James Moore: Sacrificial trio won't do much to pep up Aviva

  • @TheIndyBusiness

Outlook A night of the long knives at Aviva has done nothing to stop the rot at one of Britain's biggest insurers.

Three top managers have gone as part of a shake-up of the executive team to create what the company has described as a "flatter management structure".

The trouble is that one of them is Egal Mayer, who had only been European chief executive since 2011 and was generally well regarded (at least outside Aviva).

Then there is the departure of Alan Dromer, who runs Aviva's fund management operations. It's hard to describe that unit as a star. But investment managers owned by life insurers find it tough to win external business at the best of times. People with big money-mandates to award worry that they are not getting the best of breed when dealing with a department of an insurance company as opposed to a standalone specialist.

So one might justifiably ask what they are supposed to think when Aviva hands responsibility for its fund management business to its finance director.

It is true that Aviva has been streamlining operations, pulling out of a number of countries where it didn't make much impact.

But investors still scratch their heads when it comes to what its long-term strategy is. And they wonder whether it wouldn't be worth more broken up. Those questions haven't gone away.

In the meantime, this is a company whose shares have lost 15 per cent in the past three months.

Aviva has two big problems: people are worried about its exposure to European sovereign debt (especially Italy's) and they lack confidence in the management. The proof of that particular pudding can be seen in the fact that the repeated reassurances over the former from the latter have done little to arrest the shares' slide.

The Titanic, much in the news thanks to the anniversary of its sinking, has become a metaphor for great, big, clunky things heading inexorably towards disaster. Aviva's not quite in that bad a shape. But it is hard to see how this rearranging of deckchairs will do much to pep things up.