Jackson National Life Insurance Co., a unit of London’s Prudential plc, named Mike Wells president and chief executive officer.

Wells, who will also serve as an executive director of Prudential’s board of directors, will replaced Clark Manning, who will step down as CEO at the end of this year. Manning will remain chairman of Prudential’s U.S. operations until April 30, when he will become an advisor to the company through the end of next year.

Wells will join Prudential’s board of directors in January.

Tidjane Thiam, Prudential’s group chief executive, said Wells has a long and proven career at Jackson across its U.S. operations, and was identified as Manning’s successor “some time ago.”

“[Manning] ensured a proven successor was in place to lead the organization to the next level and I am very pleased that we will be able to benefit from Clark’s experience and knowledge through his advisory role,” Thiam said.

During his 15 years with the company, Manning served as Jackson's chief actuary and chief operating officer, and was the head of Prudential’s U.S. business for the past nine years. He became CEO in 2001.

“Choosing a time to step down is never easy,” Manning said. “Having navigated the company successfully through the past two years of financial upheaval in the markets and delivering exceptionally strong results, I feel that I have achieved what I wanted to do and now is the right time to pass over the reins to Mike.”

Wells has worked at Jackson, which is based in lansing, Mich., since 1995 as president of Jackson National Life Distributors LLC, the company’s marketing and distribution arm. He helped develop the company’s first variable annuity and fixed index annuity products.

He was promoted to vice chairman and chief operating officer nine years ago, when he assumed executive leadership of its IT and operations functions.

Jackson recorded $2.3 billion in total sales when Wells joined the firm in 1995, compared to total sales and deposits of $15.2 billion last year. As of the end of 2009, 87% of the company’s U.S. employees fell within Wells’ reporting structure.

Wells has served on the Boards of Directors for Brooke Holdings LLC, Brooke Life Insurance Co., Jackson National Life Insurance Co., Curian Capital LLC, Jackson National Life Distributors and National Planning Corp.