Ritu Arora, CEO and chief investment officer of Allianz Investment Management
Image: Madhu Kapparath
Ritu Arora, CEO and chief investment officer of Allianz Investment Management (AIM), is probably the sole member of an exclusive club of Indian-born women corporate leaders heading an Asian financial business. But that alone is not why she stands tall.
AIM’s assets under management (AUM) in Asia have jumped 53 percent during her tenure to $49 billion in 12 countries, as of September 2022, from $32 billion in early 2017. In China, Allianz Insurance Asset Management Company became the first wholly foreign-owned subsidiary of its type to start business in Beijing. Arora has also been instrumental in expanding Allianz’s alternatives investment footprint in Asia and, particularly, in India.
China, India and Indonesia are the focussed growth markets for Allianz, considering that Singapore and Japan are already well developed. AIM, the investment management arm of the Allianz Group, steers premiums from insurance customers of Allianz insurance companies into investment returns. Arora heads AIM’s Singapore-based operations, with other regional hubs in Munich, Milan, Minneapolis and Paris.
Arora, with a focus on corporate finance, worked at Marico, Gillette India and Coca-Cola from 1996 to 2002, before venturing into the insurance space, particularly as the founding member and director (investments) of Canara HSBC Oriental Bank of Commerce Life Insurance between 2008 and 2016.
“My 26 years of experience in working with sunrise businesses has taught me that you cannot predict your career as you start out. The magic lies in the team building and execution; going out of your comfort zone, taking risks, working with passion without getting attached to outcomes,” says Arora, from her office in Singapore.
Exciting opportunities are developing for India, as it seeks to go carbon neutral by 2070. But Arora says this will need several hundreds of billions of dollars of investments across sustainability related industries such as clean energy, wastewater management, water efficiency management and EVs. The Indian ecosystem has been described as “nascent” with five to seven transactions annually since 2018, according to the India Blended Finance Collaborative. This is where capital providers like AIM come in.
AIM has made a commitment to a green, blended finance vehicle in India which is investing in green infrastructure such as electric buses, under the Flame II guidelines. Allianz has led a $100 million blended finance investment in India.
Besides blended finance products, Arora has been involved in investing $150 million in Kotak Investment Advisors’ real estate credit platform. “This fund provides last mile financing to residential projects in the key cities of India and helps in the completion of housing stock,” she says.
AIM has also committed $200 million with Edelweiss Alternative Advisors in the special situations platform which helps companies emerge from bankruptcy processes and provides credits under special situations such as buyouts, etc. In real estate, it has a $150 million office platform with the Godrej group. Arora could not share AUM for India, due to company policy.
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Allianz also has an over-20-year joint venture with the Bajaj Group, through Bajaj Finserv, providing insurance products to over 11 crore Indians, across general and life insurance products. A B2B and B2B2C company, Allianz Partners has, for 15 years, been in multiple lines of business including roadside assistance, portable mobile chargers, an EV helpline, travel and international health.
The blended finance transaction in India and the licence to operate the insurance AMC in China have been highlights for Arora in FY22.
Arora does not have an end term to her leadership role at AIM in Singapore. But she acknowledges that she holds a “unique position in time” due to her India hat, which she wears proudly everywhere. Her focus would be to boost investments and commitments towards India, at a time when it is capital hungry and eager to meet its climate action goals. Check out the complete India’s W-Power 2022 list
Having seen rapid changes in the worlds of corporate finance and insurance over the past three decades, Arora has a message for young women entrepreneurs: “The world is eager to embrace and support you, learn to take more risks, work with the best technologies and experts, and do not fear failure. Remember, you set your own limits.” She, after all, has walked the talk.
(This story appears in the 16 December, 2022 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)