The Business On: Phil Loney, CEO-designate, Royal London

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The Independent Online

A bit of a shrinking violet?

You could say that. Mr Loney is about to become the head of Britain's biggest mutual insurer, a business that has been gobbling up smaller rivals at a rate of knots. But he's not a high-profile figure, preferring to hide away in his office at Lloyds Bank, where he'd been head of life, pensions and investments for barely a year before jumping ship to become chief executive of Royal London.

So what do we know about him?

He's been in the financial services industry pretty much since leaving the University of Durham, where he read economics. He actually started his career at Lloyds as a management trainee, but his big jobs have all been in insurance. He went through AXA, Norwich Union and Saga before returning to Lloyds, where he'd been head of Lloyds TSB General Insurance for seven years prior to taking his most recent job. In other words, an insurance man through and through.

Are you trying to say he's dull?

No offence, but most insurance people are, well, a bit dull. It's the nature of the beast. But perhaps there's more to Mr Loney than meets the eye. After all, it's standard practice to wear a suit for your Linkedin photo (because employers might look at it). But Mr Loney's pictured in a sweater and jeans in front of a rather beautiful mountain scene.

Steady now...

I know, I know. He also professes to be a keen Chelsea fan and is a church youth worker (an odd combination, we know). Still, he'll probably be chained to his desk for the forseeable future.

Why's that then?

Well, having upset a lot of people by closing the iconic Liverpool HQ of Royal Liver, one of the myriad businesses it's been acquiring, Royal London is now seeking a deal with Co-operative Financial Services, in what would be a mutual mega-merger. That will be quite a challenge to successfully integrate. Happily, Royal London said yesterday that its £2m loss in the first half of last year had been turned into a £138m profit, with sales rising at 10 per cent. Mr Loney obviously knows a bit about good timing.