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Aetna Inc. has appointed Dr. Charles E. Saunders to the new position of head of Strategic Diversification, the health insurer said Friday.

Saunders, will help the Hartford, Conn., company identify growth opportunities and develop market strategies. He will report to Chief Financial Officer Joseph M. Zubretsky beginnin Jan. 31.

Saunders is a former executive with the private equity firm Warburg Pincus who also has served as chairman and CEO of Broadlane Inc., a health care services company that specializes in hospital supply chain and clinical workforce management.

Shares of Aetna climbed 36 cents to $33.38 in afternoon trading.

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