Insurer's new boss plays it safe

Andrew Moss, the new chief executive of Aviva, has to see off speculation that Britain's largest insurance group is about to be broken up.

by The Sunday Times
Last Updated: 23 Jul 2013

Aviva's share price has been sluggish since the company made a hash of an unsolicited £17 billion bid for rival insurer Prudential in March last year. It is now the subject of speculative analyst notes claiming that a break-up of the group could yield £9 billion by selling or de-merging its general insurance business.

Moss's first big challenge is to ensure the speculation does not become reality for the group. He needs to convince doubters that the business model of combining life insurance and general insurance still works. The big question is over his lack of leadership experience - in fact, his appointment came as something of a surprise to Aviva watchers.

His previous position was finance director at Lloyd's of London insurance market, a position he held since 2000. His first major task at Lloyd's was to deal with the fallout from the September 11 attacks - the market emerged robust two years later, something which Moss takes evident pride in. Before Lloyd's, Moss spend several years working his way up to chief financial officer at HSBC's investment banking division.

In his first three months insiders say the rugby fanatic and Oxford law graduate has injected new energy at Aviva, shaking up the management team and seeing off his main rival, then head of UK operations Patrick Snowball. Moss is "very clear and very safe" says one senior industry executive, making up for his lack of leadership experience.

Earlier this month Moss unveiled a strategy to deliver profits and growth by driving the group's existing business. As the fifth biggest insurer in the world, Aviva has operations in 27 countries, and strong positions in key markets such as UK life insurance. But its strength in mature European markets has not always delivered superior returns and its business in the growing Asian market is small by comparison. Last year it bought Amerus of the US, which enjoyed impressive growth in first half sales.

Moss wants to bring joined-up thinking to Aviva's relatively independent business units, transferring product ideas between markets, reducing costs, allocating capital better and creating a single asset management business. Moss says more joined up working is essential to avoid missing opportunities. "There are huge opportunities over the next 10 years. People are fighting tooth and nail. We are playing a game and we have to play to win."

Moss rolls up at Aviva
Grant Ringshaw
The Sunday Times, 19 August

Review by Joe Gill

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