CIFG Holdings Ltd., parent of monoline bond insurer CIFG Guaranty, Monday took a step toward addressing concerns about its financial guaranty business, naming Richard Price as non-executive chairman responsible for building the franchise and developing a long-term business strategy.
Price comes to CIFG from Zurich Financial Services, where he served as chief executive officer of the wholly-owned subsidiaries Zurich Capital Markets and Central Re. In addition, he has held a number of senior positions at financial guaranty firms, including monoline bond insurer Financial Guaranty Insurance Co. and CGA Group, a Bermuna-based financial guarantor.
"I look forward to working with my fellow board members, CIFG's management team, and our shareholders," Price said in a statement. "CIFG is focused on continuing to support and serve our clients, while we also work cooperatively with the ratings agencies and regulators to address the crisis in the current bond market."
Price joins CIFG at a crucial time. On Friday, Fitch Ratings downgraded CIFG Guaranty to AA-minus, from AAA, maintaining a negative watch. On Thursday, Moody's Investors Service downgraded CIFG to A1 from Aaa with a stable outlook. In both actions, the agencies questioned CIFG's future business prospects, raised concerns about the strength of CIFG's franchise, and challenged the commitment of Banque Populaire Group and Caisse d'Epargne Group,the two banks that serve as the controlling shareholders.
Standard & Poor's maintains a AAA rating with a negative outlook.
In December, the two French banks injected $1.5 billion capital into CIFG, essentially transferring control from Natixis, an investment bank more than two-thirds owned by the banks. At the same time, John Pizzarelli was named chief executive officer. Both moves were intended to solidify CIFG's triple-A rating.