SWEDEN - Björn Andersson is to step down as head of Handelsbanken Asset Management and be replaced by Ulf Riese from Handelsbanken Finans.

The move follows a three percent decline in operating profit at the unit in 2003.

“On April 1, Björn C Andersson will leave his position as head of Handelsbanken Asset Management, a post he has held since 1998,” the group said.

He would remain chairman of Handelsbanken Liv, SPP, Nordben and Euroben. He would also work on strategic issues for the Handelsbanken group.

Ulf Riese, chief executive of financing arm Handelsbanken Finans, will succeed Andersson. Riese will be succeeded at Handelsbanken Finans by Yonnie Bergqvist.

Handelsbanken AM today posted an operating profit of 462 million crowns, a three percent decline on 2002’s 475 million crowns. Headcount has fallen to 303 from 343 a year ago. Assets under management at the division rose to 253 billion crowns from 215 billion crowns.

Handelsbanken Liv’s loss narrowed in 2003, down to 80 million crowns from 175 million crowns. The figure included 229 million crowns set aside to secure pension payments, which it said sets it apart from mutually-owned insurers.

Life insurance unit SPP Livförsakring posted profits of 1.6 billion crowns, compared to a loss of 9.1 billion crowns.

Last November the group named Stefan Nilsson as executive vice president and head of its pensions and insurance business