “Whilst we can see that now might be a sensible juncture to introduce a new skill set to the company’s leadership we are a little surprised that this seems to be a sudden rather than a smooth change, given that Stuart does not remain CEO whilst a successor is found.”
But, they added: “Nonetheless it is encouraging that current trading is at least in line with expectations. We are positive on the shares based on good near term growth prospects and a low FY18 P/E of 10.7x versus an average of 12.4x for peers.”
As a result of recent share price weakness. Numis has upgraded its rating for esure to ‘buy’ from ‘add’ with an unchanged target price of 320p.
Around 10.15am, esure shares were up 0.7%, or 1.8p at 246.8p.
-- Adds broker comment, share price --