Following the appointment of Amanda Blanc (pictured) as Aviva chief executive, the company’s share price jumped by more than 4 per cent.
Speaking to journalists on the day of her appointment, she hinted at some big changes ahead: “We will invest where we are sure it delivers sufficient returns alongside marked benefits for our customers. And where we see a value opportunity to invest in growth, we will take it.
“I’m not a business-as-usual person, and I have not come here to do a business-as-usual job.”
She praised Aviva for being a “well-known brand, with dedicated employees and a focus on delivering great service,” but added: “Aviva once set the tone for the industry. It was innovative.It was distinct. It had energy and ambition.
“We need to be the leader in our industry again. I am convinced that Aviva has a strong and vibrant future.”
- Amanda Blanc is Aviva’s first female chief executive
- Ms Blanc more than 20 years of industry experience
- She aims to make Aviva an industry leader once again
Ms Blanc has joined Aviva at a time when, like many other companies, it is dealing with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
In May, Alan Devlin, a research analyst at Shore Capital, said while customer activity levels at Aviva had risen somewhat, more recently sales volumes for the year are likely to remain below expectations.
He added: “Revenues in its savings and asset management businesses will also be impacted by financial market performance and economic activity as they are sensitive to asset values.
“That said, we would note the bulk of earnings (around 80 per cent plus) of a life insurance company are from its back book, and new business sales drive the rate of growth, or decline, but the underlying book will remain profitable and capital generative.”
Doing the splits
Ms Blanc’s move from Aviva non-executive director to chief executive was perhaps inevitable after the appointment of a new chairman – George Culmer – in May and what Mr Devlin describes as the markets’ lacklustre support of previous chief executive Maurice Tulloch’s restructuring plans.
Mr Devlin says: “The restructuring plans underwhelmed the market – no major changes in the business model, no major divestments – although, because of Covid-19, they were never given the chance to work.”
As a result, Mr Devlin says the appointment of a new chief executive will make another round of restructuring at Aviva inevitable, and given the markets’ disappointing response to Mr Tulloch’s restructuring, the pressure mounts to do something more radical, such as splitting the company (life vs non-life, or UK vs International), or at least make material divestments.
“That said, we would note that the company has very valuable capital benefits from the diversification (such as the diversification benefits of having a UK life company with a Canadian non-life company), which may offset or negate any split,” Mr Devlin adds.