Amanda Blanc plots change for Aviva

“As we have seen with Prudential’s split with M&G, business splits may sound exciting in theory but in practice they are very hard and complicated, and if they were going to create significant value, would likely have been done years ago.”

Insider and outsider

Like her predecessor, Ms Blanc comes from a more non-life than life insurance background, but she would have been exposed to life and wealth at Zurich – where she was European chief executive until 2019 – and she has already spent the first half of this year as a non-executive at Aviva.

Additionally, she has a view of the market not many financial services chief executives have; that of both provider and distributor. She was previously deputy group chief executive of insurance broker Towergate.

And when she started her financial services career more than 20 years ago, it was at Commercial Union, which merged with Aviva – then known as Norwich Union – in 2000.

Coming from outside the company – 20 years ago Aviva was a different beast – Ms Blanc can perhaps take a more independent view.

But transformational work is not new to her.

From when she joined Axa in 2011 as head of its commercial insurance business, to her final role as group chief executive of Axa UK, PPP and Ireland (before she left in 2018), she had turned the loss-making entity around and had taken it to a number two market position.

Key to this, according to Ms Blanc, was the delivery of a sustained period of organic growth and the disposal of non-core assets such as insurance broker Bluefin Insurance Services.

She left Axa to join Zurich in October 2018 as chief executive of Zurich for EMEA, but her time there was short.

Although it was reported she left Zurich due to personality clashes with Mario Greco, group chief executive at Zurich, this was denied by her camp, as reported by the FT.

A spokesperson at the time for Ms Blanc said: “Ms Blanc is adamant that she will not discuss reasons for her decision, except to say that it was only arrived at after long and careful consideration.

“An indication of the seriousness of this decision for her personally is that as a consequence she is required to stand down as chairman of the Association of British Insurers, the industry body, which it has long been her personal ambition to chair.”

Those close to Ms Blanc – who describe her as energetic, forthright and principled – say she would have made the difficult decision to leave Zurich aware of the perception some corners of the industry might have had about leaving a senior role after a short time.

A former colleague adds: “She is very empowering with people. She knows what she wants the business to do, so she will guide people towards this vision.”