Aviva selects RBS director McFarlane as new chairman

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Aviva is to appoint John McFarlane as its new chairman, ending the insurer's 10-month search to find a successor to Lord Sharman.

Mr McFarlane, who made his name turning around a major Australian bank, is poised to join Aviva's board as a non-executive later this summer and is likely to become chairman at about the time of its annual meeting next year.

His name is already thought to have been submitted by Aviva to the Financial Services Authority, the City watchdog, for approval, although it could be a fortnight before he starts work.

The hiring of Mr McFarlane comes at a testing time for Aviva, which last week suffered the resignation of Mark Hodges, head of its UK business, who was tipped as successor to the chief executive, Andrew Moss. The insurer moved quickly to replace Mr Hodges with Trevor Matthews, the former chief executive of Friends Provident.

The hunt for a new Aviva chairman was the subject of intense speculation that had also linked Sir Richard Broadbent, the deputy chairman of Barclays, to the role. While Mr McFarlane is thought to have always been in contention, his candidacy was bolstered when Sir Richard decided to take the chairmanship of Tesco.

Mr McFarlane was born in Dumfries, Scotland, but made his mark reviving the fortunes of Australia and New Zealand Bank, which he led for a decade until 2007. He also has substantial experience in UK boardrooms, having been a non-executive director at Royal Bank of Scotland since 2008. He is also on the board of Westfield, the Australian shopping centre operator with malls in Britain, and of the London and Dubai-based asset manager Toscafund.

The current strategy of Aviva, the world's sixth-largest insurer with 53.4 million clients, is to focus on its 12 biggest markets, including Britain, France, Turkey, Russia, Canada, the US, China and India.