Former Lloyds Bank finance director George Culmer is to become chairman of Aviva, taking over as the insurer navigates the coronavirus crisis and faces long-term questions about its structure.
Mr Culmer, who was favourite for the position, has been on the Aviva board since September. Sir Adrian said he had “deep experience of insurance and financial services”.
Mr Culmer spent seven years as finance director at Lloyds between 2012 and 2019, helping to steer the bank through the mis-sold payment protection scandal and oversee restoration of the dividend in 2015.
He also has experience in insurance, with stints at RSA, Zurich and Prudential under his belt.
Alan Devlin, analyst at Shore Capital, said Mr Culmer was “well respected” for the job he did at RSA and Lloyds. “He’s a steady pair of hands,” said Mr Devlin.
His insurance experience will be crucial as Aviva faces the pandemic fallout. The share price has fallen 42 per cent so far this year — more than twice that of the FTSE 100 — as investors fret about the consequences of the crisis. Aviva will have to deal with claims on a variety of policies, from commercial to travel insurance, as well as a hit to its investment portfolio because of market turbulence.
The company cancelled its planned dividend last month, and is due to give an update on the impact of the pandemic at its annual meeting on Thursday.
There are also questions around long-term strategy. Maurice Tulloch, who became chief executive in March last year, has split the UK life insurance business from non-life insurance, and has also trimmed Asian operations.
Some in the City would prefer to see a more radical break-up, with the company selling either more of its international operations or its back book of UK life insurance policies.
“The restructuring left a lot of shareholders disappointed,” said Mr Devlin. “There is pressure for them to do something because the stock has done nothing.”
The change of chairman is the latest in a long line of board level changes. Jason Windsor became finance director in September, while Amanda Blanc and Patrick Flynn, along with Mr Culmer, have recently joined as non-executive directors.