Ambac Financial Group Inc. and Ambac Assurance Corp. yesterday said chief risk officer David Wallis will replace Michael Callen as president and chief executive officer.
Callen will remain as executive chairman of the board of directors. He took over as interim president and CEO in January after Robert Genader resigned over disagreements with the board about a capital-raising plan.
"David is a strong leader who has had the opportunity to review and manage Ambac's insured portfolio for the last three years," Callen said. "David's credit and risk management expertise and wide breadth of experience prior to his taking on the role of chief risk officer will serve the company well as we continue to navigate these uncertain markets."
A 12-year Ambac veteran, Wallis has served as chief risk officer since January 2008, after heading portfolio and market risk management for two and a half years. Before joining Ambac, he worked as an investment banker at NatWest. He holds an economics degree from the University of Cambridge and an MBA from the City University Business School in London.
Wallis will take over as Ambac continues to deal with the fallout of its exposure to the U.S. housing market through structured finance products. It recently placed on hold its planned recapitalization of municipal-only insurer Connie Lee Insurance Co. following Moody's Investors Service's decision to put Ambac Assurance's Aa3 insurer financial strength rating on review for downgrade.
Ambac is also working with other insurers and regulators to develop an industry-wide proposal to lobby for involvement in the Treasury Department's $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program.
"I am honored to accept this position," Wallis said in a statement. "Ambac has an incredible opportunity to meet the challenges posed by the current business environment. My immediate focus is to restore confidence in our balance sheet through aggressive risk reduction."
Radian Group Inc. also named a new head of its financial guaranty subsidiary Radian Asset Assurance Inc., promoting executive vice president and chief operating officer David J. Beidler to president, effective Jan. 1, 2009. Current president Stephen Cooke will continue to serve as a consultant for the "foreseeable future" after he leaves the company at the end of the year.
Elsewhere, Fitch Ratings withdrew its ratings on CIFG Guaranty Ltd. and its affiliates, including bond insurer subsidiary CIFG Assurance NA.
"Fitch believes CIFG's financial guaranty franchise is effectively in run-off at the present time and, as a result, that there is limited investor interest in continued coverage of this rating," Fitch said.