Culture clash behind surprise resignation of Vivat boss

Cultural differences were the reason for the surprise resignation of the chief executive of insurance group Vivat, sources have told the Financieele Dagblad.

Gerard van Olphen resigned with immediate effect on Monday after just two months in the job. He took over the helm at Vivat, formerly part of nationalised financial services group SNS Reaal, this summer. He was chief executive of SNS Reaal prior to the sale.

A short news release from Vivat on Monday said he had stood down ‘in the interests of the company’. Vivat, whose brands include Zwitserleven, Route Mobiel, Reaal and Proteq Dier & Zorg, was sold to China’s Anbang for €150m earlier this year.

Sources have now told the FD that the resignation was triggered by a clash of cultures.

Wu Xiaohui, president of Anbang, single-handedly turned Anbang into a major player and is used to getting his own way, according to sources within Vivat.

Chairman Wu, as he is known, is not a fan of Dutch governance rules and supervisory boards and, according to business partners, conducts himself like a Roman emperor, the FD says.

Although Van Olphen defended Wu and put in a good word for him with politicians and the Dutch bank, the culture clash in leadership style became too much, prompting him to step down, the paper said.


Albert Bakker, the only remaining Dutchman on the executive board, has now been made acting CEO but is a newcomer to the company.

The three other board members are two Chinese nationals and one man from Britain of Chinese origin.

SNS says all three have been approved by the central bank, but sources have told the FD the approval process still needs to be completed.

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