Transitioning from politics into the private sector can sometimes be a bumpy career move, but in the case of Peter Skinner it is downright awkward. After 20 years in the European Parliament, the member of the British Labour Party is joining Allianz, Europe’s largest insurance company.
“Mr. Skinner is now moving into the exact branch where for years he helped create the basic regulatory framework,” said Max Bank of the non-government organization, Lobbycontrol. “He is taking a large network of contacts with him.”
Allianz admitted that Mr. Skinner’s move from the public to the private sector is controversial, and said that it did not immediately approach him when he left parliament in May. “We could have begun the discussion about such moves earlier,” a spokesperson said, adding, “It is a sensitive issue.”
Instead, after a “cooling off” period mandated by Allianz, Mr. Skinner joined the company in mid-November and still has areas that remain off limits to him, at least for now. “He won’t do any lobby work in the European Union for one year,” a spokesperson said. “He doesn’t have to change sides, but he has pledged not to use his contacts.”
Mr. Skinner played a leading role in making new rules for insurers in the wake of the financial crisis. The European Union directive Solvency II dictates increased equity and improved risk management starting in 2016.
British insurance companies have praised Mr. Skinner’s efforts, noting he opened up the European market. Sven Giegold, a Green Party member of the European Parliament, said Mr. Skinner has always had a friendly ear for British companies and the insurance lobby.
His official duties at his new company are vague. Mr. Skinner will advise Allianz on “global regulations issues, climate protection, international financial standards, as well as European and trans-Atlantic issues,” the spokesperson said. Mr. Skinner will spend a lot of time Washington, where his main job will be promoting free trade between Europe and the U.S., where Allianz sees a chance to increase its competitiveness.
The European Parliament remuneration report registers unpaid consulting work for a U.S. investment bank in 2012.
Mr. Skinner notes that while serving in parliament he was a member of the Transatlantic Economic Council, where representatives from the U.S. and the E.U. worked together on regulatory issues. “I played a key role in the European Parliament in the relations with the United States,” he said. The European Parliament remuneration report registers unpaid consulting work for a U.S. investment bank in 2012.
Mr. Giegold, the Green's European Parliament member, also participated on the economic council and recalled that Mr. Skinner was strongly against any restrictions on control of capital movement. The solvency of the insurance companies and issues of consumer protection, Mr. Giegold said, “didn’t interest him at all.”
Mr. Skinner, who hails from Oxford, will join other ex-politicians at Allianz, including Daniel Bahr, the former Federal Minister of Health; and Birgit Grundmann, the former state secretary of the German Federal Minister of Justice. Mr. Skinner will report to Wolfgang Ischinger, a former state secretary responsible for all government relations at Allianz since 2008.
Mr. Ischinger said he appreciates Mr. Skinner’s “knowledge and experience” and that they are a good fit for Allianz “in times of global change.” Lobbycontrol thinks his insider knowledge and contacts are a much larger attraction.
Julian Mertens reports on companies and markets for Handelsblatt Live. To contact the author: [email protected].