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The newly appointed leader wants to direct change at pace at the insurer and does not rule anything out.

Amanda Blanc is prepared to take radical steps to address Aviva performance and stated she “does not underestimate the scale of the challenge”.

It was revealed today (6 July) that Blanc is to take the CEO role with immediate effect following Maurice Tulloch stepping down.

On a call with journalists Blanc declined to be drawn on actions she would take but insisted she is prepared to be radical to “address the underperformance of recent years”.

She also wants to act quickly with clear deliverables.

“Hopefully you have picked up the message that we are going to work at pace,” she commented.

She succeeds Maurice Tulloch, who was after many years with the firm, in 2019. He inherited an organisation under pressure and that June a significant restructure to separate its life and general insurance operations was announced. That action put 1,800 jobs at risk of redundancy and saw Aviva reveal its intention to save £300m in expenses per annum by 2022.

It was later reported that there was unrest over the decision to restructure. 

In its most recent set of results Aviva reported reported a 35% fall in operating profit in its UK general insurance business to £250m in 2019 from £383m in 2018.

Its UK combined operating ratio also deteriorated to 97.9% in 2019, compared to 94.6% in the preceding year.

In November 2019 November, the provider stated it would cut its number of personal lines products down to 40 from 400. It further announced it was targeting 20% of premium growth in general insurance premium by 2022.

Tulloch was appointed on a basic salary of £975,000. Blanc, who is the first woman to run Aviva, will pick up basic pay of £1m per year.

Not BAU
In terms of actions to take Blanc commented: “We will consider all strategic options.”

She stressed: “One of the points I would make is I am not a business as usual person and I have not come here to do a business as usual job.”

Questions about the potential breaking up of the company and M&A were put to the new CEO and she did not rule anything out.

Blanc denied that she had originally applied for the role when Tulloch was appointed and chairman, George Culmer, said Aviva had enough time to run a robust process with input from external advisers ahead of this move.

He added: “It was a rigourous and extensive process and the board was unanimous in its decision.”

Blanc has been an NED on the Aviva board since last year and chaired its customer, conduct and reputation committee.

As a result of her CEO appointment she has resigned all of her non-exec responsibilities apart from a voluntary chair role with the Welsh Professional Rugby Board. She spoke about all the “fabulous opportunities” in insurance and her NED role with ERS, Laka, Trov, and RightInDem earlier this year.

At the time she highlighted: “I didn’t leave Zurich to retire.”

Blanc said her non-executive work with Aviva means she is “able to hit the ground running”.

Business interruption
She also addressed how insurers have responded to business interruption Covid-19 claims.

“You cannot deny the reputational damage,” she said.

“The position Aviva are in is we have been very clear that the vast majority of our policies are not covered. Where they are we are already paying claims.”

Aviva predicted a £200m business interruption hit as a result of coronavirus. It is also one of the insurers named in the Financial Conduct Authority test case which is currently underway with the aim of providing clarity on what Covid-19 BI claims are covered.

Blanc began her career at Commercial Union which became part of Aviva.

She commented: “I am honoured and delighted to be asked to lead Aviva…It feels like coming home. The only role that could tempt me back would be to lead Aviva.”

Brokers
Blanc also discussed the provider’s relationship with brokers.

“We have strong relationships with brokers and agents. All I will say is I am excited about the opportunities we have.”

Culmer remarked that it was a “very difficult decision” for Tulloch, who according to the provider is stepping down for family health reasons, to leave the organisation.

He added: “This is a key period for Aviva. We are financially strong with strategic options.

“We now have the right leader to achieve this ambition.”

Blanc most recent CEO role was with Zurich. She joined as CEO for Europe, the Middle East and Africa but left in July 2019 after only nine months in the position.

Prior to that she spent a number of years as for Axa. Blanc has also held senior management positions at Towergate Insurance Brokers, Groupama and Commercial Union.

When she first left Axa, brokers hailed her appointment at Zurich as a “great fit”, stating that she was a “big loss to Axa and an unbelievable gain to Zurich”.

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This content was originally published here.