Maria recently spoke to Hartford Financial's chief Ramani Ayer on "Closing Bell." Her exclusive interview covered all fronts – from getting preliminary approval to receive TARP money from the government to his announced retirement at the end of the year.
Many in the marketplace had speculated about the timing of Ayer's retirement announcement, coming on the heels of Hartford possibly getting $3.4 billion in TARP funds and the restrictions that come with that.
Ayer set the record straight with Maria, saying that "was absolutely not the case ... and that [TARP funds and restrictions] was not ever brought up as an issue."
Ayer has been in the business for 36 years, seeing the boom and the bust. On Washington's involvement with Wall Street, Ayer felt strongly that "the Armageddon risk has been taken off, liquidity is returning into the marketplace, and more risk capital is coming in."
These are however, still challenging times for Hartford. Year-to-date, the stock is down nearly 15%, compared to a 7.14% drop in the S&P Insurance index.
Adding to the negative sentiment this week was Citi's downgraded shares of Hartford Financial on Tuesday. Citi reduced its rating on HIG to hold and also cut its target price to $19. Citi analyst Joshua Shanker wrote in his report that the downgrade was "due to lack of catalysts, lack of management."
This as Ayer becomes the fifth and most significant member of senior management to depart Hartford in two years. He addressed those concerns during the interview, saying that two out of the five senior executives left to take on government positions. Ayer says the company "has an excellent bench" and that "the board is very engaged in an active process to look for my replacement."
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