Aviva has appointed its first-ever female chief executive after Maurice Tulloch surprisingly resigned.
Industry veteran Amanda Blanc took the reins yesterday, as the insurer revealed Tulloch had quit due to a serious family illness.
She becomes only the sixth female chief executive in the FTSE100 – joining the bosses of GSK, RBS, Whitbread, Severn Trent and ITV.
Denise Wilson, chief executive of the Hampton-Alexander Review which was set up by the Government to further women in leadership, said: ‘This is a milestone event for Aviva and given the small number of women running FTSE 100 companies, a significant step forward for women in leadership.
‘However, it also highlights how far we still have to go to see proper representation of women at the top of British business.’
Blanc’s appointment paves the way for a major shake-up at Aviva, which has been struggling to pull its weight for some time.
Tulloch had been in the job for just 15 months, but his strategic review, announced last September, left major shareholders nonplussed. Many thought his promise to cut debt by £1.3bn and shave £300m a year off the cost base was not aggressive enough.
Readying investors for a more radical approach, Blanc said: ‘I’m not a business-as-usual person, and I haven’t come here to do a business-as-usual job.’
Shareholders are hoping that Blanc – a rugby fan who chairs the Welsh Professional Rugby Board – will inject new energy into Aviva, along with chairman George Culmer who took the role in May.
One of Aviva’s top ten investors told the Mail: ‘Since George Culmer has come in as chairman, the ante seems to have been upped. We see the appointment of Amanda Blanc as a further acceleration of this process.’
Investors have long complained that Aviva’s structure is messy and disorganised, compared to some of its rivals such as Prudential and Legal & General.
Aviva’s businesses span life insurance, general insurance and asset management, and analysts have argued that the sum of its parts could be greater than its current £11.1billion valuation. Blanc, who began her career at Commercial Union which became part of Aviva, said the firm was once ‘innovative, it was distinct, it had energy and ambition. We need to be the leader in our industry again’.
Known for her straightforward approach, she reportedly quit her former role at Zurich Insurance due to a ‘personality clash’ with her boss. She cycles around 100 miles every week and plays piano and clarinet, having originally wanted to be a musician.
Blanc’s £1m base salary is slightly higher than Tulloch’s £946,000. She will also be eligible for a maximum bonus of £2m each year, and long-term incentive awards of £3m, though this year’s award will be cut to £1.47m to reflect her joining in July.
Though that makes her one of the FTSE’s best-paid female executives, Blanc has not had it the Association of British Insurers, she said the industry’s record on gender diversity was ‘simply not good enough’.
She added: ‘Mothers still face a huge challenge to make progress in their career when they return to work.
‘We want to speed that up and the evidence shows that tackling the ‘motherhood penalty’ may be the best way to do this.’