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Genworth Names Chairman With Private Equity Deal Experience

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What You Need to Know

  • Howard Mills, a former New York insurance superintendent, has joined Genworth's board.
  • Goldman Sachs alum Melina Higgins will take over as chairman of the board.
  • Tom McInerney continues to be Genworth's CEO.

The board of Genworth Financial Inc. has picked Melina Higgins — who has deep deal making and finance experience — to succeed James Riepe as the company’s chairman.

The board also added Howard Mills, a former New York state insurance superintendent, and two other independent directors, Genworth announced Thursday.

Tom McInerney will remain Genworth’s president and CEO.

The firm has scheduled its 2021 annual meeting for May 20. All Genworth directors, including the new ones, will be up for re-election at that time.

Genworth’s Background

Genworth is a Richmond, Virginia-based company that was once part of General Electric Co. In 2004, GE turned Genworth into a separate company through an initial public offering.

Once a leader in the U.S. life insurance, annuity and mortgage insurance markets, Genworth also was a dominant player in the U.S. long-term care insurance (LTCI) market. Low interest rates hurt the life, annuity and LTCI operations, and inaccurate assumptions about how consumers would keep and use LTCI policies devastated the LTCI operations.

Today, Genworth is still a major player in the U.S. mortgage insurance market as well as has closed blocks of life insurance policies and annuities on its books. It also has large LTCI obligations on its books and may still be writing some of that coverage.

Genworth tried for years to overcome its problems by being acquired by China Oceanwide Holdings Ltd., a Beijing-based real estate developer and financial services company.

However, the two companies recently put efforts to complete that deal on the back burner, after the COVID-19 pandemic and U.S. and Chinese government conflicts interfered with China Oceanwide’s efforts to complete the deal.

Genworth executives have suggested that the company might move forward by splitting the mortgage insurance operations off from the rest of the company.

Board Leadership

The Genworth board named Riepe chairman in 2012, as the magnitude of Genworth’s LTCI problems was becoming clear, and after the resignation of Michael Fraizer, who had been the company’s chairman and CEO.

The board named McInerney CEO in 2013.

Riepe, who is now 77, was an executive at Vanguard and later at T. Rowe Price. He retired from a post as vice chair of T. Rowe Price in 2005, shortly before joining the Genworth board.

Incoming Chairman Higgins worked for Goldman Sachs from 1989 through 2010. When she left, she was a managing director and partner. She helped oversee Goldman Sachs’ private equity and private debt investments.

She has been the chairman of Antares Capital since 2016. Antares has about $30 billion in capital under management, and it has helped many midsize companies obtain $100 million or more in financing from entities such as the Pritzker Organization and Kohlberg & Company.

Higgins joined Genworth’s board in 2013.

She has a bachelor’s degree from Colgate and a master’s degree in business from Harvard.

The New Directors

In addition to Howard Mills, the other new Genworth directors are Jill Goodman, managing director at Foros Advisors LLC, and Ramsey Smith, the CEO of Alex.fyi.

Foros helps companies with financing and with mergers and acquisitions.

Alex.fyi sells and distributes income annuities.

Mills was a managing director at Deloitte LLP after he left the New York State Insurance Department, in 2007.

The directors who are retiring from the Genworth board to make room for the new directors are Riepe, David Moffett and Thomas Moloney.

McInerney’s Thoughts

McInerney said in comments on Riepe’s departure, which were included in the change announcement, that the Genworth board already knew the company faced serious challenges back in 2013.

One challenge was due to the effects of the 2007-2009 Great Recession on the mortgage insurance business. A second problem was debt at the parent company level, and a third was issues with LTCI claims.

Since then, Genworth has reduced parent company debt by 35%, returned the U.S. mortgage insurance business to profitability, and secured enough LTCI rate increases to generate future premium revenue with a net present value of $14.5 billion, McInerney said.

McInerney said he is pleased to see Higgins build on Riepe’s legacy.

(Image: Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM)

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