Long ReadFeb 8 2023

Nigel Wilson led Legal and General in a 'considered way'

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Nigel Wilson led Legal and General in a 'considered way'
Nigel Wilson, chief executive of Legal & General Group. (Simon Dawson/Bloomberg)
ByDavid Thorpe

When Nigel Wilson is sitting back in his hammock, he can ponder a professional life that has taken him from a childhood in social housing in the North East of England, to a doctorate at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a decade at the helm of FTSE 100 financial services firm Legal and General, and even a knighthood. 

But as he prepares to retire from L&G, and more broadly from executive life, what do advisers and clients think of the legacy has he left in the industry, and the L&G products that they use?

Wilson has been at the helm of the company, a significant player in the asset management world due to its range of passives as well as the pensions and equity release markets, for just less than 11 years. 

Non-executive directorships could be on his radar – a predictable end to a working career that often veered away from the mainstream.

John Kingman, the chairman of L&G, said at the time of the announcement: “Nigel has successfully navigated significant geopolitical changes as well as challenges in the regulatory and market environments of each of our core businesses and has steered the group into a position of strength from which it can continue developing on behalf of its shareholders, customers and people.

"Under his stewardship, the group has consistently delivered profitable, sustainable and inclusive growth. Nigel has been a tireless champion for investment-led growth and responsible investment."


But what of the impact on shareholders?  

If measured purely in share price terms, the past five years have been tough for L&G, with the share price declining by just less than 4 per cent (to February 2 2023) compared with a gain of 5 per cent for the FTSE 100 as a whole.

Another comparator may be with a peer, say, Aviva, another insurance and asset management firm, which has suffered a share price decline of 33 per cent in the same time period. 

Insurance company share prices generally struggled in the era of quantitative easing, as the regulatory capital they are obliged to hold in liquid assets such as cash or government bonds had a very low yield, thus reducing the income available to insurance companies from that portion of their assets. 

They have really worked to develop an innovative thematics range, which I think is particularly meeting demand from the retail space.Ben Seager-Scott, Evelyn Partners

Wilson has been chief executive of L&G for just less than 11 years, a stint that is around double the average for a FTSE 100 chief executive. 

Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell, says: “The life insurer’s 341 per cent total return since he took over in June 2012 beats the FTSE 100’s 120.2 per cent hands down.”